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How to squeeze all those Democrats on the debate stage

Mark Z. Barabak and Michael Finnegan, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

With virtually the entire adult U.S. population seeking the Democratic presidential nomination -- or so it seems -- the party faces some knotty questions.

Is anyone left to vote for somebody besides him- or herself? Can all those people squeeze onto a single debate stage? How does that Buttigieg guy pronounce his name, anyway?

The debate question is a serious one, even if the number of Democrats running is only a mere two dozen or so.

There are several reasons for the exceedingly large field: Changes to the nominating process -- which all but eliminated the gate-keeping role of the major political parties -- and the advent of social media have made it much easier to wage at least a semiserious run for president.

There is little downside to entering and losing the contest (unless you think a lucrative cable-TV gig is slumming it) and plenty of incentive to run in 2020, with polls suggesting President Donald Trump is highly vulnerable.

That brings us to that crowded debate stage.

 

The series of a dozen forums planned by the Democratic National Committee, beginning Wednesday night in Miami, will play an important role in sorting out the presidential field. For some contestants, the debates offer the best and perhaps only shot at breaking from the pack and stamping themselves as serious White House contenders.

That's because after this week's opening round in Florida and a pair of debates at the end of July, the rules for participation get even tougher and more exclusionary.

How many Democrats will be in Miami to debate?

Twenty.

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