If you’ve been following recent events and the ongoing Coronavirus threat, you’re probably aware that the eleventh Democratic debate, originally scheduled to take place in Arizona, has been moved to the CNN studio in Washington, DC. The venue change is intended to limit cross-country travel by the campaigns and their staff, as well as the staff and media circus that normally attends a debate.
However, the show appears to be going forward and will air live tonight at 8 pm ET from the CNN studio in Washington, DC. On stage, if you can call it a stage, will be former vice president Joe Biden, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
CNN/Univision Democratic Debate (11th Debate)
Date: Sunday, March 15, 2020
Time: 8 pm ET (7 pm CT, 6 pm MT, 5 pm PT)
Location: CNN studio in Washington, DC
Sponsors: CNN, Univision, CHC BOLD
Moderators: Dana Bash, Jake Tapper, Ilia Calderón
Debate Live Stream
Watch Live: CNN.com
How to Watch
On TV – The debate will air on CNN, CNN en Español, CNN International, and Univision
Online – The debate will air on CNN.com without requiring a cable or satellite subscription to view
Streaming – CNN’s apps for iOS and Android, and via CNNgo apps for Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire, Chromecast, and Android TV, as well as Univision’s digital properties
This show will be pretty sparse, with just two candidates on stage:
- Former Vice President Joe Biden
- Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders
What to Watch For
The opening topic? You guessed it: Coronavirus or COVID-19, whichever you’re preferred label. It’s the only thing the country and, frankly, the world has been talking about for a solid two weeks now, and the situation is now impacting people in their daily lives with limits on public events, schools closing for extended periods, and daily essentials being picked over and sparsely available at local shopping centers.
As Deadline reports, the COVID-19 impact has been so strong, especially with limits for travel, that media access to the debate itself is being curtailed:
Originally set for Phoenix in front of a live audience, the debate has been moved to CNN’s studios in Washington, DC, with no crowd and the traditional spin room and press filing center scrapped. Univision’s Jorge Ramos, who had been set as a moderator, backed out of his planned role because of possible exposure to the coronavirus. Univision’s Illa Calderon will take Ramos’ place alongside CNN’s Jake Tapper and Dana Bash.
CNN’s WarnerMedia and CNN already had placed restrictions on non-essential employee travel and asked that those involved in the production of major events be limited to those who needed to be there. The COVID-19 pandemic should certainly be a main topic of conversation tonight, which comes two days after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency.
What will it mean to have no live audience? We haven’t seen that yet in this cycle. Every debate has had a large audience, filled with viewers eager to cheer for their preferred candidate when they get some face time. This debate will probably have a feel more akin to a Sunday political talk show, with no cheering or hollering, and no audience or protestors to affect the flow.
The New York Times says the debate will take on an entirely different tone given the current state of affairs in the country:
Both men will be auditioning for the presidency amid an unfolding national emergency over the coronavirus; the last candidates to debate in such urgent circumstances were Barack Obama and John McCain during the 2008 financial crisis. Mr. Sanders will be under added pressure to show why he is still running, at a time when people are worried about far more than presidential politics, while Mr. Biden — often uneven in these debate settings — must navigate far more speaking time as he tries to appear capable of uniting the country and leading it through a crisis.
Debates are often unpredictable, but it is especially hard to game out how this debate featuring a moderate standard-bearer and a liberal challenger will unfold and how people will process it. Hundreds of thousands of viewers, if not millions, will have been personally affected by Sunday, as public gathering spaces are shuttered, schools are closed and on Thursday the stock market plunged by the largest percentage in decades (it snapped back upward on Friday).
Dovetailed with health concerns and the Coronavirus reports is the economy, of course. The stock market has been on a choppy ride all month, ending this past week significantly down despite a strong Friday bounce.
Viewership for this debate could end up being the highest so far given that Americans are being asked to stay home, which means plenty of available viewers to tune in with not much else to do on a Sunday night.
We’ll have the live stream available on this page, and the complete video after the debate airs.