Here's Your Guide To The Democratic Debates, From How They Work To Who's In & Who's Out

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Whether you've been counting down the days out of excitement or dread, it's finally here: the Democratic primary debates. A storied and important tradition in democratic politics, debates play a huge role in helping voters choose a candidate. Before they start, though, there's a lot you should know about the 2020 Democratic debates.

While the rules governing the general presidential debates are fairly clear — there are three of them, just the major candidates take part, and they happen in the immediate run-up to the election — primary debates are more of a free-for-all, since the party in question makes its own rules. Here's all the information you'll need to have as you get ready to watch.

When Are The Democratic Debates?

The first set of Democratic debates will happen over two nights, on Wednesday, June 26 and Thursday, June 27. They begin at 9 p.m. ET on both nights.

How Long Do The Democratic Debates Last?

They'll go for two hours each, both ending at 11 p.m. ET.

Who Is In The Democratic Debates?

All in all, 20 candidates will appear in the first debate, with 10 taking the stage each night. In the first debate, on June 26, you'll see the following candidates: Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Sen. Cory Booker, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former Rep. John Delaney, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, Rep. Tim Ryan, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Gov. Jay Inslee.

On June 27, then you'll see another group of 10 candidates: former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Kamala Harris, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Sen. Michael Bennet, Rep. Eric Swalwell, author Marianne Williamson, and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

How Did Candidates Qualify For The Democratic Debates?

Candidates had two ways of qualifying for the first debate. The first was to record 65,000 unique donors with at least 200 in each of at least 20 states. The second was to reach at least one 1% in three polls recognized by the committee.

How Can I Watch The Democratic Debates?

The debates will both be broadcast on NBC, MSNBC, and Telemundo. You'll also be able to watch them online at and on the NBC app.

Why Are There Two Democratic Debates?

As you may have noticed, there are currently 23 declared candidates in the Democratic presidential race. During the 2016 Republican primary campaign, the RNC took heat after scheduling "kids' table" debates of less popular candidates that happened directly before the first couple of main debates.

The DNC wanted to avoid this mistake, according to The Atlantic, so they're holding two debates of randomly assorted candidates until the field thins out enough for them all to fit on one stage.

Who Is Moderating The Democratic Debates?

Both debates will have the same moderators: Lester Holt, Savannah Guthrie, and Chuck Todd of NBC; José Diaz-Balart of NBC and Telemundo; and Rachel Maddow of MSNBC.

How Is The Winner Of The Democratic Debate Decided?

Good question. The short answer is that there's no official decision on who "won" any given political debate. Really, though, it's decided in the media and in the court of public opinion. The pollsters will all be out in full force trying to track people's real time and immediate reactions, and then the media will debate each candidate's performance until the next debate, and maybe even after.

Why Are The Democratic Debates Starting So Early?

The DNC spent hours and hours of meetings setting the debate schedule, with the aim of giving each candidate as much airtime as possible so as to avoid the criticism they faced in 2016 — that the debate schedule seemed to favor Hillary Clinton, according to The Atlantic. In the end, there is now a longer schedule featuring more than double the number of debates the DNC originally planned for 2016.

How Many More Democratic Debates Will There Be?

The debates will continue as long as the Democratic electorate is still undecided, but only two other events have been announced so far: July 30-31 and Sept. 12-13.

Why Do We Need These Things, Anyway?

This field of candidates provides the perfect answer to this question. With 23 people all vying for the media's attention — and only so many hours in the day to spend watching individual town hall events — the debates provide the most direct comparison of their views and ways of presenting themselves that you'll get. Plus, it's good to see how they all perform on the debate stage, since the presidential debates will be an important element of the race come fall of 2020.

One of the 23 Democratic presidential hopefuls, after all, will end up facing off against President Donald Trump, and if you're a Democratic voter, then the debates will be huge in helping you choose which one you want it to be. Now, you know exactly what to expect from the first set of debates — besides, of course, the results.