2020 debates
October 16, 2020

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and her Democratic challenger, Theresa Greenfield, held their third and final debate Thursday evening, both women appearing remotely. After about 20 minutes of technical problems, they fielded a series of questions on racism, protests, and agriculture. And Ernst appeared to be caught a little flatfooted on the farm front.

Ernst and Greenfield both grew up on Iowa farms, and when asked, they explained why they left agriculture — Greenfield, now a businesswoman, cited the farm bankruptcies of the 1980s and the havoc that wreaked on family farms; Ernst said her sister still runs the family farm but she went to college in part to escape abusive relationships. Moderator Ron Steele asked the candidates for the break-even price of key Iowa crops. Greenfield, who went first, correctly put the price for corn at about $3.68 a bushel.

Steele asked Ernst about soybeans, and when she responded by talking about the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal, he asked her again. Ernst suggested the break-even price for corn is about $5.50, and when given the chance later to answer again about soybeans, she said she doesn't think the break-even price for corn is $10.50.

Both candidates agreed that the anti-racism protests were good but that looting and vandalism are bad. Ersnt said she doesn't think "systemic racism" is real, because "I don't believe that entire systems of people — of people — are racist. There are racists out there." Greenfield said "systemic racism does not mean that any one individual is a racist but rather that we have to take a look at the discrimination across our systems — housing, health care, education, finance, and so many other things," adding, "Black and brown communities have faced discrimination and systemic racism for generations."

Ernst and Greenfield are locked in a very competitive race. A Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll last month found Greenfield up by 3 percentage points, 45 percent to 42 percent, within the poll's margin of error. Greenfield leads by 4.8 points in the RealClearPolitics average. Peter Weber

October 12, 2020

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his Democratic challenger, Amy McGrath, faced off in their first and perhaps only debate Monday night. McGrath, a retired Marine combat pilot, criticized McConnell for blocking a new round of COVID-19 economic support, calling it a "dereliction of duty" and failure of leadership. McConnell, oddly, laughed.

McConnell blamed congressional Democrats for blocking another coronavirus relief package, even though he publicly shot down negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the White House. He also noted that he brings home the bacon in a way McGrath could not from the "back bench" of the Senate. "I allow Kentucky to punch above its weight," McConnell said. "My last term $17.5 billion for the commonwealth that would not have been there had I not been the majority leader of the Senate."

"I think her entire campaign is: she's a Marine, she's a mom, and I've been there (the Senate) too long," McConnell said. McGrath didn't disagree: "Senator, you've been there for 36 years. How's it looking, Kentucky?" McConnell's "one job is to help America through this crisis right now in passing legislation to keep our economy afloat so that people can make ends meet," she added. "And instead of doing that, he is trying to ram through a Supreme Court nominee right now, instead of negotiating, which is what he should have been doing all summer long to make that happen."

McConnell also took several shots at Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) — and also President Trump, perhaps, who is famously from New York as well.

The debate was held in the studio of WKYT in Lexington. The station "took a number of precautions in response to the coronavirus," The Associated Press reports. "Kentucky is in the midst of another spike of COVID-19 cases." Peter Weber

September 29, 2020

President Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden head into their first debate on Tuesday with most Americans already certain about how they will vote in the November election. "Presidential debates matter less than people think," said Jack Pitney, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College. "Voters don't watch to make up their minds. They watch to root for their favorites."

Still, the on-stage meetings of Trump and Biden could sway the thinning group of undecided voters in key battleground states, such as Florida and North Carolina. A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 29 percent of Americans see debates as very important or extremely important to their votes. The New York Times noted that the disclosure that Trump paid little or no federal income taxes for years could become a debate focus. Harold Maass

October 8, 2019

The fifth Democratic presidential primary debate will be co-hosted by MSNBC and The Washington Post on Nov. 20, MSNBC announced Tuesday.

It will take place in Georgia, but the exact location, format, and moderators will be revealed later. In order to be invited onstage, candidates must meet certain criteria, as set by the Democratic National Committee: one week before the debate, they have to hit at least 3 percent in four qualifying state or national polls or 5 percent in two qualifying state polls, plus receive contributions from 165,000 unique donors, including 600 unique donors in 20 states.

There are now 19 Democrats in the race, and NBC News reports that an unofficial survey suggests that eight candidates appear to have qualified for the November debate already: former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), billionaire activist Tom Steyer, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

The fourth Democratic debate, hosted by CNN and The New York Times, is set for Oct. 15 at Ohio's Otterbein University. Catherine Garcia

August 21, 2019

ABC News and Univision are partnering to host the next Democratic primary debate, and they released details on Wednesday night about what viewers can expect.

The debate will be held at Texas Southern University in Houston, moderated by chief anchor George Stephanopoulos, World News Tonight anchor David Muir, ABC News correspondent Linsey Davis, and Univision anchor Jorge Ramos. One debate will definitely take place on Sept. 12, and a second will be held on Sept. 13 if enough candidates qualify. Participants will have 1 minute and 15 seconds to answer direct questions, and 45 seconds for rebuttals.

Under Democratic National Committee rules, if 10 or fewer candidates meet the requirements to participate, the debate will only take place on one night, but if there are more than 10 candidates, the debate will spill over into a second night. If this happens, on Aug. 29 ABC News will randomly assign candidates to a night. To qualify, candidates must receive at least 2 percent support in at least four specific polls, plus contributions from at least 130,000 unique donors, with a minimum of 400 unique donors from 20 states.

ABC News said that so far, 10 candidates have qualified for the debate: former Vice President Joe Biden; Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.); South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro; Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.); Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.); former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke; Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.); Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.); and entrepreneur Andrew Yang. Catherine Garcia

July 5, 2019

Former Vice President Joe Biden knew his fellow 2020 Democratic presidential candidates would focus on him during last week's debate, but he had no idea the charge would be led by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Biden told CNN's Chris Cuomo in an interview that aired Friday morning.

"I was prepared for them to come after me, but I wasn't prepared for the person coming at me the way she came at me," he said. Biden told Cuomo one reason why he felt that way is because he knows Harris, and she also knew his late son, Beau Biden. Harris brought up race and busing to desegregate schools in the 1970s; at the time, Biden opposed this, arguing that the practice did not offer students equal opportunities.

Biden told Cuomo Harris mischaracterized his position, and while he did not think the Department of Education should mandate busing, local districts needed to do what they saw fit. At the time, he received an "overwhelming response from the African American community" in Delaware, he said, and "they did not support it." Today, there's still the need to "equalize education in every area," Biden said. "Every child out there is capable, but they're living in circumstances that make it difficult. So what are we doing? We're sitting around here as if it's an insoluble problem."

Harris and other candidates also criticized Biden for saying he was able to work with two segregationist senators in the 1970s, and Biden said he thinks they should be focusing on the future rather than what happened decades ago. "I get all this information about other people's past and what they've done and not done," he said. "And, you know, I am just not going to go there. ... We should be debating what we do from here." Catherine Garcia

June 13, 2019

The Democratic National Committee announced on Thursday which of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have qualified to appear in the first debate on June 26 and 27.

Candidates who regularly top the polls, like former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), unsurprisingly made the cut. Lesser-known candidates Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), author Marianne Williamson, and Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) also made it onto the stage.

The rest of the eligible candidates are: Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.); Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.); South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg; former Housing Secretary Julian Castro; New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio; former Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.); Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii); Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.); Washington Gov. Jay Inslee; former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper; Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.); former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas); and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

The Democrats who didn't qualify by gaining at least 1 percent support in three polls or receiving donations from 65,000 unique donors were: Montana Gov. Steve Bullock; former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel; Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam; and Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.). Catherine Garcia

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