October US Democratic debate: Schedule, candidates, issues

Everything you need to know as 12 presidential hopefuls take the stage in Ohio for the fourth Democratic debate.

Ten of the Democratic 2020 US presidential candidates pose together before the start of the second night of the second US 2020 presidential Democratic debate [File: Lucas Jackson/Reuters]
Ten of the Democratic 2020 US presidential candidates pose together before the start of the second night of the second US 2020 presidential Democratic debate [File: Lucas Jackson/Reuters]

Twelve US Democratic 2020 presidential hopefuls will take the stage on Tuesday night in the fourth debate of the year.

The event, hosted by the New York Times and CNN in Westerville, Ohio, will welcome two candidates who did not make September’s debate: businessman Tom Steyer and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard.

It is the first debate since the United States House of Representatives launched an impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump, it also comes amid heavy criticism of the US president’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria, leaving Kurdish fighters without US military support as Turkey launched a military offensive in the northeast part of the country.

1. When and where will the fourth debate take place?

The October debate will take place in Westerville, Ohio, on Tuesday from 8pm to 11pm local time (00:00-03:00GMT).

2. Which candidates will be on stage? What threshold did they have to meet?

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) imposed stricter guidelines for the September and October debates.


For the fourth debate, candidates had to have polled at least two percent in four DNC-approved polls and received at least 130,000 unique donations by October 1.

These are the candidates who qualified:

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden
  • US Senator Cory Booker
  • South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg
  • Former US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro
  • US Representative Tulsi Gabbard
  • US Senator Kamala Harris
  • US Senator Amy Klobuchar
  • Former US Representative Beto O’Rourke
  • US Senator Bernie Sanders
  • Businessman Tom Steyer
  • US Senator Elizabeth Warren
  • Entrepreneur Andrew Yang

3. Which candidates will not be on stage?

Seven candidates did not meet the threshold for claiming a spot on stage.

They include US Senator Michael Bennet, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Montana Governor Steve Bullock, former US Congressman John Delaney, Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam, US Congressman Tim Ryan, former US Representative Joe Sestak and entrepreneur Marianne Williamson.

4. What issues will likely come up?


The October debate comes as Democrats in the House ramp up their impeachment inquiry of Trump. Most candidates have backed the impeachment.


Former Vice President Biden gave a stinging speech last week, saying Trump must be impeached.

Trump is “shooting holes in the Constitution”, Biden said.

The impeachment inquiry centres the president’s actions during and surrounding a summer phone call with the leader of Ukraine. In the call, Trump pressed Ukrainian President  Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Biden and his businessman son, Hunter, despite there being no evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens.

Trump has said he has done nothing wrong and labelled the inquiry a “witch-hunt”.


Although foreign policy usually gets relatively little time on the debate stage, expect Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from northern Syria to face heavy criticism from the candidates.


Many view the move as an abandonment of Kurdish fighters, the US’s main ally in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) in Syria.

Sanders has pledged to end “endless wars”, but criticised Trump’s move, saying: “You don’t turn your back on an ally that lost 11,000 troops fighting against terrorism through a tweet and a discussion with [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan.”

Warren offered similar criticism on Twitter: “I support bringing our troops home from Syria. But President Trump’s reckless and unplanned withdrawal undermines both our partners and our security. We need a strategy to end this conflict, not a president who can be swayed by one phone call.”

Senator Bernie Sanders speaks as former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren listen during the 2020 Democratic US presidential debate in Houston, Texas [File: Mike Blake/Reuters]

Harris called the move a “betrayal”. Biden agreed, saying Trump “betrayed our word as a nation, raising doubts among our allies around the world about America’s security commitments”.

Gabbard, who has sought to distance herself from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after facing sharp criticism for meeting the leader in 2017, said although she supported Trump’s decision in 2018 to withdraw troops from Syria, he has not done so responsibly.

“The Kurds are just another casualty in this regime change war which is supported by war-mongering Republicans, Democrats, and corporate media,” she tweeted.



Healthcare has been a major topic at all the debates this election season, pinning the more progressive politicians against those touting more centrist platforms.

While the complexities of their proposals vary, expect candidates to highlight the need to move to a Medicare-for-all system or continue with an updated version of the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare).

Climate change

The October debate will be the first since millions around the world, led by young people, marched to demand greater action from world leaders to address climate change.

All the Democratic candidates have said they will immediately rejoin Paris Climate Accords, which President Trump announced he was withdrawing from upon taking office.

Most candidates have at the very least embraced the Green New Deal, a congressional resolution aimed at achieving net-zero US greenhouse gas emissions “through a fair and just transition for all communities and workers”. Senators Sanders, Harris, Warren, Booker, and Klobuchar are cosponsors of the resolution.


The debate is taking place in Ohio, where Trump beat his 2016 Democratic challenger, Hillary Clinton, by eight points. But Democrats say Trump has not fulfilled his promise to reverse the decline of manufacturing jobs in the state. Expect Democrats to lay out their economic plans, especially those specific to manufacturing states.


5. What about Trump?

Trump has weighed in during every previous debate, often labelling the candidates “boring” and criticising the media, specifically the news organisations hosting the events.

He will likely continue to do so during this debate.

6. When is the next debate?

The next debate will be held on November 20 in Georgia.

The DNC has implemented even stricter rules for the fifth debate, requiring candidates to have polled at least three percent in four approved polls, or at least five percent in two early state polls. Candidates will also be required to have obtained donations from at least 165,000 unique donors, with at least 600 donors coming from 20 separate states.

According to a Washington Post analysis, only eight candidates have so far met this threshold. Of the candidates appearing on the October debate stage, Castro, Klobuchar, O’Rourke and Gabbard have yet to qualify for the November event.

Candidates have until November 13 to qualify.

Source : Al Jazeera

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