The nightly lineups for CNN’s two-night Democratic primary debate were set Thursday.
The lineups for each night were announced on air during a live, random draw for transparency around the event. There were three distinct draws based on polling: One to divide the bottom ten candidates, one to divide the middle six candidates and one to divide the top four candidates.
The 20 candidates who qualified for the debate stage, based on rules outlined by the Democratic National Convention, are: Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, former Vice President Joe Biden, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, former Maryland Rep. John Delaney, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, California Sen. Kamala Harris, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, author Marianne Williamson and businessman Andrew Yang.
After the first draw, the bottom 10 candidates have their assignments. Bullock, Delaney, Hickenlooper, Ryan and Williamson will be on July 30, while Bennet, de Blasio, Gabbard, Gillibrand and Inslee will be on July 31.
The second draw further set the nights: Buttigieg, Klobuchar and O’Rourke will join the field on July 30. Booker, Castro and Yang will debate on July 31.
The third and final draw put Warren and Sanders on July 30. Meanwhile, Harris and Biden will join the July 31 lineup.
This draw sets up a rematch of Harris vs. Biden. The duo clashed on race at the first debate, delivering the most talked about moment of the two nights and giving Harris a significant boost in both polling and fundraising.
Meanwhile, the first night’s debate will feature most of the Democratic field’s moderate voices. Delaney, Hickenlooper, Ryan, Bullock and Klobuchar are all more moderate the most candidates running for President. The concentration of moderates give candidates like Buttigieg and O’Rourke, two candidates further left than most, to prove themselves to with progressive voters.
CNN’s formula guaranteed that two of the top four candidates and five of the top 10 candidates will be on the same stage. During NBC’s debate, where a different drawing formula was used, Warren was the only top five candidate on the first night of debates, while Biden, Buttigieg, Harris and Sanders were all on the second night.
For many candidates, especially those in the bottom 10, this could be their final shot to make a moment on national television, given the DNC is doubling the threshold to qualify for the third and fourth Democratic primary debates later this year.
Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton and Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam, two candidates who did not make the first debate stage, will also miss the second debate after failing to qualify.
Billionaire investor Tom Steyer and former Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak, two candidates who recently got into the presidential contest, also failed to qualify for the second round of debates.
Candidates had until 11 a.m. ET Wednesday to certify with the DNC that they have either achieved at least 1% support in three polls from an approved list of pollsters or received campaign contributions from 65,000 unique donors, including 200 donors each from 20 different states.
In order to qualify for the third and fourth set of debates in September and October respectively, candidates will now have to achieve 2% in four polls from a slightly changed list of approved pollsters and receive 130,000 unique donors (from the date of their campaign’s creation), including 400 unique donors per state in at least 20 US states.