When Is the Next Democratic Debate? DNC Has Yet to Release Criteria For February

As the Democratic presidential campaign season heats up, with caucuses and primaries starting in February, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) has a line-up of three debates scheduled for next month.

The DNC previously announced that debates will be held on February 7, 19 and 25. ABC, WMUR and Apple News will co-host the eighth debate of the primary cycle at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire on February 7. The debate following that will be co-hosted by NBC News, MSNBC and The Nevada Independent in Las Vegas, while the tenth debate will take place in Charleston, South Carolina, co-hosted by CBS News, the Congressional Black Caucus Institute at The Gaillard Center in partnership with Twitter.

While 12 candidates – down from 28 last year – are still running for the Democratic party's presidential nomination, only six of the remaining contenders qualified for a spot on the January 14 debate stage: former Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, billionaire former hedge-fund manager Tom Steyer and Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. It's still unclear how many candidates will qualify for the forthcoming debates, as the DNC has yet to release the criteria.

Democratic debate
Democratic presidential hopefuls Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders arrive for the sixth Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season in Los Angeles, California on December 19 ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty

For the most recent January debate, candidates needed to garner donations from at least 225,000 people, while also earning a minimum of 5 percent in four DNC-approved national polls or 7 percent in two DNC-approved early voting state polls between November 16 and January 10. It's still unclear how the criteria will change ahead of the February debates, but the threshold of polling and donations has been raised steadily ahead of each of the seven debates that have already been held.

"Once voting starts in February, our criteria will reflect those contests, which is more than appropriate," the DNC said in a December statement shared with Politico.

While the February debate schedule is set, questions remain about the pending Senate trial of President Donald Trump following his impeachment by the House of Representatives in December. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has not yet sent the articles of impeachment to the Senate, meaning the schedule of the trial remains unclear. It's possible that the trial would overlap with the DNC debates. As several of the Democratic candidates – Sanders, Warren and Klobuchar – currently serve in the Senate, they could potentially be required to be in two places at once.

"If a conflict with an impeachment trial is unavoidable, the DNC will evaluate its options and work with all the candidates to accommodate them," a spokesperson for the DNC told CNN in December, addressing the potential issue.

Some former candidates and commentators have criticized the DNC for not doing more to ensure that the debate stage remains more diverse. The January 14 debate stage featured only white candidates, as all the minorities still in the race failed to qualify. But the DNC has dismissed those concerns, arguing that the process has been fair and transparent.

Questions also remain about whether former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will have the chance to appear in a Democratic debate. The wealthy businessman, with an estimated net worth of well over $50 billion, has been bankrolling his own campaign without seeking outside contributions, he has thus far been unable to qualify for the debates under the previous criteria.

Bloomberg is currently polling higher nationally than two candidates – Klobuchar and Steyer – who qualified for the January debate. According to the latest data by Morning Consult, Biden is in the lead with 29 percent, followed by Sanders at 23 percent and Warren at 14 percent. Buttigieg and Bloomberg are then tied for fourth place, both with 8 percent. Entrepreneur Andrew Yang, who didn't qualify for the most recent debate, comes in next with 5 percent, followed by Steyer at 4 percent and Klobuchar at 2 percent.

Newsweek has reached out to the DNC for comment.