DNC Announces Details For The First Two Presidential Primary Debates

Last year, DNC Chair Tom Perez announced that his goals for the Democratic presidential primary debates are to (1) give the grassroots a bigger voice than ever before; (2)  showcase our candidates on an array of media platforms; (3) present an opportunity for vigorous discussion about issues, ideas and solutions; and (4) reach as many potential voters as possible.  Perez announced 12 presidential primary debates to be held over the course of the 2020 cycle, with the first two occurring in June and July of 2019.

Today, the DNC is proud to announce NBC News, MSNBC and Telemundo as its partner for the first debate and CNN as its partner for the second debate.

To accommodate what is expected to be a historically large primary field, both debates will have the option of occurring over consecutive nights in prime time to make room for as many as twenty candidates, with the lineups for each night determined at random.  This approach will provide each candidate with a fair opportunity to make his or her case to a large, national audience.

This agreement is unprecedented — no debate has ever aired in prime time on back-to-back nights. Both debates will be streamed online for free.

The DNC also announced the qualification criteria for candidates’ participation in the first two debates – a two-path system that employs both a polling threshold and a grassroots fundraising threshold, and uses the two measures in combination in the event that more than 20 candidates qualify.

“As Chair of the DNC, I am committed to running an open and transparent primary process.  To that end, we’ve spent months working with media partners to provide this unprecedented opportunity for candidates and voters to get to know each other,” Perez said.  “Because campaigns are won on the strength of their grassroots, we also updated the threshold, giving all types of candidates the opportunity to reach the debate stage and giving small-dollar donors a bigger voice in the primary than ever before.” 


The DNC will partner with NBC News, MSNBC and Telemundo to host the first debate of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary process. The debate will be broadcast simultaneously on all three networks, with real-time Spanish translations on Telemundo, in prime time on back-to-back weeknights in June.

The debate will also be streamed for free on NBC News’ digital platforms including NBCNews.com, MSNBC.com, NBC News Mobile App, and OTT apps in addition to Telemundo’s digital platforms.

The July debate will be broadcast by CNN in prime time on back-to-back weeknights if more than one night is needed. The debate will also be available for free online and streamed on a variety of digital platforms.

Both agreements are unprecedented –  no debate has ever aired in prime time on back-to-back nights before.

Location, venue, moderators, date and time, format and logistics of the first and second debates will be announced at a later date.


Democratic candidates may qualify for the first and second debate by meeting one of the two following sets of criteria:

Polling Method: Register 1% or more support in three polls (which may be national polls, or polls in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and/or Nevada) publicly released between January 1, 2019, and 14 days prior to the date of the Organization Debate.

Qualifying polls will be limited to those sponsored by one or more of the following organizations/institutions:Associated Press, ABC News, CBS News, CNN, Des Moines Register, Fox News, Las Vegas Review Journal, Monmouth University, NBC News, New York Times, National Public Radio (NPR), Quinnipiac University, Reuters, University of New Hampshire, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Winthrop University.  Any candidate’s three qualifying polls must be conducted by different organizations, or if by the same organization, must be in different geographical areas.

Grassroots Fundraising Method. Candidates may qualify for the debate by demonstrating that the campaign has received donations from at least (1) 65,000 unique donors; and (2) a minimum of 200 unique donors per state in at least 20 U.S. states.  To demonstrate that the fundraising threshold has been reached, candidates must provide verifiable evidence, which they may do by authorizing ActBlue and/or NGP VAN to provide that evidence.

If more than 20 candidates qualify for the debate, the top 20 candidates will be selected using a methodology that gives primacy to candidates meeting both thresholds, followed by the highest polling average, followed by the most unique donors.



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