NBC News Announces Candidate Lineup for the First Democratic Primary Debate

By A.J. Katz 

The DNC yesterday named the 20 (yes, 20) presidential candidates who qualified to appear on stage at Adrienne Arsht Center in downtown Miami for the first Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season. The two-hour debates will take place Wednesday, June 26, and Thursday, June 27 in prime time.

The two-night prime time debate will be co-hosted by NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo.

The format for both debate nights will be the same. Lester Holt will appear in both hours of the debate each night including moderating the first hour with Savannah Guthrie and Jose Diaz-Balart. Holt will be joined by Chuck Todd and Rachel Maddow to moderate in the second hour.

This afternoon, the candidate lineup was announced on MSNBC.

Wednesday, June 26:

  1. Sen. Cory Booker
  2. Sen. Elizabeth Warren
  3. Rep. Beto O’Rourke
  4. Sen. Amy Klobuchar
  5. Rep. John Delaney
  6. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard
  7. Sec. Julian Castro
  8. Rep. Tim Ryan
  9. Mayor Bill de Blasio
  10. Gov. Jay Inslee

Here’s who will appear on stage for the second night, Thursday, June 27:

Night 2: Thursday, June 27

  1. Sen. Bernie Sanders
  2. Sen. Kamala Harris
  3. Vice President Joe Biden
  4. Mayor Pete Buttigieg
  5. Sen. Michael Bennet
  6. Ms. Marianne Williamson
  7. Rep. Eric Swalwell
  8. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
  9. Mr. Andrew Yang
  10. Gov. John Hickenlooper

DNC chairman Tom Perez told MSNBC’s Hallie Jackson ahead of the drawing that he wanted the committee to avoid grouping lesser-known candidates together on one night and high-profile candidates on the other.

“The purpose of that is to be consistent with our principle of trying to be fair to everybody but also, it gets to the point of your question, so that we have maximum eyeballs both nights,” Perez said.

Thursday will most certainly deliver more eyeballs than Wednesday. That night will feature former vp Biden, Sen. Sanders, Sen. Harris, and Mayor Buttigieg.

How was this all decided? A manual, in-person draw at NBC News Headquarters at 30 Rock. One representative of each of the qualifying campaigns was invited to attend the draw along with DNC officials. Campaign representatives saw their respective candidate’s paper slip with their name on it before it was folded and placed inside the box. A representative from NBC News S&P conducted the draw.

Candidates were divided into two groups:

  1. Those who polled on average at or above 2% through midnight on Wednesday, June 12
  2. Those who polled on average below 2% through midnight on Wednesday, June 12

The network then designated each of the groupings to a specific debate night.