MIAMI, Fla. — On Wednesday night, observers will get their first chance to size up some of the Democratic candidates who want to take on President Donald Trump next fall. 

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With 10 candidates on stage tonight and another 10 Thursday night, the myriad of candidates may struggle to get their message across and try to score a break-out moment in the battleground state of Florida. 

But the Democratic debate goes beyond the slogan of "Anyone but Trump.”

It will also give Americans the chance to whittle down the top 20 candidates who will be taking the stage at Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts on Wednesday and Thursday from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.

The lineup for the first two-hour session on Wednesday features Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klobuchar, Julián Castro, Bill de Blasio, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Tim Ryan, and Jay Inslee.

Candidates debating on Thursday are Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Michael Bennet, Marianne Williamson, Eric Swalwell, Kirsten Gillibrand, Andrew Yang, and John Hickenlooper.

The 10 candidates were randomly assigned a debate night for their appearance.

There won't be much time for the candidates to tackle the Democratic priorities: Immigration reform, healthcare, student debt and climate change. 

And add this to the mix: 

For the first time in presidential debate history, we have a sitting president that may live tweet his responses to what is being said during the debate.

President Trump suggested he was thinking about doing that. However, he may wait for Thursday when frontrunner Joe Biden will be on the stage. 

The debate begins at 9 p.m. 

Spectrum News anchor Holly Gregory contributed to this report.

Continue reading the story.


The candidates had to meet certain criteria set by the DNC in order for them to appear on stage for the debates. The candidates were required to reach 1 percent support in three qualifying national polls or receive donations from at least 65,000 unique individuals, plus have 200 donors in at least 20 states.

However, four Democratic candidates did not make the DNC's cut to appear in the debates:

  • Montana Gov. Steve Bullock
  • Former Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska
  • Representative Seth Moulton of Massachusetts
  • Wayne Messam, mayor of Miramar, Fla.

The 20 candidates appearing were randomly selected and dispersed between the two nights.

DNC chairman Tom Perez explained to NBC that this was done to make sure there is a good mix of popular and lesser-known candidates during each night of the debates.

The Democratic field for the 2020 election is the biggest in recent history, eclipsing the 17 candidates for the Republican nomination for president in 2016. None of the presidential primaries in the last 20 years saw more than a dozen candidates in either party. 

The Big Names to Watch

Out of the 20 who will be appearing during the debates this week, a few are familiar, stand-out names.

One of the most favored to get the Democratic nomination is the former vice president. This is Biden's third attempt to run for the White House.

The first time the former U.S. senator ran was in 1987, but he dropped out of the Democratic primary after plagiarism rumors came up.

More than 20 years later, he tried again, but withdrew in January of 2008, after a poor showing in the Iowa caucus. He endorsed opponent Barack Obama, and later became his running mate and vice president.

Under Obama-Biden, the administration successfully pushed the Affordable Care Act, and Osama bin Laden, founder of the terrorist group al-Qaeda responsible for the 9/11 terror attacks, was killed by the U.S. Navy SEALS during a covert operation.

But Biden's newest run has had its share of setbacks. His habit of hugging led to accusations of groping and forced him to make a statement on video. It also dug up his actions during the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination hearings in the 1990s, and his treatment of Anita Hill.

This month he is under fire for comments he made regarding working with segregationist senators, even if he disagreed with their opinions.

That drew the ire of Booker, who is also running for president. The two have since had conversations about the controversy.

Another popular name that will grace the stage on Thursday is the Independent senator from Vermont, Sanders.

Many will remember the controversy in the 2016 election between Sanders and the DNC. Leaked emails by WikiLeaks indicated that top Democratic officials favored Hillary Clinton over Sanders.

In the end, Clinton got the nomination. It may leave some to wonder why Sanders would bother to get on stage with Democrats. The fact of the matter is, it is the best way for him to gain national exposure. Traditionally, most Independents have a hard time getting that type of national attention. Sanders is a self-described Democratic socialist.

While Sanders and Biden will be going toe-to-toe along with eight others on Thursday, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is expected to hold her own for the most part on Wednesday.

Nationally speaking, the majority of Americans will easily recognize the Massachusetts senator on Wednesday night's debates, especially since she has been vocal for the impeachment of Trump.

Another thing that will set her apart from Trump, in many people’s eyes, is that she recently introduced a bill that would unlock millions of dollars in tax refunds that were denied to gay couples.

5 Issues Important to Our State

Floridians may hear about a number of issues important to the state during the debates. Here are a few:

    The influx of migrants to America's southern border is one of Trump's top issues, so it's a certainty that this will be a topic during the debates. This may include: treatment of migrants, the border wall, the new push to round up undocumented immigrants in several parts of the country, including Miami, visa reform, the Dreamers and the Temporary Protection Status program, which the Trump administration has ended for some groups of immigrants in recent years. Democrats have been fighting for TPS to be extended to Venezuelan refugees.

    A recently passed $19 billion disaster relief package turned into a months-long struggle for compromise in Congress, as Trump insisted that money to deal with migrants at the border be included. The delay in funding was a big issue for the Florida Panhandle, which needed help after Hurricane Michael. The bill also included money for Puerto Rico, and the continued recovery on that island is another issue where Republicans and Democrats disagree. The topic can also be used to highlight the issues of getting the two parties to work together.

    The big talking point for many of the presidential candidates is how they will reform the health care system. Many of them have championed systems similar to those used elsewhere in the world, through some version of Medicare for All. But not every candidate sees that as the path to universal health care. Also, most candidates do not support getting rid of private health insurance, and all candidates support allowing the government to negotiate drug prices for Medicare to help bring down costs. No doubt the legacy of the Affordable Care Act will also be an issue.

    With Parkland not far from Miami, gun laws and gun violence may make the list of topics. Democrats passed HR 8, which requires new background check requirements to close loopholes. The bill had bipartisan support, which included several Florida Republicans. But Senate Republicans are stopping the bill from being heard there. Democrats once again held a public event on June 20, urging Republicans to take up the bill.

    A report released by the federal government last year found the southeastern United States was especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Florida is one of the most vulnerable areas of the country, as evidenced by flooding on non-rainy days caused by high tides. The report said climate change will also lead to major changes that will affect the health and economy of Florida. 

Why Start in Florida?

Florida is no stranger to political storms, like the one in 2000, when the nation stood at a standstill while waiting to find out who would be the next president.

It is one of the few things that both parties agree on: Winning Florida is a key to victory. It is one of the reasons why Trump came to Orlando to officially announce his re-election campaign on June 18, and it is why the Democrats will be holding the first debate in the Sunshine State.

Florida, with its deep red north, purple I-4 corridor and deep blue south, is a place where elections are won by a nose. Florida went to Trump in the last election, after Obama won the state for two terms. 

While Democrats did gain two U.S. house seats in South Florida in 2018, the party also continues to struggle with other races. The top Florida government positions, along with the Florida Legislature, have all been in Republican hands for largely 20 years.

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson lost in 2018, and now both of Florida's seats in the U.S. Senate are Republican.

Florida can be a fickle lover since it is a swing state, but whoever can woo her will get her 29 electoral votes. It’s a big reason why candidates campaign hard in Florida.

During the 2016 election, Trump spent 19 days over the course of the campaign in Florida, compared to Clinton's 15 days in the Sunshine State.

They both spent more days in Florida than any other state they visited.

What to Expect

It’s hard to say how the Miami debates will play out, but a Republican adviser to John McCain's presidential runs warned that the odds are against the candidates having "breakout” moments during the debates.

"I've talked to some campaigns who say, 'Our plan is to do well on the debate stage,' but that’s like saying you plan to get struck by lightning," John Weaver told the Associated Press.

During the Democratic debates on Wednesday and Thursday, those who will have one eye glued to Twitter may find another person chiming in — the president.

Trump told FOX News' host Sean Hannity that while he was not thinking about tweeting during the debates, he does like the idea, saying, "but maybe I will now."

The president retweeted YourVoice America host Bill Mitchell, who called the debates "the Democrat civil war between the socialists and the establishment.”

Regardless, for serious supporters and undecided voters, the debate platform is a chance to hear what the Democratic candidates have to say about issues that are near and dear to their hearts.