Here's All You Need To Know Ahead of Tonight's Democratic Debate in Atlanta

By R.J. Johnson - @rickerthewriter

November 20, 2019


The stage is set in Atlanta for the next Democratic 2020 presidential primary debate, with ten candidates set to try and make their case to voters on why they deserve the party's nomination for president in 2020.

The debate is being hosted by MSNBC and The Washington Post and is scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. ET and last for around two hours. People can stream the broadcast on, and, or by using the NBC News and Post mobile apps. The moderators will include: MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs correspondent, Andrea Mitchell, NBC News White House correspondent, Kristen Welker, and the Washington Post's White House reporter, Ashley Parker.

Candidates will be allowed 75 seconds to respond to direct questions, and 45 seconds for any follow-ups.

Only ten candidates qualified for tonight's debate. They include:

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden
  • Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren
  • Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders
  • Mayor Pete Buttigieg
  • Entrepreneur Andrew Yang
  • California Senator Kamala Harris
  • New Jersey Senator Cory Booker
  • Hawaiian Rep. Tulsi Gabbard
  • Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar
  • Billionaire Tom Steyer

Two candidates who qualified last month will not be there. Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke dropped out of the race and former Housing Secretary Julian Castro was unable to qualify for tonight's debate. Below, you can find a primer on each candidate.

U.S. Presidential Candidate Joe Biden Visits NH

Former Vice President Joe Biden

Widely considered to be one of the top contenders in the Democratic primary, Biden has run for president twice before - once in 1988 and again in 2008. After he to President Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary, he went on to serve two terms as Obama's Vice President.

Born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Biden grew up in Delaware where he would eventually run for the Senate in 1972 - becoming one of the youngest people elected to the chamber in history.

Biden announced his candidacy on April 25, 2019, running as a centrist Democrat who says he has a proven history of working with people on both sides of the aisle. One of Biden's signature issues is to restore America's standing on the global stage, as well as strengthening economic protections for low-income workers.

The 2020 primary is considered to be the 76-year-old's last chance to run for president.

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Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren

Senator Elizabeth Warren was elected Senator on Jan. 3, 2013 after she defeated the incumbent, Sen. Scott Brown. Over the years, Warren has served as the chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel of the Troubled Asset Relief Program and was a big part in creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, in which she served as its first Special Adviser under President Barack Obama.

A longtime critic of President Donald Trump, Warren announced her candidacy for the 2020 presidential election at a rally in Lawrence, Massachusetts in February, and has offered a series of policy-focused plans including ways to reduce student loan debt and offer free tuition to public colleges. She's also voiced support for plans to make large corporations pay more in taxes and better regulate large technology companies, and plans to address opioid addiction. She has introduced an “Economic Patriotism” plan, intended to create opportunities for American workers, and proposals targeted at Donald Trump, including one that would make it permissible to indict a sitting president.

Warren has seen her support steadily increase after an aggressive campaign strategy that has largely seen the Massachusetts senator avoid any major conflict with her fellow Democrats running for the 2020 presidential nomination.

Bernie Sanders Tours Colleges In New Hampshire

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders

The firebrand independent senator from Vermont (who caucuses with Democrats) is taking a second swing at the Democratic nomination for president after unsuccessfully running against Hillary Clinton in 2016. His career in politics began when he was first elected mayor of Burlington, Vermont in 1981 by a margin of only ten votes. In 1990, Sanders ran for Vermont's house seat and won, representing the state until he ran for Senate in 2006.

Sanders announced his presidential campaign on February 19 on Vermont Public Radio. The self-described Democratic Socialist has a range of progressive policy positions that include things like bold action on Climate Change, Medicare-for-all, and a tax system that is fair, progressive and transparent.

Sanders is likely to face questions about his health, following his hospitalization earlier this year in which the Vermont senator suffered a heart attack. Doctors inserted two stents to treat an artery blockage.

Candidates Attend Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute's Presidential Forum

Mayor Pete Buttigieg

Buttigieg, who served in Afghanistan in 2014 as an intelligence officer in the Navy reserve, was first elected mayor of South Bend in 2011. Buttigieg caught the attention of Democrats nationwide after writing an essay chronicling why Democrats lost in 2016 and how the party could recover in time for 2020.

One of the most progressive politicians running, Buttigieg announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination on April 14. Buttigieg is campaigning on his youthful appeal to voters, as well as his support for universal healthcare, reducing income inequality, and universal background checks for firearms purchases.

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Entrepreneur Andrew Yang

Yang began his career working over the years in startups and early-growth companies as a founder or executive. In 2009, Yang founded Venture for America, a program that caught the attention of then-President Barack Obama, who selected him as a "Champion of Change" in 2012 and in 2015 as a "Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship."

Yang announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination in November 2017, with his campaign focusing on what he called a "Freedom Dividend," a form of Universal Basic Income for every American over the age of 18. The Freedom Dividend is something Yang believes will be needed to combat the rapid rise of artificial intelligence and automation that threatens to put people out of work over the next several decades.

During his opening remarks at the debate in Houston, Yang offered a “proof-of-concept” for one of his central campaign promises, a Universal Basic Income, by giving ten families $1,000 per month.

Kamala Harris Launches Presidential Campaign In Her Hometown Of Oakland

California Senator Kamala Harris

The former prosecutor turned California Senator has been representing California as its junior Senator after she replaced retiring Senator Barbara Boxer in 2016. Harris, who was born in Oakland, California, worked her way up in the San Francisco's District Attorney's Office in the 90s. In 2004, Harris ran for District Attorney of San Francisco, handily winning the seat. She later asked to serve as Gov. Jerry Brown's Attorney General in 2011, where she worked until being elected Senator.

Harris, widely considered a top contender for the job, declared her candidacy for the Democratic nomination for President on January 21, tying the record for most money raised in the first 24-hours after her announcement. Harris has a range of progressive policy positions including supporting single-payer healthcare, protection for illegal immigrants, and lowering the tax burden on the working and middle class while raising taxes on corporations and the wealthiest 1%.


New Jersey Senator Cory Booker

The junior senator from New Jersey was first elected to the senate in 2014 after serving as the 28th Mayor of Newark for several years. Booker is best known for his progressive stances, giving him the third most liberal voting record in the chamber. As a social liberal, Booker has gone on record supporting women's rights, affirmative action, same-sex marriage and single-payer healthcare during his time in the Senate.

"There's nothing in that realm of progressive politics where you won't find me," Booker says of his political alignment.

Booker announced his campaign on February 1st, with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, Sen. Bob Menendez and every Democratic member of the House of Representatives in New Jersey endorsing his campaign.

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Hawaiian Rep. Tulsi Gabbard

Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2013 after serving for several years as a field medic for the Hawaii National Guard in Iraq from 2004 to 2005. When she was elected to the Hawaii state House at age 21 in 2002, she was the youngest woman to be elected to a U.S. state legislature.

In February, Gabbard launched her campaign for the Democratic nomination saying that it was in the "spirit of service above self." She's best known for her opposition to American intervention in other countries overseas, such as Syria and Iran and supports abortion rights, Medicare-for-All and same-sex marriage.

Gabbard has announced she would not be seeking re-election for her congressional seat in Hawaii.

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Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar

Senator Amy Klobuchar is the senior Senator representing Minnesota who won her seat in 2006, becoming the state's first elected female senator. Before that, Klobuchar worked as a partner at two Minneapolis law firms until she was elected county attorney for Hennepin County in 1998.

Klobuchar has been rated as one of the more moderate Democrats running for president. She is pro-choice on abortion, supports LGBTQ rights and Obamacare and was highly critical of the Iraq war. She's also one of the more prolific Senators in office, passing more legislation than any other senator by the end of the 114th Congress. According to, she's sponsored, or co-sponsored 111 pieces of legislation that's become law. During President Donald Trump's tenure in office, she's voted with him 31.1 percent of the time. Her signature issue is legislation to combat the opioid crisis and drug addiction as well as lower the cost of prescription drugs.

Klobuchar has struggled to connect with voters, joking in a recent appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher that she needed a 'viral moment'.


Billionaire Tom Steyer

Billionaire investor and businessman Tom Steyer launched his campaign earlier this year after initially saying he would not run for the 2020 nomination.

Steyer has publicly called for Trump’s impeachment, at one point running several TV commercials urging Democrats to get the process started. Steyer says he’s grown frustrated with the pace Democrats have taken in the impeachment process.

Steyer’s campaign is also focused on reducing the influence of corporations in politics and plans to make climate change a central issue of his campaign.

Photos: Getty Images

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