The Democratic National Committee and CNN are making sure both nights of the July 2020 presidential debates have their fair share of top-tier candidates, insuring that there won’t be a pileup of leading candidates on one night that could hurt ratings.
The network and the DNC announced Wednesday that candidates will first be split into three tiers, before being randomly split across the two nights. The tiers are based off public polling.
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Tier three (highest polling): Former Vice President Joe Biden, California Sen. Kamala Harris, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Tier two: New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke and businessman Andrew Yang.
Tier one: Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, former Maryland Rep. John Delaney, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan and author Marianne Williamson.
The randomization process appears to be a response to the format of the first debate, which was hosted by NBC News. For the first debate, candidates were only split into two tiers before being divided, which ultimately resulted in four of the top five polling candidates appearing on the same night. In addition, NBC picked which lineup it wanted to air on which night, which is no longer an option for CNN.
The live drawings will take place on CNN on Thursday, starting at 8 p.m.