Democratic presidential hopefuls are aiming their sights on Ohio for the next primary debate in Westerville, which will be held on Oct. 15, with a possible second night on Oct. 16.

Debate Breakdown

CNN and the New York Times will play host to the candidates at Otterbein University’s campus for the fourth debate. So far 11 candidates have qualified out of the 20 who are currently running. The other nine candidates have until Oct. 1st to qualify.

The candidates who have qualified so far include:

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden
  • Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders
  • Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren
  • California Senator Kamala Harris
  • South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg
  • New Jersey Senator Cory Booker
  • Julian Castro, the former housing secretary under former President Obama
  • Former Texas Representative Beto O’Rourke
  • Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar
  • Andrew Yang, a former tech executive
  • Tom Steyer, a billionaire former hedge fund executive

The qualifications to get into the debate are the same as for the last debate, which took place on Sept.12: Candidates must register at least 2% support in four qualifying polls and have 130,000 unique donors from at least 20 different states.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard from Hawaii and Marianne Williamson, an author, both have met the donor threshold but not the polling threshold. None of the other candidates have met either qualification.

The debate could also be split between two nights because more than 10 candidates qualified. It will be moderated by CNN anchors Anderson Cooper and Erin Burnett as well as Marc Lacey, the New York Times’s national editor.

A focus on swing states

So far, the debates have been hosted in Texas, Florida and Michigan, all states the Democrats narrowly lost in 2016 and they hope to gain ground in come the general election in Nov. 2020 – a pattern that Ohio follows.

David Pepper, the Ohio Democratic Party chair and John Haseley, the Athens Democratic Party chair, both said the policies of the Trump administration are going to be a big factor in whether Ohio flips back to blue in 2020.

“What we’ve seen in the suburbs of Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland and other cities mirrors what has happened in places like Harris County, Texas, and Orange County, California — suburban voters, particularly women, are backing Democratic candidates in response to the broken promises and toxic agenda of Donald Trump,” Pepper said.

This strategy of bringing these high-profile events to swing states isn’t a new one, but it does show the ways in which the Democratic party hopes to improve upon its performance in the 2016 general election. Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump in Ohio about 52% to 44%, winning only eight counties.

Haseley said he thinks the debate taking place in Ohio makes sense for the party.

“Donald Trump’s popularity has waned in Ohio,” Haseley said. “Ohio is a state impacted by federal policies. People are starting to see the detrimental impact of the Trump presidency.”

Haseley, along with the Athens County Republican Chair Pete Couladis, agree that issues facing Ohio could come up in the debate but the candidates will probably take a more nationally focused approach when discussing them.

“Its a plus for the state of Ohio and that community,” Couladis said. “When you have these events, the towns they are in can really benefit economically.”

Otterbein University’s campus has played host to many politicians seeking to gain support in Ohio. According to a press release about the debate, the university had candidates like Mitt Romney in 2012, John McCain in 2008 and Bob Dole in 1996.

Issues that may be brought up at the debate include the topic of healthcare, the impact that international trade on American farming and industry and gun control.

Couladis said he believes voters from all political backgrounds will tune in to hear what the candidates have to say, but he believes some will not change their positions as a result.

“They’re just trying to see what kind of goofy things are said to solidify their opposition to whichever candidate gets chosen,” Couladis said.

Haseley didn’t say whether he would be attending the debate, but said the Athens County Democratic Party will probably have a debate watch party.