November Democratic debate to feature 'balanced' number of questions for candidates

The two-hour debate is being held at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta on Nov. 20.
Image: Democratic primary debate
Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris arrive onstage for the third Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season in Houston, Texas on Sept. 12, 2019.Frederic J. Brown / AFP - Getty Images

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By Dareh Gregorian

Candidates participating in the fifth Democratic presidential primary debate in Georgia later this month will each be asked a balanced number of questions, event hosts MSNBC and The Washington Post announced Wednesday.

The two-hour debate will be held at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta on Nov. 20, and 10 candidates have qualified for the event so far, according to an unofficial NBC News tally.

The hosts announced the format for the event on Wednesday: The debate will be broken up into four segments and will include three commercial breaks. There will be no opening statements.

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Candidates will have 75 seconds to answers questions posed to them and 45 seconds for follow-ups at the moderators' discretion. Candidates should be able to respond if they're referred to by name by another candidate, but that will be at the moderators' discretion, the announcement said.

Candidates will have one minute and 15 seconds for closing arguments.

The announcement about balanced speaking time comes after sizable differences in the amount of time the candidates had to talk during the previous four debates. In October's debate, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren got the most speaking time, with just under 23 minutes' worth, while billionaire activist Tom Steyer got the least, at just over seven minutes, according to a New York Times review.

The participating candidates and the podium lineup will be announced at a later date.

The debate features four moderators: Rachel Maddow, host of MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show"; Andrea Mitchell, host of MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports" and NBC News' chief foreign affairs correspondent; Kristen Welker, NBC News' White House correspondent; and Ashley Parker, a White House reporter for The Washington Post.

The 10 candidates who appear to have qualified are Warren; Steyer; former Vice President Joe Biden; Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.; Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana; Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.; Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.; entrepreneur Andrew Yang; Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn; and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii.

Gabbard hit the final poll needed to make the debate stage on Wednesday, according to NBC News' unofficial count. The deadline for candidates to qualify is one week before the debate.

The debate will air live exclusively on MSNBC from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET. It will also stream on MSNBC.com and Washingtonpost.com as well as across mobile devices through NBC News' and The Washington Post's mobile apps.

Ben Kamisar and Melissa Holzberg contributed.