The Democratic presidential candidates set to take part in tonight’s sixth debate are finally down to a manageable number: seven.
The qualifiers include former vice president Joe Biden, South Bend IN mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sens. Amy Klobuchar (MN), Bernie Sanders (VT), Elizabeth Warren (MA), and businessmen Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang.
To qualify, each had to bring in donations from at least 200,000 individuals and hit at least 4% in four polls or 6% in two early-state polls.
The debate, at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, will begin at 8 p.m. Eastern time.
It is being hosted by PBS, which will show the debate on TV and on its website, and by Politico, which will also stream the event. CNN will also carry the debate on TV and on its website.
The winnowing of the formerly overloaded Democratic field to a single-digit number should help some debate participants — but there are potential pitfalls.
“In theory, [the reduced number] means more room for people to talk. More time to make your case. More opportunities to engage in conflict,” says Politico, adding that it also affords more “chances to say things you instantly regret.”
Several topics are all but certain to come up: health care, including the progressive notion of “Medicare for all”; the economy; foreign policy; education, and possibly gun control.
Some comment on Wednesday’s impeachment of President Trump also seems inevitable.
The last debate, in November, “centered on President Trump and who was best positioned to defeat him,” says the Washington Post, “with candidates taking questions on issues including racial justice, marijuana policy and child care. Candidates passed on opportunities to attack one another and instead talked about beating the incumbent.”
After tonight, four more Democratic debates are scheduled, all in early-voting primary states: Iowa on Jan. 14, New Hampshire on Feb. 7, Nevada on Feb. 19 and South Carolina on Feb. 25.
Although the Democratic National Committee has not announced the criteria candidates must meet to take part in those debates, it’s possible the field could grow again, especially if former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg gains enough ground by spending more millions on TV advertising.
On the other hand, wealthy long-shot hopefuls like Steyer and Yang might not make the cut next time.