As if the event itself wasn't enough of a spectacle, the next Democratic debate — set to take place later in July — will reportedly involve a televised lottery to determine who will debate whom, according to The Hill.
After complaints surfaced accusing the Democratic National Committee of purposefully organizing the previous debates so that the presumed frontrunners all battled each other, while certain candidates were relegated to the "kids' table," the DNC has decided to showcase their organization efforts to the world, holding a televised lottery on CNN.
"The draw to determine the lineup for each night will air live on July 18 in the 8 p.m. ET hour on CNN, said the network spokesperson, who noted additional details of the draw will be released in the coming days," the network itself reported on Monday.
After that, candidates will have until next Wednesday to prove to the DNC that they belong on stage. For the previous debates, held in June, candidates needed proof of having 65,000 individual donors or at least 5% support in national polls. This time around, candidates must prove that they have both the support of 65,000 individual donors and at least 1% support in three reputable national polls.
The DNC deliberately altered the qualification rules for the second set of debates in hopes that fewer candidates would qualify for the main stage (the June debates featured a lineup of more than two dozen candidates). At this time, though, fourteen declared candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination have managed to achieve the debate benchmarks, per The New York Times:
[F]ormer Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.; Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey; Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind.; the former housing secretary Julián Castro; Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii; Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York; Senator Kamala Harris of California; Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington; Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas; Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont; Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts; the self-help author Marianne Williamson; and the former tech executive Andrew Yang.
Only one candidate has dropped out of the race so far — Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), who announced on Monday that he plans to seek another term in Congress instead of a higher office. Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is also reportedly dropping out of contention; reports last week labeled Hickenlooper's campaign a "shambles" and suggested that he was just days away from running out of money.
After this debate, the next one won't come until September. By then, the DNC anticipates more candidates will have dropped out of the race, and the stakes to enter that debate are much higher: candidates will have to demonstrate 2% popularity in national polls as well as double the number of individual donors — 130,000.
The lottery is likely to put some of the race's frontrunners on edge. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was the only frontrunner to participate in the "first night" debate last time, and the situation gave her an opportunity to showcase her talent without being interrupted by other major contenders. The second night's debate proved difficult for both former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who were forced to contend with a number of serious challengers, including Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA).
The lineup ended up costing both Biden and Sanders and benefitting both Warren and Harris, who are now within five points of a hobbled Biden and a hapless Sanders — and Warren is pulling into the lead in some key early primary states.