CNN plans to set Detroit debate lineup reminiscent of sports

David Bauder
Associated Press
This June 27, 2019 file photo shows Democratic presidential candidates from left, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Vice-President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., on the second night of the Democratic primary debate hosted by NBC News in Miami.

New York – The political equivalent to NBA first pick Zion Williamson is unclear, but CNN this week brings the showmanship of sports draft lotteries to the presidential campaign by televising its drawing to set the lineup for the second Democratic debate in Detroit.

CNN will unveil stage positions Thursday at 8 p.m. for the 20-candidate debate, scheduled for July 30 and 31.

For CNN, which has been touting the draw onscreen, it’s an attempt to create an event out of virtually nothing that also promotes its debate coverage. But the program has also received criticism for making the nomination process seem like a game show.

The large number of candidates created the need for a lottery. Democratic officials, candidates and the networks are wary so early in the campaign about creating a two-tiered debate that has one with “major” candidates and one with those who are less popular.

CNN has released few details about how it will be handled on Thursday. The network will reveal the 20 candidates participating on Wednesday.

NBC had a similar drawing before its first debate last month, but it was held without cameras in a conference room at the network’s New York headquarters. There were two large boxes, one with the names of candidates with less than 2 percent in the polls, the other with candidates who had more support. NBC’s standards chief Marian Porges selected one name from each box to put on one of two easels representing the two debate nights.