Three senators, four current or former representatives, a mayor, a governor and a former Cabinet secretary all walk onto a stage ... followed the next night by a former vice president, four senators, a congressman, a former governor, a mayor and a pair of entrepreneurs. Millions of television viewers are getting their first extended look at the historically sprawling Democratic primary field over two nights in Miami this week.
The field is so large that the Democratic National Committee and NBC News split it into two 10-person debates, from 9 to 11 p.m. ET on Wednesday and Thursday, airing on NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo. There will be half as many moderators as there will be candidates onstage each night: NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt, Today show anchor Savannah Guthrie, Telemundo and NBC Nightly News anchor Jose Diaz-Balart, Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd and MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow.
While watching the debate, you can follow along with live fact-checking and analysis at NPR.org, with many NPR reporters covering politics, health care, foreign policy, immigration and more. Desperate to avoid the 2016 Republican primary field's "undercard" debate stages, the Democratic National Committee and NBC divided the candidates into two groups, those polling at 2% or above and those polling below 2%.
Through random drawing, the candidates in each group were evenly split between the two nights. Up first on Wednesday night: Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, former Maryland Rep. John Delaney and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.
The system left Warren as the lone representative of the five top-polling candidates on Wednesday night. The other four — former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, California Sen. Kamala Harris and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg — will all appear on the Thursday debate stage.
Also on Thursday's stage will be Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, California Rep. Eric Swalwell, writer and spiritual guru Marianne Williamson and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.
Candidates will have to be succinct: The debate's rules grant 60-second answers and 30-second follow-ups. There will be no opening statements. Each night will offer some chances for candidates to catch their breath — four commercial breaks among five segments during each two-hour event. Here are the lineups for each night of the debate, along with analysis of their core messages by NPR's Domenico Montanaro.