The candidate lineups for the upcoming Democratic presidential debates in Detroit will be decided by a live, random draw Thursday night during a special edition of Anderson Cooper 360 at 8 p.m. ET on CNN and CNNgo.
The CNN debate brings the Democratic candidates to the battleground state of Michigan, which Trump won in 2016. As the race for the Democratic nomination tightens at the top of the field, the debate offers the presidential hopefuls a chance to make their case to a vast national television audience and engage directly with their opponents.
The debate will come shortly after former special counsel Robert Mueller is expected to testify publicly before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees.
The Democratic National Committee informed 20 candidates Wednesday evening that each had qualified to participate in one of two, party-sanctioned debates airing July 30 and 31 on CNN.
The candidates also learned Wednesday evening the random draw will be split into three parts to determine the lineups for each debate night. CNN and the DNC said they decided to establish three groupings “to ensure support for the candidates is evenly spread across both nights.” Public polling was used to decide each grouping, CNN and DNC officials said.
- The First Draw will include 10 candidates: 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 Second Draw will include six candidates: New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, South Bend, Indiana, 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.
- The Final Draw will include four candidates: Former Vice President Joe Biden, California Sen. Kamala Harris, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
CNN anchors Brianna Keilar (First Draw), Victor Blackwell (Second Draw) and Ana Cabrera (Final Draw) will conduct each draw separately in the 8 p.m. hour, with CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer introducing and recapping each draw. CNN anchor Anderson Cooper will lead the conversation with political experts analyzing specific matchups and the strategies the candidates are likely to use in this highly anticipated debate.
During each draw, cards with a candidate’s name will be placed into a dedicated box, while a second box will hold cards printed with the date of each night. For each draw, the anchor will retrieve a name card from the first box and then match it with a date card from the second box.
Once the draw is completed Thursday night, CNN will announce the podium positions – based upon public polling – for each debate night.
Three draw groups
The 20 candidates who made the debate stage did so by registering at least 1% in any three qualifying polls released from the beginning of the year through July 16.
In an effort to divide the candidates equally between the two debates based on their current standing in the polls, CNN is using the results of the eight qualifying polls released since the June debate. Based on an average of those eight polls, the candidates were divided into three groups: Those averaging 10% or more, those averaging between 1% and 9.9%, and those averaging less than 1%.
Each of those three groups will be split in half by random draw during tonight’s special edition of Anderson Cooper 360, so that half in each group appear on stage each night.
Once all three groups have been divided into the two nights, the podium order will be revealed, and that, too, is based on public polling.
For those candidates who are averaging 1% or higher in the eight polls released since the June debate, podium placement will be determined based on that average, with candidates holding the highest averages standing in the center of the stage.
For the 10 candidates whose post-debate average is below 1%, podium placement will be determined instead based on their performance in all of the 37 qualifying polls conducted this year.
Podium placement for those 10 candidates will be determined first by the number of qualifying polls in which they received 1% support or more, and if there is a tie, an average of each candidate’s best three qualifying polls will be the first tiebreaker. If there is still a tie based on those two measures, the post-June debate average will break that tie.
This story has been updated with more details about the live draw.