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2nd Democratic Primary Debate Matchups Set: Sanders Vs. Warren And Biden Vs. Harris

Sen. Bernie Sanders is in the middle as former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris face off in the June 27 debate in Miami. Harris and Biden will again share center stage in the July 31 debate.
Drew Angerer
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Sen. Bernie Sanders is in the middle as former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris face off in the June 27 debate in Miami. Harris and Biden will again share center stage in the July 31 debate.

The lineup is now set for the second series of Democratic presidential primary debates, at the end of the month.

On the first night, progressive favorites Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren will be on stage together for the first time, while upstart South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg will be trying to continue his improbable rise.

On the second night, the marquee matchup will likely again be former Vice President Joe Biden versus California Sen. Kamala Harris, who had a nasty back-and-forth during their initial debate over Biden's past opposition to busing in some instances.

It is also notable that with race playing such a big role not just this past week in politics with President Trump, but also in this Democratic campaign, that all of the candidates of color ended up being on stage together on the second night. That will make for odd optics on Night 1 and also potentially creates a difficult position for Biden, given the exchange over school integration in the first debate.

The debates will be held on July 30 and 31 in Detroit from 8 to 10 ET each night. Moderators will be CNN's Dana Bash, Don Lemon and Jake Tapper.

Candidates for the July 30 debate:South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, former Maryland Rep. John Delaney, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and author Marianne Williamson

Candidates for the July 31 debate:Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, former Vice President Joe Biden, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, California Sen. Kamala Harris, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and entrepreneur Andrew Yang

NBC News, which hosted the first series of debates last month, also held a random drawing in order to determine the debate stage pairings, but it was held off stage and without much fanfare.

CNN, however, hyped the potential face-offs to the highest drama, showing reporters shuffling names and then doing each drawing live (including from an overhead camera).

The network did make sure with their lottery that the candidate division would be more equitable, based on polling, across both nights. The network divided the candidates into three buckets and drew participants from each — the four top-tier candidates (Biden, Harris, Sanders and Warren); mid-range hopefuls (Booker, Buttigieg, Castro, Klobuchar, O'Rourke and Yang); and candidates who are mired near the bottom (Bennet, Bullock, de Blasio, Delaney, Gabbard, Gillibrand, Hickenlooper, Inslee, Ryan and Williamson).

In order to make the debate, Democratic hopefuls had to meet either a polling or fundraising benchmark. A candidate had to register at least 1% in three polls recognized by the Democratic National Committee. Or the candidates must have reached 65,000 donors, with at least 200 donors in 20 states. Fourteen candidates met both criteria.

Major candidates left off the stage include Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton and Miramar, Fla., Mayor Wayne Messam. Former Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak, who just jumped in the contest last month, and billionaire executive and activist Tom Steyer, who last week reversed his initial decision to pass on the race, also didn't qualify, given their late announcements.

However, the benchmarks will get harder for the next debate in September. Candidates will have to register at least 2% in at least four national or statewide polls recognized by the committee and get donations from at least 130,000 unique donors, along with 400 unique donors in 20 states. If a candidate does not hit both benchmarks, they will be off the stage.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jessica Taylor is a political reporter with NPR based in Washington, DC, covering elections and breaking news out of the White House and Congress. Her reporting can be heard and seen on a variety of NPR platforms, from on air to online. For more than a decade, she has reported on and analyzed House and Senate elections and is a contributing author to the 2020 edition of The Almanac of American Politics and is a senior contributor to The Cook Political Report.