Democratic Debates Are Here; Here's Where To Watch, What To Watch For

Twenty presidential contenders vying to unseat Donald Trump will participate in back-to-back debates beginning Wednesday night from 9 p.m. - 11 p.m. Eastern on NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo, and streaming on NBCNews.com, MSNBC.com as well as NBC apps. 

Held at the Knight Concert Hall in Miami, candidates will be split into two groups of 10. President Trump, meanwhile, will be live-tweeting the debates

Photo Illustration by Sarah Rogers/The Daily Beast

Wednesday night will feature Senators Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, former Representative Beto O’Rourke, former HUD Director Julian Castro, Representatives Tulsi Gabbard and Tim Ryan, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Washington Governor Jay Inslee and former Representative John Delaney (per Bloomberg).

Thursday will feature frontrunner Joe Biden, Senators Sanders, Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand and Michael Bennet, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, Representative Eric Swalwell, and spiritual healer and author Marianne Williamson.

The cramped stages mean candidates will be forced to comply with strict rules on timing. NBC says there will be no opening statements, though contenders will be able to give closing remarks. Over two hours split into five segments, candidates will be allotted 60 seconds to answer questions and 30 seconds to respond to follow ups. -Bloomberg

What to watch for

On Wednesday, all eyes will be on Elizabeth Warren, a former star debater who will need to capitalize on recent momentum in the polls to eloquently convey her platform built around detailed policy proposals, including education, trade, debt, taxes and renewable energy. As Business Insider notes, "I have a plan for that" has been adopted as Warren's official campaign slogan. 

The 70-year-old Warren is considered the only top-flight candidate to appear on Wednesday, which means that it's essentially hers to lose. 

"I don't think anyone else on that night has her level of skill and her level of experience in this format," Democratic strategist Maria Cardona told the Associated Press

On Thursday, Biden and Sanders will be the focus, polling at 32.1% and 16.5% respectively. 

Top policy issues will include Medicare-for-all, which was first introduced by Sanders and has since been endorsed by most of the candidates. That said, according to polls most voters have no clue what the proposal is and are confused as to whether they would get to keep their current coverage. 

Meanwhile, Biden may haver to defend recent racially sensitive controversies after bragging about working with segregationist Democrats in the Senate in the 1970s. Both Harris and Booker, the two top polling black candidates in the race, slammed Biden for his remarks. Buttigieg, meanwhile, may face questions over how he handled the shooting of a black man  by a South Bend police officer.

Given the extremely short time each candidate will have to make their case, we don't expect much in the way of fireworks.