As the Washington Post prepares to co-host the fifth Democratic presidential debate with MSNBC from Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, Libby Casey goes behind the scenes. It takes hundreds of people to prepare for a major debate, from writing questions to transforming an empty studio lot into stage ready for prime time. An all-women team of moderators will ask the questions on Wednesday, November 20, 2019: The Washington Post’s Ashley Parker, and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Andrea Mitchell, and Kristen Welker.
Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post is part of the team helping prepare behind the scenes. She has moderated a debate or forum in four of the last five presidential cycles, questioning politicians including Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, and Barack Obama.
Tumulty tells Libby Casey what it takes to get ready for a debate, and describes the process of crafting questions, learning to interrupt the candidates, and manage the pressure of the national spotlight. She also shares what it’s like to have your reaction turned into a gif.
Ten candidates have qualified to be on the November debate stage: Former vice president Joe Biden, Senator Cory Booker, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Andrew Yang. There are two fewer candidates than were on stage for October’s Democratic debate: former HUD secretary Julián Castro failed to hit the required polling levels, and former congressman Beto O’Rourke dropped out. Former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick has jumped into the race and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg is considering running, but they will not be on the debate stage.