Biden/Sanders, Warren/O'Rourke to be center stage at first debate

The candidates with the highest polling averages will stand side-by-side at the NBC-sponsored face-off on June 26 and 27.
Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren and Beto O'Rourke
Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren and Beto O'RourkeGetty Images, AP

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By Dareh Gregorian

When the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates take the debate stage in downtown Miami next week, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders will be right in the middle of the action.

NBC on Tuesday announced the candidate positions on the stage for the two-night event on June 26 and 27, and it will feature the contenders who've been leading in the polls in the middle of the stage at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.

That means on Night One, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and former Rep. Beto O'Rourke of Texas will be in the middle, while Night Two will feature former Vice President Biden and Sanders, the Vermont senator, standing side-by-side at center stage.

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The 10 participants for each night were selected in a drawing at NBC News' headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Plaza on Friday.

The podium placements were based on each of the candidates' qualifying public polling through Wednesday, June 12. The placements started with top polling candidates beginning at the center positions, with lower polling contenders being placed closer to the edges of the stage. Candidates who were tied in the polls were ranked based on the overall number of qualifying polls.

Landing on the outskirts of the debate stage for Night One are New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and former Maryland Rep. John Delaney. Self-help author Marianne Williamson and California Rep. Eric Swalwell are on the edges for Night Two.

The lineup for the second night of the debate is likely a bit of a disappointment for businessman Andrew Yang, who told Politico he was hoping to stand next to Biden "so the country can Google, ‘Who's the Asian man next to Joe Biden?’ and then they will discover Andrew Yang."

The entrepreneur will be standing one person away from Biden, in between Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Night One will feature, from left to right: de Blasio; Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio; former Housing Secretary Julián Castro; Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey; Warren; O'Rourke; Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii; Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington; and Delaney.

Night Two will have, from left to right: Williamson; Hickenlooper; Yang; Buttigieg; Biden; Sanders; Sen. Kamala Harris of California; Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York; Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado; and Swalwell.

The event is hosted by NBC News, MSNBC and Telemundo, and will air live across all three from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET both nights. The debate will stream online for free on NBC News' digital platforms, including NBCNews.com, MSNBC.com, the NBC News Mobile App and OTT apps, in addition to Telemundo's digital platforms.

Savannah Guthrie, Lester Holt, Chuck Todd, Rachel Maddow and José Diaz-Balart will moderate the debate, NBC announced last week.