Here’s how the Democratic debate in Atlanta kicked off

Debate moderators clockwise from top left: Rachel Maddow, Kristen Welker, Andrea Mitchell and Ashley Parker.
(TNS; NBCUniversal)

The fifth round of Democratic debates kicked off Wednesday night avoiding one of the more awkward elements of the four rounds that preceded it: the too-long string of handshakes.

Debate host MSNBC relegated the candidate walk-on to before its 6 p.m. PST start, which meant that precious time was not wasted waiting for 10 candidates to enter, greet each other and linger uncomfortably while their rivals join them.

Clashes and mockery come at the end of the Democratic debate in Atlanta. Pete Buttigieg and Tulsi Gabbard face attacks and Joe Biden faces laughter.

That’s in part because this debate will be just two hours long, more condensed than the three-hour marathons in the recent past. When the clock struck showtime, the candidates were already situated behind their lecterns, ready to field questions.

The walk-ons from past debates weren’t necessarily natural. But they hardly compared to the start of the GOP primary debate in February 2016 that consisted of a cringe-worthy backstage pile-up of Ben Carson, Donald Trump and other contenders.


Like the earlier debates, tonight’s proceedings, held at the Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, are moderated by a panel of journalists. This time, however, it is a rare all-female quartet asking questions: Rachel Maddow, host of the eponymous primetime MSNBC show; Andrea Mitchell, chief NBC News foreign affairs correspondent and MSNBC host; Kristen Welker, NBC News White House correspondent; and Ashley Parker, who covers the White House for the Washington Post.

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