Podiums at the fourth Democratic debate
Podiums at the fourth Democratic debate

Good evening, and wel­come to NPI’s live cov­er­age of the first Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial debate of the 2020 cycle.

NPI staff are watch­ing and shar­ing impres­sions of the debate as it pro­gress­es, which will take place over the course of two nights in Mia­mi, Florida.

The for­mat is as follows:

Can­di­dates will have six­ty sec­onds to answer ques­tions and thir­ty sec­onds to respond to fol­low-ups. And there will be no open­ing state­ments, though can­di­dates will have a chance to deliv­er clos­ing remarks. The two-hour debates will zip by quick­ly, with five seg­ments each night sep­a­rat­ed by four com­mer­cial breaks.

Ten can­di­dates will face off each night on NBC News, MSNBC and Tele­mu­n­do after a total of twen­ty can­di­dates met the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Committee’s thresh­old for participation.

Our live cov­er­age begins below.

UPDATE, 6:11 PM: The mod­er­a­tors used Bernie Sanders’ iden­ti­ty as the hook for the sec­ond night of this first Demo­c­ra­t­ic debate: they teed up their ini­tial ques­tion to Sanders and then gave Biden an oppor­tu­ni­ty to take swipes at Sanders (which Biden declined to do).

UPDATE, 6:12 PM: So far, the can­di­dates seem to agree that health­care is a right, not a priv­i­lege, but not all of them sup­port Medicare For All.

UPDATE, 6:14 PM: Pete Buttigieg explains that he’s for free col­lege for peo­ple who don’t have a lot of means, but doesn’t think free col­lege should be pro­vid­ed to peo­ple with means.

UPDATE, 6:15 PM: The best moment in the debate so far was when California’s Kamala Har­ris turned a bad­ly framed ques­tion back on the mod­er­a­tors, inquir­ing why the mass media didn’t chal­lenge the Repub­li­cans on how they were going to pay for their big tax scam.

UPDATE, 6:16 PM: How are you going to pay for that is a ques­tion the mass media loves to ask Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates, but Repub­li­cans gen­er­al­ly seem to get a pass on how they will pay for increased mil­i­tary spend­ing or whop­ping tax cuts.

UPDATE, 6:18 PM: Eric Swal­well made the most of his oppor­tu­ni­ty to riff about pass­ing the torch; Joe Biden grinned as the bit went on before offer­ing his own take on education.

UPDATE, 6:19 PM: Wow, a lot of crosstalk. There are ten can­di­dates and they all want airtime…

UPDATE, 6:20 PM: Boom, there goes the dyna­mite. Kamala Har­ris shuts down the crosstalk with this: “Amer­i­ca does not want to wit­ness a food fight. They want to know how they’re going to put food on their table.”

UPDATE, 6:20 PM: Kamala Har­ris is hav­ing a great debate so far.

UPDATE, 6:21 PM: Sanders and Har­ris raise their hands to say they’d abol­ish pri­vate health insur­ance in favor of Medicare For All.

UPDATE, 6:22 PM: Kirsten Gilli­brand explains her thoughts on tran­si­tion­ing from pri­vate health insur­ance to Medicare For All.

UPDATE, 6:25 PM: It’s unfor­tu­nate that Joe Biden and Michael Ben­net are not refer­ring to the Patient Pro­tec­tion Act by its prop­er name. That’s a bad exam­ple to set. Nev­er pass up an oppor­tu­ni­ty to reframe… always reframe!

UPDATE, 6:29 PM: In almost the same breath, Mar­i­anne Williamson sug­gest­ed that plans wouldn’t be of much use in defeat­ing Don­ald Trump, then sug­gest­ed Democ­rats need­ed to go deep­er than just slo­gans. Huh? That the whole point of hav­ing plans… and offer­ing spe­cif­ic ideas for build­ing a bet­ter America.

UPDATE, 6:35 PM: After cor­rect­ing Savan­nah Guthrie, Biden built on Buttigieg’s com­ments in sup­port of new Amer­i­cans being able to access health­care, not­ing that immi­grants pay tax­es and pay into Social Security.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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