Stage is set for record-breaking presidential primary debate

They’re going to need a really big stage.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) on Wednesday announced the lineup for their Oct. 15 fourth-round presidential primary debate, and as expected, 12 candidates have qualified, meeting the polling and fundraising criteria.

That means the showdown will be the largest in presidential primary history, topping the 11 Republicans who faced off in a primary debate in September 2015, according to political research from Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a political newsletter and website.

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The dozen Democratic White House contenders who made the cut are – in alphabetical order – former Vice President Joe Biden; Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey; South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg; former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro; Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii; Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas; Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont; businessman and environmental advocate Tom Steyer; Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts; and tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

The first two rounds of debates in June and July – with lower qualifying thresholds – were held over two consecutive nights with 10 candidates on the stage each evening. The thresholds were raised for the third-round debate, resulting in 10 candidates facing off on one night.

The DNC announced last week that the fourth-round debate would also be held on a single night. The 10 contenders who faced off in September automatically qualified for the October debate. And Gabbard and Steyer, who narrowly missed the September cut, reached the thresholds to qualify for the upcoming showdown by Tuesday’s deadline.

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Twelve candidates on the same stage at the same time could make for an unwieldy debate and a lot of jockeying for time and attention.

Steyer told Fox News on Wednesday that “the DNC makes decisions and I try not to think about them.”

He emphasized that “the debates are a huge opportunity and that’s how I hope to use them,” but he also acknowledged that “if there are more people on the stage, then it’s harder, and I just have to deal with that.”

The Oct. 15 debate will be held at Otterbein University, a liberal arts institution in Westerville, Ohio. The DNC’s media partners for the showdown are CNN and The New York Times.