Democratic presidential candidates will debate four times in January and February as the party’s opening quartet of nominating contests approaches, the Democratic National Committee said Thursday.
The committee laid out a packed schedule of debates, caucuses and primaries for early next year, announcing debates in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, the first states to vote. In February alone, there will be seven days with marquee political events — either debates or the contests themselves.
The party is facing the possibility of an unprecedented scheduling conflict: If President Trump is impeached, a Senate trial early in 2020 could force some of the candidates to stay in Washington. The D.N.C. said Thursday it was accounting for that scenario.
“If a conflict with an impeachment trial is unavoidable, the D.N.C. will evaluate its options and work with all the candidates to accommodate them,” the committee said in a statement.
The D.N.C. did not say Thursday how it would determine which candidates would qualify for the next set of debates. It has ratcheted up its polling and fund-raising standards for the six debates this year, beginning with a low threshold that resulted in 20 candidates qualifying for the first two debates and gradually raising the bar.
The debates announced on Thursday will be divided among several television networks, and a pair of major technology companies signed on as sponsors, too. Apple News, the news and information branch of the computing giant, will co-host a debate in Manchester, N.H., on Feb. 7 with ABC News. Twitter is partnering with CBS News and the Congressional Black Caucus for a Feb. 25 event in Charleston, S.C.
A debate in Des Moines on Jan. 14 will be hosted by CNN and The Des Moines Register. NBC News, MSNBC and The Nevada Independent are hosting a Feb. 19 debate in Las Vegas.
Moderators for the debates — a plum assignment that can be the subject of much internal jockeying at TV networks — have not yet been announced.
In a sign of intense interest in the presidential contest, all four of the early 2020 debates are scheduled for weeknights. In past election years, networks had sought to stage some debates on weekends, to avoid pre-empting lucrative prime-time programming. This time around, politics is a big television draw.
Viewership has been strong for this year’s primary debates, with the first installment in June, a two-night event in Miami, seen by a record audience for a televised Democratic matchup. Since then, the ratings have waned, though network executives expect them to rebound as the critical early contests approach.
Only seven candidates are set to take the stage for a debate next Thursday in Los Angeles sponsored by PBS and Politico, the smallest lineup of 2019. An additional candidate, Senator Kamala Harris, had qualified but dropped out of the race last week.
The party’s schedule for the first two months of 2020, including debates, primaries and caucuses, is here:
Tuesday, Jan. 14: A debate in Des Moines, hosted by CNN and The Des Moines Register at Drake University.
Monday, Feb. 3: The Iowa caucuses.
Friday, Feb. 7: A debate in Manchester, N.H., hosted by ABC News, WMUR and Apple News at St. Anselm College.
Tuesday, Feb. 11: The New Hampshire primary.
Wednesday, Feb. 19: A debate in Las Vegas, hosted by NBC News, MSNBC and The Nevada Independent.
Saturday, Feb. 22: The Nevada Democratic caucuses.
Tuesday, Feb. 25: A debate in Charleston, S.C., hosted by CBS News, the Congressional Black Caucus Institute and Twitter at the Gaillard Center.
Saturday, Feb. 29: The South Carolina Democratic primary.
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