November US Democratic debate: Everything you need to know

From the schedule to the candidates: Six things to know about the fifth Democratic debate.

Democratic debate
Former Vice President Joe Biden salutes as he stands with South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Kamala Harris as they participate in a previous 2020 Democratic US presidential debate [File: Mike Blake/Reuters]

Ten US Democratic 2020 presidential hopefuls will take the stage on Wednesday night in the fifth debate of the year.

The November event takes place in the shadow of the impeachment inquiry of US President Donald Trump. The House of Representatives is investigating whether Trump abused his power of office in his dealings with Ukraine. The Democratic-led House is holding hours-long public hearings this week, including on Wednesday before the debate.

Still, the debate takes place at a crucial time for the Democratic hopefuls as the Iowa caucuses, the first voting events of the primary season, draw closer. They are scheduled for the beginning of February.

Due to Democratic National Committee rules, only 10 of the 17 Democratic candidates qualified for the debate in Atlanta, Georgia.

Here’s what you need to know.

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

The November debate will take place in Atlanta, Georgia, on Wednesday from 9pm to 11pm local time (01:00-04:00 GMT).

It is hosted by MSNBC and the Washington Post.

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

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) imposed stricter guidelines for the November event.

Candidates had to have polled at least three percent in four approved polls since September 13, or at least five percent in two early state polls by. Candidates were also required to have obtained donations from at least 165,000 unique donors, with at least 600 donors coming from 20 separate states.

These are the candidates who qualified:

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden
  • US Senator Cory Booker
  • South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg
  • US Representative Tulsi Gabbard
  • US Senator Kamala Harris
  • US Senator Amy Klobuchar
  • US Senator Bernie Sanders
  • Businessman Tom Steyer
  • US Senator Elizabeth Warren
  • Entrepreneur Andrew Yang

3. Which candidates will not be on stage?

A number of things have changed since the October debate: Former US Representative Beto O’Rourke has dropped out of the race, and former US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro failed to qualify for the debate stage for the first time.

US Senator Michael Bennet, Montana Governor Steve Bullock, former US Congressman John Delaney,  former US Representative Joe Sestak and entrepreneur Marianne Williamson also did not make the stage.

4. What issues will likely come up?


Candidates have been fighting for the spotlight amid a now public impeachment inquiry of Trump. Most Democratic candidates have backed impeachment.

The impeachment inquiry centres Trump’s actions on a July phone call with the leader of Ukraine. During the call, Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to investigate Biden and his businessman son, Hunter, despite there being no evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens.

Democrat debate
Sanders, Biden and Warren speaker during the fourth Democratic debate [File: Saul Loeb/AFP]

During the October debate, Biden reiterated that he and his son have done nothing wrong.

Hunter “did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong,” Biden said.

Democratic candidates have called Trump “the most corrupt president in history”, and said Congress would be remiss if it did not pursue the impeachment inquiry.


Healthcare has been a major topic of the other Democratic debates, pinning the more progressive politicians who support a Medicare-for-all system against those touting more centrist platforms, which generally advocate for keeping an updated version of the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare).

During the October debate, several candidates pushed Warren to answer whether her Medicare-for-all plan would increase taxes on the middle class.

Democratic debate
Biden and Warren speak on stage during the fourth Democratic primary debate [File: Saul Loeb/AFP]

Warren has since released her $20.5 trillion plan that she says will not require raising middle-class taxes “one penny”.

Expect candidates to continue to push Warren to defend the details of her plan.

Voting rights

The debate is taking place in the southern state of Georgia, where Democrat Stacey Abrams narrowly lost the gubernatorial race last year to Republican Brian Kemp.

Abrams, who was seeking to become the state’s first black woman governor, accused Kemp of voter suppression. Kemp oversaw the election as Georgia’s secretary of state.

Since the election, Abrams used her Fair Fight political action committee to educate voters about their rights. Fair Fight is especially focused on minority groups, who are disproportionately affected by voter suppression.

Many of the candidates are expected to work with Fair Fight while in Georgia. Expect voting rights to come up during the debate, as well as other race issues.

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 December 19 in Los Angeles, California.

According to a Washington Post analysis, only six candidates have qualified for the sixth debate so far.

Candidates must meet an even stricter threshold: Poll at least three percent in four approved polls between October 16 and December 12, or at least six percent in two early state polls. Candidates must also earn donations from at least 200,000 unique donors, with at least 800 donors in 20 states.

Candidates have until December 12 to qualify.

Source: Al Jazeera