February Democratic debate: Everything you need to know

February Democratic debate: Everything you need to know

Seven United States Democratic presidential candidates face off on Friday night for the eighth debate of the 2020 primary cycle. 

The debate, hosted by ABC, WMUR-TV, and Apple News, will kick off at 8pm local time (01:00 GMT on Saturday). 


It is the first of three Democratic primary debates scheduled this month as the race to see which candidate will take on President Donald Trump in the November election heats up. 

The debate comes as the Democratic Party seeks to clean up the mess caused by the recent Iowa caucuses, in which a technical error delayed results and prompted questions of accuracy. Four days after the Midwestern state kicked off the nominating contest, no winner has been declared. 

With 100 percent of the precincts reported, Senator Bernie Sanders and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg were neck and neck. Both candidates have declared themselves the winners. Former Vice President Joe Biden, once considered the Democratic frontrunner nationally, lags in fourth place, behind Senator Elizabeth Warren.

The debate is the last chance for the top candidates to face off on one stage before Tuesday’s primary in New Hampshire. 

According to RealClearPolitics’s latest average of polls in New Hampshire, Sanders leads with 26.7 percent. Buttigieg has 22 percent and Warren and Biden are tied with 13 percent. 

As Democratic hopefuls prepare to take the stage, here’s all you need to know before Friday’s debate. 

1. Who will take the stage?  

Seven of the 11 Democratic candidates have qualified for the debate stage. 

In addition to Sanders, Biden, Warren and Buttigieg, Senator Amy Klobuchar, billionaire activist Tom Steyer, and entrepreneur Andrew Yang will also take the stage. 

As was the case in previous debates, candidates qualified through a combination of poll results and fundraising amounts. For this debate, candidates needed to poll at five percent or more in four national or early states, or, at seven percent in two qualifying early state polls. In addition, campaigns need to achieve at least 225,000 unique donors.

2. Which candidates will not be on stage?

Former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg, Hawaii US Congressional Representative Tulsi Gabbard, former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Colorado Senator Michael Bennett did not qualify for the podium.

3. What issues will likely come up?


The chaotic breakdown of the Iowa caucus reporting process is sure to come up during the debate as it is a state that traditionally kicks off presidential nominating contests.

The deadlocked contest gives both Buttigieg and Sanders a burst of momentum as they seek to pull away from the crowded field. Both have declared themselves the winners, with Buttigieg pointing to the delegate chase and Sanders pointing to the popular vote. 

Expect candidates to weigh in on the chaos that was Iowa. 

Biden, who admitted his poor performance in Iowa was a “gut punch”, will likely have to answer for his dip in the state and the polls. 

Trump and electability 

The Republican-controlled Senate on Wednesday voted to acquit Trump on impeachment charges brought by the Democratic-led House of Representatives. The acquittal was Trump’s biggest victory yet over his foes in Congress.

Three of the candidates who will be on stage on Friday voted against Trump in the Senate. 

Trump celebrated his win, while Democrats suggested their investigations into the president’s alleged wrongdoings will continue. 

As with any debate, Trump is often a unifying topic on stage. Expect no less at Friday’s debate as candidates comment on the acquittal. 

But also expect the candidates to go head-to-head on why they are better positioned to beat Trump in November. 

Opioid epidemic 

Many expect candidates to be asked how they will address the opioid epidemic in the US. 

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, New Hampshire is among the top five states with the highest rates of opioid-involved deaths. 

About 68 percent of the more than 70,200 drug overdose deaths across the US in 2017 involved an opioid, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Sanders v Warren

The two longtime friends and colleagues had a tense exchange after the last debate. Warren, who did not shake Sanders’s outstretched hand, accused Sanders of calling her a liar on national television, Sanders responded that it was Warren who called him a liar and said they should not talk about the issue right then.

The interaction came after Warren said Sanders told her in private in 2018 that a woman could not win the presidency. Sanders has repeatedly denied making the comment.

The pair, who have similar platforms, usually do not go after each other on the stage. With the race now in high gear, it remains to be seen whether they will team up on Friday night or join in any attacks on one another. 

Sanders v Buttigieg

The two early leaders, Buttigieg and Sanders, are separated by 40 years in age and conflicting ideologies. Sanders is a 78-year-old self-described democratic socialist, and has been a progressive powerhouse for decades.

Buttigieg, a 38-year-old former municipal official, represents the more moderate wing of the Democratic Party. 

Expect the moderators and candidates themselves attempt to draw on the two hopefuls’ weaknesses. 

4. What about Trump?

Trump has been relishing in the Democratic turmoil and his Senate acquittal. 

“The Democrats, they can’t count some simple votes and yet they want to take over your healthcare system,” Trump said at a White House event Thursday celebrating his impeachment trial acquittal. “Think of that – no, think of that.”

Expect the president to take to Twitter to rail against the Democrats on Friday night. 

5. When is the next debate?

The next debate is scheduled for February 19 and will be held in Las Vegas, Nevada, just before that state holds its primary.


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