Debate Live Stream | Watch the Presidential Debates
MSNBC commentators reporting from the 2012 Democratic National Convention.By: Steve Bott
TV Channels that Hosted 2020 Democratic Presidential Primary Debates
Coverage of the Democratic Presidential debates rotates between the major broadcast networks with CBS, ABC, NBC & FOX networks hosting presidential and/or major primary debates along with CNN and PBS. For primaries, MSNBC & Fox News often host debates in lieu of NBC & FOX, especially in the early stages of the race.
The January Democratic presidential primary Debate is on CNN with a variety of options to watch on television and stream live online.
Our Democratic Debate schedule lists the TV channels hosting each debate and which candidates qualified for a given one. It also has recaps of every previous Democratic primary debate held this election cycle with transcripts and links to watch the entire debate.
Watching the Democratic Debates on TV & Online
CNN and MSNBC host the majority of Democratic primary debates early on in the process with the major networks stepping in to host a number of debates as primary season kicks in to high gear and voters begin to head to the polls in various states.
No Democratic debates are aired on Fox News due to political conflicts with the Democratic National Committee. The network has not hosted a Democratic Presidential primary debate since 2004.
Debate formats and rules are determined by the debate hosts in consultation with the Democratic National Committee. Debate hosts and moderators are able to determine whether there will be opening and/or closing statements, how long a candidate has to respond to a question from a debate moderator, whether candidates can respond when a competitor invokes their name and any other rule they deem necessary to ensure a fair debate.
Democratic debates typically last between two and three hours with minimal commercial breaks.
Democratic Debate Moderators
Major TV networks often partner with other media outlets like the New York Times, Washington Post, YouTube, Telemundo, and local newspapers when hosting debates and together they select debate moderators.
Debate moderators are typically senior journalists, editors, and correspondents of the organizations sponsoring or hosting a debate. They are selected by senior management of their respective media organizations and can not be overruled by the DNC once selected so long as they meet the standards set forth in the rules that stipulate there must be one female and one person of color moderating each debate.
Questions asked by the moderators during the debate are their own unless the moderator states otherwise. Unlike a town hall or theme specific forum, the debates have no predetermined agenda, but themes often emerge depending on the questions posed by moderators and how the participants react.
Candidates Participating in Democratic Debates
Candidates must meet polling and fundraising metrics set by the Democratic National Committee in order to participate in a given debate. These metrics steadily rise as the primary season progresses.
The debate stage is set in a single row with the highest polling candidates being placed center stage and the remaining candidates fanning out in either direction by polling averages from highest to lowest, with the two lowest polling candidates being on either edge of the stage.
Moderators try to give ample speaking time to every candidate, but top-tiered candidates inevitably get more air time than candidates not polling as well.
TV provider plans with every debate TV channel (CNN, CBS, MSNBC, NBC, ABC, PBS & Univision)
Liberal Debate Coverage
MSNBC provides Democratic debate coverage from a left-of-center point of view. They both host Democratic debates and report extensively on debates they don't host from the "spin room" where candidates often go to when a debate is concluded.
Top journalists and commentators like Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes, Brian Williams, Ali Velshi, Andrea Mitchell, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski will often hold special programming the day of a debate where they discuss how they think the night will unfold and then air post-debate coverage where they will often interview candidates to see how they felt they performed in the debate.
If MSNBC is hosting a debate then they will air it in its entirety, but if another channel is airing it then they will air their regularly scheduled programs until the debate has concluded, at which point they will often return to special programming reporting on the debate.
TV provider plans with MSNBC
Conservative Debate Coverage
Fox News provides Democratic debate coverage from a right-of-center point of view. While the channel won't be hosting any Democratic debates, they still send journalists to report on the debate from the "spin room" where they may interview one or more candidates at the conclusion of the debate.
Hosts Bret Baier and Chris Wallace head the news division of Fox News and provide a nuanced and balanced coverage of the Democratic debates, albeit with a right-of-center point of view.
TV provider plans with Fox News
All Other Pre & Post Debate Coverage
There is also a number of options for viewers who wish to watch mainstream networks and listen to commentary that provides a relatively even split of liberals and conservatives, or listen to commentary that approaches the debates from a different perspective entirely.
Mainstream Debate Coverage
CNN provides Democratic debate coverage from a mainstream point of view. They both host Democratic debates and report extensively on the ones they don't host with pre and post-debate coverage by top journalists and commentators.
Anderson Cooper, Wolf Blitzer, Jake Tapper, Don Lemon, Chris Cuomo, Jeffrey Toobin, Gloria Borger, Paul Begala, S.E. Cupp, Rick Santorum, Ana Navarro, Kristen Powers and others lead a bipartisan political team that covers the Democratic debates from all angles.
Fusion provides Democratic debate coverage tailored towards younger voters aged 18-34 with a mix of serious and satirical debate commentary.
Univision provides Democratic debate coverage tailored towards the burgeoning Hispanic population in the United States. Their debate coverage is twofold, with a focus on the debate itself and how the issues discussed in a given debate would affect the Hispanic population living in the United States.
Financial News Debate Coverage
Bloomberg provides Democratic debate coverage with a focus on how the various proposals discussed by the candidates would affect the financial markets and U.S. economy.
Bloomberg journalists and commentators report from the spin-room before and after every Democratic debate and often interview one or more candidates after a debate has concluded.
(It should be noted that owner Mike Bloomberg is currently running for President in the Democratic Primary, but he has not qualified for the debates because he is not accepting individual donations.)
Fox Business provides Democratic debate coverage with a focus on how the various proposals discussed by the candidates would affect the financial markets and U.S. economy, albeit from a right-of-center point of view.
Fox Business journalists don't always report from the spin-room of a Democratic debate, but the channel does still often report on their opinions of the debate from the studio.
TV provider plans carrying all news channels (CNN, BLOOM, CNBC, MSNBC, FOXB, Fox News)