Tonight’s Democratic debate was originally supposed to be hosted in Arizona — one of the four states scheduled to vote on Tuesday, along with Florida, Illinois, and Ohio — but because of the U.S. coronavirus pandemic, the debate was moved to CNN’s television studio in Washington, D.C., where there will be no live audience or post-debate spin room. It’s the first one-on-one debate of the Democratic primary cycle, between Joe Biden — the current delegate front-runner — and Bernie Sanders.
For highlights of the debate as it happens, go here.
What time is the debate and where is it streaming?
The debate will be held in CNN’s studio in Washington, D.C., and will stream from 8 p.m. Eastern to about 10 p.m. Hosted by CNN and Univision, it can be streamed on CNN’s homepage (without a cable subscription) and via CNN’s mobile apps, as well as via the CNNgo apps on Roku, Amazon Fire, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Android TV.
Who will be debating?
Former vice-president Joe Biden and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders — in the first one-on-one debate of the Democratic primaries. CNN says the podiums will be six feet apart, in accordance with CDC guidelines.
The only other remaining candidate, Hawaii representative Tulsi Gabbard, did not qualify for the debate.
Who is moderating?
CNN’s Dana Bash and Jake Tapper and Univision’s Ilia Calderón will moderate the debate.
What to watch for
The coronavirus pandemic will undoubtedly be one of the major issues to come up during the debate. Both Biden and Sanders have criticized President Trump’s handling of the crisis, and both have sought to leverage the ongoing emergency in order to highlight their core campaign messages. Biden has pushed the need for competence and experience in the U.S. response, while Sanders has argued that the public-health crisis underlines the need for Medicare for All and other policies, like an anti-hunger plan, to protect the poor and working-class Americans who will be most vulnerable to the wide-ranging impact of the coronavirus. The pandemic is also likely to affect the tone of the debate.
Delegate front-runner Biden will likely try to broaden his appeal to Sanders supporters as he closes in on the nomination and seeks to unify the party behind him. The former VP has also struggled in many of the previous debates and will now have to hold his own in a one-on-one debate for the first time. A poor performance on Sunday is unlikely to change the overall direction of the race, but it would nonetheless add fuel to concerns about Biden’s age and ability to take on Trump and his campaign machine.
For Sanders — who is facing a likely insurmountable deficit in delegates as well as a sudden inability to hold rallies thanks to the coronavirus — it remains to be seen how far the self-proclaimed Democratic socialist will go to differentiate himself from the more moderate Biden. That includes if and how he will attack the former vice-president at a time when many Democrats are worried about the long-term impact of any bitterness between the candidates or their supporters.
That Sanders is still in the race at all after badly losing last week’s primaries points to the importance of the debate in his and his advisers’ minds. It is also possible that Sanders will try to leverage the debate to move Biden’s policy proposals to the left ahead of the general election. The senator said last week that he wants to debate medical debt, climate change, and economic inequality with Biden.
Watch for how Sanders starts things off — his strategy should be clear from how he handles the first few questions.
Will this be the last debate?
Tonight is the 11th debate of the Democratic primaries, and it may be the final one too, depending on how Sanders performs in Tuesday’s primaries in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, and Ohio — as well as how his campaign chooses to proceed depending on that result.