What to Watch For: The Sixth Democratic Primary Debate

Amanda Hunter | Dec 13, 2019


Next week’s Democratic primary debate will be held in Los Angeles, CA, and will feature the smallest debate field yet: only 7 candidates will take the stage. As we head into the sixth Democratic primary debate of the cycle, here’s what I’ll be looking at:

  1. Moderators making history.

When PBS NewsHour senior national correspondent Amna Nawaz takes the moderator’s mic next week, she’ll be making history as the first Asian Pacific Islander American woman to moderate a presidential debate. This is also the first debate this cycle that has two women of color moderators: Nawaz will be joined by PBS NewsHour White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor (as well as PBS NewsHour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff and Politico chief political correspondent Tim Alberta). For the second debate in a row, women will outnumber the men at the moderators’ table. During the last debate, we saw the difference it makes to have women moderators guiding the conversation.

  1. A less diverse candidate field.

Before she exited the race, Kamala Harris was the only woman of color who had qualified for the debate stage. Only half of the women still in the presidential race will be on stage this time – Senators Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar. This is the fewest number of women in a Democratic primary debate yet this cycle. This is also the least racially diverse group of candidates to take the stage: only one candidate of color (Andrew Yang) qualified. Having a diverse lineup of candidates enriches the conversation, something that will be sorely missed.

  1. Bipartisanship

This is a time of hyper-partisanship in Washington. However, voters still value bipartisanship. In fact, recent research from the Barbara Lee Family Foundation shows that in white women Democratic candidates, the top trait that makes that candidate seem both qualified and likeable in the eyes of voters is “worked with members of the other party.” It will be interesting to see how – if at all – Senators Warren and Klobuchar showcase their bipartisan credibility.

  1. Another big night for women’s issues?

To quote Betsy Fischer Martin, “It took a debate moderated by four female journalists to ask more than two unique questions related to issues central to the lives of women and families.” The last debate substantially increased the amount of questions on topics like child care and paid family leave, women in politics, reproductive rights, and sexual violence and harassment against women. With a majority-women moderator’s table again, will women’s issues have another big night?

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