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Sunday night’s Democratic debate is still on. How to watch live—and what to expect

March 15, 2020, 9:00 AM UTC

And then there were two. 

Sunday evening’s Democratic primary debate between former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders takes place amidst a whirlwind of worldwide chaos. 

The two septuagenarian presidential hopefuls will take to the stage in Washington, D.C., as the coronavirus pandemic threatens to infect millions of Americans (many of whom can’t afford healthcare), markets experience COVID-19 panic swings, and thousands of businesses face bankruptcy over a lack of customers. 

The debate, which is hosted by CNN and Univision, was originally supposed to be town hall style and take place in Phoenix, Arizona. But on Thursday, it was moved to CNN’s studios in Washington, D.C., with no live audience due to coronavirus fears. 

“Out of an abundance of caution and in order to reduce cross-country travel, all parties have decided that the best path forward is to hold Sunday’s debate at CNN’s studio in Washington,” said Democratic National Committee communications director Xochitl Hinojosa in a statement. 

The DNC also announced that Univision’s Jorge Ramos would no longer be a debate moderator after potentially being exposed to the virus.

“Our number one priority has and will continue to be the safety of our staff, campaigns, and all those involved in the debate,” said Hinojosa. 

There will be no press center or spin room at the event, meaning that the post-mortem interviews with the candidates and their surrogates that viewers have grown used to will likely be nixed this time around. 

Still, the show must go on, albeit cautiously.

How to watch the Democratic debate live

The debate will air on CNN and Univision at 8 p.m. E.T. Sunday night and will be available to stream in full on the CNNgo app at no cost. 

What to watch for during Sunday’s debate

As primary season marches on through June, Sanders and Biden find themselves in a tight race, within about 150 delegates of one another. That’s a relatively small divide considering that there are still another 2,197 delegates to be earned. Biden is currently the Democratic frontrunner, but the race is still very much anyone’s for the taking. 

The Sanders campaign is hoping that Sunday’s face-off will mark a turning point for the democratic socialist, who has made two public addresses to the nation this week about COVID-19 and to challenge Biden. 

In a Wednesday address, Sanders acknowledged that his campaign had taken a large blow on Super Tuesday and the Tuesday that followed. 

“Last night, obviously, was not a good night for our campaign from a delegate point of view,” he said. “While our campaign has won the ideological debate, we are losing the debate over electability.” 

While there was buzz that Sanders would use the speech to exit the race, he instead focused a large portion of it on previewing what he would be asking Biden during Sunday’s debate, placing a great amount of significance on the event. 

“Joe, what are you going to do for the 500,000 people who go bankrupt in our country because of medically related debt?” he asked. “Joe, importantly, what are you going to do to end the absurdity of billionaires buying elections and the three wealthiest people in America owning more wealth than the bottom half of our people?”

Biden has struggled through the DNC’s previous 10 debates, appearing to have difficulty forming clear and concise answers. 

On the campaign trail, he often fumbles lines or makes factual errors (like saying he is running for the U.S. Senate). President Donald Trump has picked up on these gaffes and is already using them against Biden.

“WOW! Sleepy Joe doesn’t know where he is, or what he’s doing,” he tweeted this month. “Honestly, I don’t think he even knows what office he’s running for!” 

The question is whether he can stay focused and sharp in these debates, and if Sanders will be able to draw attention to any potential non-answers by Biden, while keeping things civil. 

The candidates, who have sharply differing views on the future of the Democratic party, will also likely make some concessions to one another in order to try to gain potential voters on either side of the democratic spectrum. 

Will Biden attempt to woo some hardcore Sanders supporters by adopting more progressive stances on Medicare and a Green New Deal? It’s possible that he’ll make a direct appeal to Sanders supporters with promises to move further left on certain issues. But will Sanders attempt to broaden his base of support by trying to appeal to more moderate Democrats? 

That’s a more unlikely prospect. Sanders’ consistently progressive agenda is a big selling point on his campaign, and if anything, he’ll use his airtime on Sunday to hammer home the same ideas he’s been pushing for nearly half a century. 

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Two septuagenarian presidential hopefuls will take to the stage in Washington D.C. as a pandemic threatens to infect millions of Americans (many of whom can’t afford healthcare), markets experience COVID-19 panic swings, and thousands of businesses face bankruptcy over a lack of customers.