The first debate could be as early as spring 2019 which means time is running out for Democrats to raise money, hire staff, and raise their profiles so that they have a chance at making it to the stage. If there are too many candidates to fit onto the one stage, which we expect there to be, they have to break up the debate into multiple stages. The first stage gets the primetime hour while the second group gets the 11 o’clock hour. Second stage has been considered a “sideshow”, the “kiddie table”, and is simply not taken seriously. If you don’t make it onto that first stage, there is a good chance your campaign will quickly fizzle out.
National name recognition is a good way to make it to the first stage, but at this point, only Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren fall into that category. One way to get recognition in the media is to try and pull at voters’ emotional chords. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker have both figured this out and have been using it to their advantage.
James Carville, the former Bill Clinton strategist, says it’s not a good idea to put all the candidates onto a single stage and suggests dividing the debate stage into two randomized debates, and voters should tune in to both.
Click here to read more by David Siders from Politico on what we should expect from the first debate.