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Everything you need to know about the two Democratic debates

Comprehensive coverage of both debates from the Tampa Bay Times.
Democratic presidential candidates attend the first primary debate for the 2020 elections at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Miami. AL DIAZ | MIAMI HERALD]

One night down, one to go.

With the second and final night of the first democratic debate taking place from 9 to 11 p.m. on Thursday in Miami, the Tampa Bay Times has complete coverage of what to expect, the candidates and what happened in the first half of the debate Wednesday night.

Here’s your complete guide.

How to watch:

Just like last night, the debate will air on NBC, MSNBC, and Telemundo. We’ll also embed a live stream in this post once one comes available, but viewers will also be able to watch a stream of the debate on or through an over-the-top device or subscription streaming service that carries NBC — such as Fubo, Apple TV or Sling TV.

Who is debating tonight:

Though there’ll be ten candidates on stage, the most notable contenders in tonight’s roster will include Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, and Pete Buttigieg. They are four of the five top-polling Democratic candidates overall, with Biden as the clear frontrunner as it stands and Sanders firmly in second.

Joining those four will be Marianne Williamson, John Hickenlooper, Andrew Yang, Kirsten Gillibrand, Michael Bennet and Eric Swalwell.

How the candidates will be lined up tonight. [Democratic National Convention]

From left to right, here’s how the democrats will be lined up tonight, and where they stand in the latest polls:

  • Author and activist Marianne Williamson
  • Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper
  • Entrepreneur Andrew Yang
  • South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden
  • Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders
  • California Sen. Kamala Harris
  • New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
  • Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet
  • California Rep. Eric Swalwell
Average position among all polls from Real Clear Politics. [Real Clear Politics]

Follow live on Twitter:

A lot can happen in a two-hour debate. To get the most up-to-date news during the debate, follow our reporters on Twitter.

Steve Contorno, Tampa Bay Times Political Editor: @scontorno

Elizabeth Koh, Times/Herald State Government Reporter: @elizabethrkoh

Langston Taylor, Times Data Reporter: @langstonitaylor

Alex Daughtery, Washington Correspondent: @alextdaughtery

David Smiley, Political Reporter: @newsbysmiley

PolitiFact, Fact Checker: @politifact

Tampa Bay Times: @tb_times

Pre-debate reading from our reporters:

Missed last night’s debate? Still haven’t read up on the candidates and biggest issues? Here’s your guide.

Check back to read more stories as they come in from our reporters.

Democrats and Trump on 2020 collision course over immigration

The bodies of Salvadoran migrant Oscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his nearly 2-year-old daughter Valeria lie on the bank of the Rio Grande in Matamoros, Mexico, Monday, June 24, 2019, after they drowned trying to cross the river to Brownsville, Texas. Martinez' wife, Tania told Mexican authorities she watched her husband and child disappear in the strong current. This photograph was first published in the Mexican newspaper La Jornada. [JULIA LE DUC | Associated Press]

A tragic image shared 24 hours before the first debate set up a massive gulf on immigration policy between a majority of Democrats on the debate stage and President Donald Trump.

When asked about the heart-wrenching photo of Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his daughter Valeria floating in the Rio Grande after drowning, former Housing and Urban Development secretary Julián Castro said crossing the border illegally should be a civil, not criminal offense.

A majority of Democrats on the debate stage Wednesday night backed the overhaul, putting presidential contenders directly in contrast with Trump’s alarmist border rhetoric.

Read Alex Daughtery’s full story here.

Democratic candidates tackle Florida issues: Disaster relief and Cuba

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times Mexico Beach remains in a suspended state of destruction on Sunday (12/9/18), two months after Hurricane Michael made landfall on October 10, 2018 near Mexico Beach, with top sustained winds of 155 mph.

The wide field of Democratic presidential candidates have descended on Miami this week for two nights of debates. But how are they actually talking about Florida while here?

Climate change and the Trump administration’s immigration policies are well covered. But on many other issues uniquely important to the Sunshine State, it’s unlikely Floridians will hear much.

The Tampa Bay Times recently surveyed all the candidates, highlighting matters distinct to Florida that haven’t received much attention from the candidates. The survey included questions from Florida readers, and the full results can be found online.

Read Steve Contorno’s full story here.

We asked Democratic candidates your questions. Now see their answers.

[TARA MCCARTY | Tampa Bay Times]

The Tampa Bay Times asked every major Democratic presidential candidate to weigh in on issues of particular interest to Floridians. Fifteen responded. Here are their answers, word-for-word.

Three of the questions are ours. We focused on topics important to Florida that we haven’t seen the candidates already address. The rest come directly from readers like you.

We’ve highlighted the heart of every answer, but tap on the response to read their whole statement.

Read Steve Contorno and Langston Taylor’s full story here.

What was true and false in Wednesday night’s Democratic debate

Democratic presidential candidates attend the first primary debate for the 2020 elections at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Miami. AL DIAZ | MIAMI HERALD]

The Democrats who want to challenge Donald Trump for the presidency took the stage for the first debate of the presidential primary of the 2020 election cycle. Many of them argued that the U.S. economy isn’t working for working people.

The Democratic field is so large that only half the candidates appeared Wednesday; another debate with the rest of the field was scheduled for the next night.

Here are some of the candidates’ comments.

Read PolitiFact’s full story here.

Elizabeth Warren gets first, and last, word in debate

Elizabeth Warren [Miami Herald]

Before she even began to speak — and she did quite a bit of that Wednesday night — Elizabeth Warren stood out among her fellow Democratic presidential candidates in a more visual way. In a row of dark-colored suits and ties, the liberal firebrand’s purple blazer caught one’s eye from center stage.

Then the questions started rolling in, and it became clear that the Massachusetts senator would dominate at least a portion of the evening. Warren, the only candidate speaking at the first Democratic presidential debate who is polling in double digits nationally, was the first candidate to speak. And her policy proposals were referenced in the opening questions to other candidates, too.

After rattling off the several detailed policy proposals that have brought her nationwide attention, the moderators questioned the candidates to Warren’s left and right on their positions on Warren’s stances.

Read the Miami Herald’s fully story here.

Cory Booker makes gun debate personal in Miami

Sen. Cory Booker. [AL DIAZ | Miami Herald]

When the question of how to address gun violence in the U.S. reached Sen. Cory Booker, he made the answer personal, recalling when he heard gunshots in his Newark, New Jersey neighborhood.

“I think I’m the only ... I hope I’m the only one on this panel here that had seven people shot in their neighborhood just last week,” he said. “Someone I knew, Shahid Smith, was killed with an assault rifle at the top of my block last year.”

On a crowded debate stage, Booker stood near front and center and managed to grab several moments in the spotlight in a two-hour span, during which he spoke for nearly 11 minutes — the longest of any candidate, according to a New York Times analysis. He used that time to stake out positions on gun control, LGBTQ rights, immigration and the economy.

Read Joey Flechas’ full story here.

In gun debate, Democratic candidates mention Parkland, but not Pulse

MONICA HERNDON | Times Rain starts to fall on June 10, 2019 at the Pulse Interim Memorial, in Orlando, Florida. On June 12, 2016, 49 people died in a mass shooting at Pulse Nightclub.

Democratic candidates for president often invoked the 2018 school shooting in Parkland and the activism from the student survivors as they made the case for more restrictions on firearms during Wednesday night’s debate in Miami.

But forgotten in the conversation was another gun-related tragedy in Florida just two years earlier: the Pulse night club shooting in Orlando. There, a man with military-style weapons killed 49 people in what was at the time the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. It remains so in Florida.

The omission was not overlooked by some Orlando-area Democrats. Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith said the failure to acknowledge Pulse during a gun debate in Florida “'was incredibly disappointing.”

Read Steve Contorno’s full story here.

Democratic debate: Beto O’Rourke struggles to restart campaign

Democratic presidential candidates attend the first primary debate for the 2020 elections at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Miami. [AL DIAZ ADIAZ | Miami Herald]

Beto O’Rourke came to Miami on Wednesday night looking for a moment to help his struggling presidential campaign but may have done more — at least early on — to help his competitors.

As the curtain raised on the presidential primary, O’Rourke, the former Texas congressman who rose to national prominence last year while losing a close Senate race, became a convenient springboard during the first moments of the first 2020 Democratic debate for some of the other nine candidates looking to break out during night one of a back-to-back event.

While President Donald Trump or even front-running Joe Biden may have been more obvious foils coming into the night, candidates farther back in the polls seemed to look instead to O’Rourke — who spent the night calling for national unity — to try and claw their way forward.

Read David Smiley and Alex Daugherty’s full story here.

Julián Castro impresses during Democratic debate

Julián Castro [Associated Press]

Like many of the candidates on Wednesday night’s presidential debate stage in Miami, Julián Castro needed to win over a national audience of potential voters who largely didn’t know who he was.

In large measure, he succeeded.

The former San Antonio mayor and HUD secretary, who had been on the outskirts of early polling, emerged as a debate-defining voice on his signature issue of immigration. In a tangle with fellow Texan Beto O’Rourke on the subject, he also delivered a stinging rebuttal that echoed through the evening: “I think that you should do your homework on this issue.”

Read Elizabeth Koh’s full story here.

What’s next after Thursday’s debate:

The second Democratic debate will be on July 30 and 31, with similar — low threshold — qualification rules.

It, however, will be the last debate where so many candidates get a spot on stage. The Democratic National Convention has said it plans to raise the bar and has set the requirements for future debates as such:

1. Candidates will have to hit 2 percent in at least four polls.

2. Will have to have 130,000 unique donors. The donor threshold in particular will be challenging for many candidates who currently don’t have national followings. So the third debate could well have a far smaller lineup.


Our mission is to keep you informed with stories that matter and that only we will tell. If you enjoyed our coverage of the first primary Democratic debates, consider supporting the Tampa Bay Times with a digital subscription here. Not convinced you want to subscribe? Give this column by our Executive Editor a read.