Who are the Democratic candidates onstage at the debate in Atlanta?

Democratic presidential debate
(Chris Keller / Los Angeles Times)

Ten Democratic presidential candidates are on the debate stage Wednesday in Atlanta. Some are trying to retain their positions in the front of the pack, others hope to build on new momentum, and the most desperate are trying to break through the crowded field.

The fifth round takes place less than three months before the first nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, and as some of the candidates are increasingly attacking their rivals.

The Democratic National Committee raised polling and fundraising thresholds for candidates to qualify for the November debate; many candidates were left off the stage.


The two-hour debate, moderated by an all-female panel of journalists, can be viewed on MSNBC or streamed online at and

Here’s what’s at stake for each candidate:

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker is widely liked by voters, has wealthy backers on both coasts and has assembled a strong campaign team. Yet he hasn’t broken out of the low single digits in the polls and is in danger of not qualifying for the December debate in Los Angeles. Can he do anything Wednesday night to change his trajectory?

Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has been in the spotlight recently, feuding with 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton over whether Gabbard is a Republican “asset” who is being groomed for a third-party spoiler run. She has publicly rejected that idea. The debate offers Gabbard a large platform to continue blasting the former secretary of state.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar got a fundraising and polling bounce after a strong showing as a Midwestern moderate in last month’s debate. She recently argued that gender bias is playing a role in the race, and that South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg would not be receiving the same attention if he were a woman. Will she make this argument directly to Buttigieg, and can she deliver a strong performance like she did in October?

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South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg is ascendant in the polls and comes into the debate with an enormous target on his back. Buttigieg’s Democratic rivals have attacked his youth, his resume and his relationship with black voters. Can he stand up to more scrutiny?

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is fending off renewed attacks on her “Medicare for all” plan after releasing details about how she would pay for it and implement it. She will likely also face questions about President Obama’s recent warning to 2020 Democratic candidates not to go too far to the left in their policy proposals. Though the former president didn’t name names, his comments were widely viewed as an implicit criticism of the progressive proposals of Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Former Vice President Joe Biden broke with the rest of the Democratic field this weekend by opposing the federal legalization of recreational marijuana. In the process, he reminded generations of schoolchildren of their DARE classes by calling pot a “gateway drug.” Will Biden’s rivals argue that his position on recreational marijuana is more evidence that he’s out of touch with many Democratic voters?

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Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has been highlighting support from progressive stars in recent weeks, notably Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and campaigning in front of enormous crowds around the country. Will he use the three-year delay in Warren’s Medicare-for-all implementation plan to argue that he is the true progressive in the race and appeal to her supporters? And how will he field likely questions about Obama’s comments?

California Sen. Kamala Harris desperately needs to do something, anything, to change the trajectory of her campaign. Amidst single-digit poll numbers and reports of infighting among her campaign leaders, Harris is spending more money than she’s taking in. She successfully changed the momentum in a June debate by lacing into Biden about school busing, but the boost she received was temporary.


Businessman Andrew Yang will once again talk about his plan to give every American adult a universal basic income of $1,000 per month because widespread automation threatens jobs across the nation. Look to see if Yang announces any new gimmicks tonight as he did at the September debate, when he said he would use campaign funds to give 10 voters $1,000 per month for a year.

Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer spent more than $47 million in the first three months of his presidential campaign, most of it to qualify for the October debate, where he wasn’t much of a factor. He almost certainly spent millions more in recent weeks to get on the debate stage Wednesday night. Has he crafted a more compelling message to deliver to voters?

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