As we noted yesterday, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) released some further details on the upcoming Democratic primary debates which begin in just a few short months from now. NBC News, MSNBC, and Telemundo will join forces to broadcast and simulcast the first debate in June, while CNN is slated to broadcast the second debate happening in July. The exact dates in June and July were not named yet, and neither were the locations where the debates would take place. We do, however, have the set of guidelines the DNC will use when winnowing the field to allow as many as 20 candidates access to a debate stage on consecutive nights.

First Democratic Primary Debate (June 2019)

Details on the first debate, set for June, come from NBC News, the host and broadcast partner for the event:

NBC News, MSNBC and Telemundo will host the first 2020 presidential primary debate in June, the Democratic National Committee announced Thursday.

The debate could be held over two consecutive nights in prime time, given the anticipated size of the field, the DNC said.

NBC News, MSNBC and Telemundo will broadcast the debate simultaneously on back-to-back weeknights in June, should multiple debate stages be necessary. The debate will also stream online free on NBC News’ digital platforms, including,, the NBC News Mobile App and OTT apps in addition to Telemundo’s digital platforms. The debate location and exact dates are yet to be announced.

NBC is billing the first debate as a “live two-night event” meaning they believe there will be far more than 10 Democratic candidates ready to take the debate stage.

Each set of candidates will be chosen at random from among the list who meet the qualifications for the debate. This will give the candidates their own primetime coverage without relegating lower tier candidates to an early evening slot, or leaving them off the stage entirely.

It also means that, through the luck of the draw, a low-polling, lesser-known candidate could be given a primary slot next to a top-tier candidate meaning they’ll receive the opportunity for more screen time and more attention.

Second Democratic Primary Debate (July 2019)

The second debate on the calendar is set for sometime in July and will be broadcast and hosted by CNN. The format and qualification guidelines will mirror the first debate.

CNN will air the debate on CNN International as well as online.

Participation Criteria

The DNC is planning for a maximum of 20 debate slots, which would mean back-to-back debate nights each featuring a slate of 10 candidates per night. To qualify for participation in the debate, each candidate would have to meet certain guidelines set forth by the DNC which will govern these first two debates.

There are two ways a candidate can qualify to participate in the first two debates:

Poll numbers: A candidate must register 1% or more support in three polls publicly released between January 1, 2019, and 14 days prior to the date of the event. The DNC also said that the polls could be national, or a combination of one or more polls from Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina or Nevada. The polls also must be sponsored by a major polling organization.

Grassroots donors: Candidates also may qualify by showing that the campaign has drawn donations from at least 65,000 unique donors, and a minimum of 200 unique donors per state in at least 20 states.

Widening the Field

With the two separate ways candidates can qualify for a debate slot, it almost looks like it’s the intention of the DNC to widen the field. This will serve to offer up a diverse buffet of candidates, but could also serve to muddy the water with so many different voices, most of which won’t even make it all the way to the Iowa caucus next year.

It appears that the DNC is trying to be as accommodating as possible to avoid scenarios where a certain candidate is snubbed which will create divisions among primary voters before the process even gets underway.

We’ll keep all the pertinent details available at the 2020 Democratic Primary Debate schedule so you can follow along.