What to Watch For: The Fifth Democratic Primary Debate

Amanda Hunter | Nov 14, 2019


Next week’s Democratic primary debate will be held in Atlanta, GA, and will feature 10 candidates. As we head into the fifth democratic primary debate of the cycle, here’s what I’ll be looking for:

All women moderators.

Last month MSNBC and the Washington Post announced that the November debate will be moderated by four women; Andrea Mitchell, Rachel Maddow, Kristen Welker, and Ashley Parker. Ahead of the first Democratic debate back in June, the Democratic National Committee announced that it would require every debate to include at least one woman moderator. Since then, we’ve seen a woman behind the desk at every debate, but no more than two at a time, and only one woman of color. It will be interesting and exciting to see how this panel of four women, one of them a woman of color, will shape the conversation on stage.

Women’s issues.

We hope that more women behind the moderator’s desk will help elevate questions on “women’s issues.” Women’s issues could include reproductive rights, caregiving, pay equity, sexual harassment, the list goes on. Across the 2019 debates we’ve seen so far, just 4% of the questions have touched on these issues. To many watching the debates, this has felt like a critical oversight as “women’s issues” affect everyone, not just women. We’re hoping that next week’s debate will help boost that 4% stat.

Economic credentials.

According to new research released by the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, one of the biggest priorities for voters is a candidate with economic credentials. The study showed that economic chops are critically linked to a woman candidate for executive office being viewed as qualified. And we know from past BLFF research, appearing qualified to voters is an absolute necessity for women on the campaign trial. In past 2019 debates, we’ve seen the women on stage work hard to weave their qualifications into their responses and rebuttals. Next week we’ll be watching to see how they specifically work their economic accomplishments into the mix.

Action and Accomplishments.

Another major takeaway from the new BLFF research: voters want women candidates to be action-oriented. Specifically, when it comes to evaluating electability, they want to see that the woman candidate can handle a crisis and get results. This is another area we’ll keep a close eye on, to see what examples women offer to show that they are action-oriented.

Follow along with us next week on Twitter (@OnGender) for our real time analysis of gender on the debate stage, and stay tuned for our post-debate question recap to see how these trends played out.

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