How the Sunday Democratic debate is different than all the other debates

WASHINGTON –The top two Democratic candidates, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, will take the debate stage Sunday for the first primary debate since the coronavirus outbreak. Biden currently leads Sanders in the national delegate race in the Democratic primary.

The debate, hosted by CNN and Univision, will take place at CNN’s studio in Washington D.C. at 8 to 10 p.m. ET on Sunday. And while this is the 11th debate of the 2020 election cycle, it will be considerably different than the other 10.

Here’s what to expect during the debate and how to watch: 

How is Sunday’s debate different from past debates?

First, there is a growing coronavirus pandemic and it has touched many parts of the debate.

President Donald Trump declared a national emergency Friday due to the virus. The virus has caused widespread isolation as many workers are tasked with working from home, in addition to public schools and universities temporarily closing. Many cities and states have called on Americans to practice social distancing to slow down spread of the virus.

More:Trump declares national emergency over coronavirus, allowing officials to direct billions in aid to those fighting virus

The location of the debate was moved from Phoenix to Washington, D.C, amid concerns over the virus, and there will be no live audience.In addition, one of the original planned moderators, Jorge Ramos of Univision, stepped back from his role after potentially being exposed to the virus.

The pandemic likely will be a key issue in the debate.

Second, this is the smallest stage since primary debates began last June. It will only include Biden and Sanders. The first debates of the 2020 election cycle had a field so large, it required two nights of debate with 10 candidates on stage each night. And there were still candidates who missed the stage.

Biden and Sanders also for the first time will be seated next to each other, rather than standing behind lecterns as in previous debates. 

The last Democratic debate was last month before the South Carolina primary. Since then, five Democratic presidential candidates who were last on the stage have dropped out. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who is still running for president, did not qualify for that debate nor Sunday’s.

More:How coronavirus is changing the 2020 presidential campaign for Trump, Biden and Sanders

The debate comes ahead of four states — Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio — holding primaries on Tuesday.

How can I watch the debate?

CNN, CNN en Español, CNN International and Univision will air the debate exclusively live. In addition, it will be live streamed on, via CNN’s mobile apps and CNNgo apps for Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire, Chromecast and Android TV, in addition to Univision’s digital properties.

More:Tuesday primaries still happening despite coronavirus concerns that shut down Louisiana’s

Who is moderating the debate?

CNN’s Dana Bash and Jake Tapper will moderate the debate. In addition, Univision’s Ilia Calderón help moderate in place of Ramos.

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