How to watch this week’s Democratic presidential debates

Twenty candidates will take the stage over two days in Detroit to face questions.

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The Fox Theatre stage being prepared for the Democratic debates.

Jeff Kowalsky/AFP-Getty Images

Twenty Democratic candidates for president will be in Detroit on Tuesday and Wednesday for their second primary debate, with each trying to score points at and present themselves as the most qualified person to take on President Donald Trump next year.

They will be on the hunt for memorable moments on whatever issue they can, and you expect those hurting in the polls and fundraising totals to go after the front-runners in order to shine.

Five of the declared candidates failed to make the cut established by the Democratic National Committee and will be watching the show from the sidelines.

Here’s a guide to the Detroit debates hosted by CNN:

When are the Democratic debates?

When: 8 p.m. EDT Wednesday, July 31

Where: The Fox Theatre in Detroit

Each night is expected to last two hours.

Where can I watch the Democratic debates?

Through an agreement with the Democratic National Committee, CNN has exclusive rights to both nights of the debates and if you want to watch, you’ll have to watch there. If you don’t have cable or a streaming service that provides CNN, you’re not necessarily out of luck: It will be streamed live on for free and without requiring a cable provider login.

Can I submit a question to be asked?

No, but you can tell CNN what issue you’d like to hear discussed. Go to CNN’s website at and submit your choice.

How are 20 people going to debate? Isn’t that too many?

Way too many: So, as with the first debates last month in Miami, the participants are being split up with 10 taking the stage each night.

Ten is still a lot, of course, but it’s a lot more manageable than 20. Also: This is likely to be the last debate where so many candidates qualify to take part, with even stricter guidelines to be put in place for the next debate or debates in September.


The debate lineups for July 30-31.

USA Today

What’s the Democratic debate lineup?

Tuesday, July 30

• Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont

• Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts

• South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg

• Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas

• Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota

• Montana Gov. Steve Bullock

• Former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland

• Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper

• Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio

• Marianne Williamson, author

Wednesday, July 31

• Former Vice President Joe Biden

• Sen. Kamala Harris of California

• Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro

• Andrew Yang, businessman

• Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey

• Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado

• New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio

• Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii

• Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York

• Washington Gov. Jay Inslee

How was the lineup determined?

The DNC set the following criteria for candidates in order to make the debate: At least 1% support in three qualifying public opinion polls; 65,000 or more unique donors to their campaign with a minimum of 200 donors per state in at least 20 states, or both. Those doing better on those criteria were slotted into the debate up to the 20-candidate limit.

As for the selection of who would debate each night: Unlike in Miami, when Warren was the only of the four presumed front-runners on the stage the first night, and Biden, Sanders and Harris were all on night two, CNN held a random draw that assured that two of the top four would be on each night, as well as three of the next six in terms of their place in the polls each night.

Who won’t get to debate either night?

Billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer, a late entry in the presidential race, won’t be part of the debates. Neither will Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, former Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania or Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam. California Rep. Eric Swalwell, who was on the stage in Miami, dropped out of the race. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock is taking Swalwell’s place.

What will be the debate format?

According to CNN, candidates will be given time for both an opening and a closing statement. When a moderator asks a direct question of a candidate, he or she will have a minute to respond.

As anyone watching debates knows, however, these are just guidelines: The candidates will absolutely try to get as much time as they can, though CNN threatened it will deduct time from a candidate who “consistently interrupts.” Any candidate targeted by another candidate as part of his or her response will be given 30 seconds to respond.

The moderators will use colored lights to tell the candidates how much time they have left: A yellow light means 15 seconds left; flashing red means 5 seconds; solid red means there is no time remaining.

CNN also says that there will be no “show of hands or one-word, down-the-line questions” for the candidates.

Finally, while many of the questions may be on similar topics from night to night, the questions themselves are expected to be different because CNN doesn’t want the second-night candidates to have an advantage over the first-night ones.

Who is moderating?

CNN’s Dana Bash, Don Lemon and Jake Tapper will serve as moderators for the debates.

What issues will be debated?

It could be anything but it’s safe to say that health care, education, immigration and border security will all come up. And President Donald Trump: Expect him to come up a lot. That’s especially true because of the controversy he has riled up with a racist tweet telling four Democratic members of Congress to “go back” to the countries they are from. All are women of color who are U.S. citizens and three of them were born in the U.S., including U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Detroit.


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