COLUMBUS, Ohio (CN) – Twelve Democratic hopefuls are set to slug it out Tuesday night in Westerville, Ohio, making history as the largest field of candidates to share a single presidential debate stage.
Tuesday’s debate at Otterbein University surpasses the 11 Republican candidates who appeared on the same stage in September 2015. It is the fourth debate so far in the 2020 cycle sponsored by the Democratic National Committee.
The three-hour showdown is set to feature all 10 candidates from the Sept. 12 debate in Houston – former Vice President Joe Biden; Senator Cory Booker; South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; former Housing Secretary Julian Castro; Senator Kamala Harris; Senator Amy Klobuchar; former Congressman Beto O’Rourke; Senator Bernie Sanders; Senator Elizabeth Warren; and businessman Andrew Yang.
In addition, Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and billionaire and activist Tom Steyer, both of whom just missed qualifying for the last debate, will take the stage. Tuesday marks Steyer’s primary debut.
The debate in Westerville, a suburb of the state capital Columbus, is crucial for many of the outlying candidates, who need a powerful performance to stay relevant in a Democratic primary jam-packed with candidates. With so many vying for airtime, interruptions and cross-talk should be expected.
The impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump will likely hang over the debate hosted by CNN and The New York Times. The inquiry was spurred by a July 25 phone call in which Trump pressured Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Biden and his son, specifically over work Hunter Biden did while sitting on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.
How the Democratic hopefuls, especially Biden, respond should be one of the focal points Tuesday night. All of the candidates have come out in support of the impeachment inquiry.
Warren heads into the debate with momentum. She recently surged past Biden in several polls, including a Quinnipiac University poll that showed her leading the pack at 29%, with the former vice president at 26% and Sanders at 16%.
The senator from Massachusetts also scored a viral moment last week at a town hall on LGBTQ rights.
Morgan Cox, chair of the Human Rights Campaign’s board of directors, asked Warren, “Let’s say you’re on the campaign trail and a supporter approaches you and says, ‘Senator, I am old-fashioned and my faith teaches me that marriage is between one man and one woman.’ What is your response?”
“Well, I’m going to assume it’s a guy who said that,” Warren replied, drawing applause.
“And I’m going to say, ‘Then just marry one woman. I’m cool with that,’” she added, to laughter and loud cheers. “Assuming you can find one.”
Because of Warren’s gains in the polls, the debate should feature some swipes from Biden. He began taking shots at her last week, suggesting that her ascent in the polls is related to the attacks on him by Republicans. In the same speech, he touted his ability “to get things done,” telling the New Hampshire audience, “We’re not electing a planner.”
To qualify for the debate stage, candidates had to reach 2% or higher in four separate polls approved by the DNC and draw in at least 130,000 unique donations, including at least 400 donors from 20 different states.
The podium order for Tuesday night’s debate in Ohio was determined by polling averages based on the last 10 polls certified by the DNC. Candidates with the highest averages are in the middle of the stage, with lower-averaging candidates positioned to the left and the right.
The debate airs from 8 to 11 p.m. Eastern time on CNN, CNN International, CNN en Espanol, and will stream on CNN.com and NYTimes.com. It will be moderated by CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Erin Burnett, along with the Times’ national editor Marc Lacey.
The following Democratic primary debate will be held Nov. 20 in the metro Atlanta area. The contribution and polling criteria are higher for the fifth debate, with candidates required to reach 3% in four DNC-approved polls and have 165,000 unique donors. They have until Nov.13 to meet this threshold. Only eight have qualified so far.