I’ve never really understood the appeal of casinos, especially slot machines. Pouring time and money into something that’s expressly designed to make everyone lose in the long run seems, to me, uniquely masochistic. Anyway! The ninth Democratic presidential primary debate takes place in Las Vegas tonight, just a few day before the Nevada caucus on Saturday.
NBC News and MSNBC are hosting this one, along with the Nevada Independent. The debate will be broadcast live from the Paris Theater beginning at 9 pm EST/6 pm PST.
Who’s Debating Whomst
Here is where I usually explain how all the candidates appearing onstage qualified for the evening’s festivities. Since the third debate way back in September, that’s meant meeting an escalating series of polling thresholds and donor requirements. Not so this time! The DNC announced last month that it would jettison the so-called grassroots fundraising threshold for Vegas, baby. The somewhat controversial decision swung the debate door open for one Michael Bloomberg, whose only donor is his own billionaire self.
That left candidates with two other paths into the ninth debate. (Yes, there were two criteria before, with the fundraising thing, but a third one snuck in once the primaries began and so now we’re back to two. Please send help.) First, candidates could meet the polling threshold, which at this point contains multiple polling threshold options—polling sub-thresholds? A polling matryoshka doll—a detailed breakdown for which lives over at the DNC website. Alternately, any candidate with at least one pledged delegate from Iowa or New Hampshire automatically made the cut.
Six candidates qualified to participate in the Nevada debate. They are, in alphabetical order:
With just six participants, tonight’s debate is as small as the Democrats have seen so far this primary. The Iowa debate last month featured almost the exact same lineup, just swap in billionaire Tom Steyer for Bloomberg. Steyer is still in the race, however, as is Tulsi Gabbard. Technically. Most of the longer-shot candidates saw the writing on the wall after New Hampshire, including Andrew Yang and senator Michael Bennet.
To state the obvious in a lazy transition sentence, the race only heats up from here. Sanders and Buttigieg are ahead in the delegate count right now, but Iowa and New Hampshire are a drop in the bucket. There’s a whole lot of primary left—including, yes, a few more debates.
What sorts of issues might be on the table tonight? Gonna go out on a limb and say that healthcare, the economy, and the influence massive amounts of money can have on American politics could all come up at some point! Guess we’ll all have to watch to find out for sure.
How to Watch
Unlike the presidential debates, which are simulcast across all the major networks, primary debates—for either party—air on a rotating cast of news organizations. The ninth Democratic primary debate is being hosted by NBC News and MSNBC with the Nevada Independent at the Paris Theater in Las Vegas.
Moderating the proceedings tonight will be NBC’s Lester Holt, Hallie Jackson, and Chuck Todd; Noticias Telemundo’s Vanessa Hauc; and Independent editor Jon Ralston. There is also a sort of audience participation component: NBC had been soliciting questions from viewers on the NBC News website until last Friday. Wherever the questions come from, candidates will have 75 seconds to answer them, and 45 seconds for follow-ups.