Politics & Government

Bernie and Biden to face off in the Miami Democratic debates

Democrats won’t have to wait much longer to see their leading presidential contenders clash.

With the party’s first primary debates just days away in Miami, a random sorting of the top 20 candidates conducted Friday by NBC News placed former vice president Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders on stage the same night. The two candidates have consistently polled atop the massive primary field and on many issues hold contrasting views.

Along with Biden and Sanders, four of the top-five polling candidates will grace the stage on the second of the two-night, prime-time affair, scheduled for June 26 and 27 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. Out of that group of five, only Senator Elizabeth Warren will participate on opening night — a potentially fortuitous circumstance as she rises in the polls.

“The group of death is the second night,” said Miami Democratic pollster Fernand Amandi. “And Elizabeth Warren got the best of all worlds.”

Debating on the 26th: New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and Warren, of Massachusetts. Maryland Congressman John Delaney, Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, and Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan will also participate, along with former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke. Former HUD secretary Julian Castro, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee round out the field.

On the 27th: Biden and Sanders will headline a field that also includes California Senator Kamala Harris, Colorado Senator Mike Bennet and New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. California Congressman Eric Swalwell, former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and wild-card candidates Andrew Yang and Marianne Williamson make 10.

By benefit of participating on the first night, said Amandi, Warren “gets to set the tone from a policy perspective.” She has run a policy-heavy campaign so far, setting up nicely as voters begin to tune in on a national level to hear where the candidates stand on the issues.

The placement of Biden and Sanders on the 27th, meanwhile, should help hold interest in the second of the two nights. And they’ll have a chance to react to any sniping from the first night of the debate should any of the lesser-known presidential hopefuls try to raise their profile by attacking the frontrunners.

It’s not yet clear what topics or format the debates will take, or where the candidates will be positioned on stage. NBC News, which is moderating the event, has not discussed issues about the content of questions or the topics to be covered.

The lineups were released Friday following a mostly random drawing by NBC in which names were submitted on pieces of paper and drawn manually at 30 Rock in New York. The drawing was attended by representatives of all 20 campaigns and members of the Democratic National Committee.

The 20 candidates made it into the debates by meeting polling and fundraising benchmarks set by the DNC. Candidates could make the debates by either registering in at least three polls conducted by any of 18 sanctioned organizations, or by raising money from at least 65,000 people. Six of the 20 candidates met only the polling benchmarks.

The debates, scheduled from 9 to 11 p.m., will be hosted by NBC’s Lester Holt and broadcast on NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo. Holt will also be joined by NBC’s Savannah Guthrie and Chuck Todd, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and Telemundo’s Jose Diaz-Balart.

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