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February 19, 2020

Super Civics 2020: Nevada Democratic debate


Directions: Read the summary, watch the video and answer the questions. You can turn on the “CC” (closed-captions) function and read along with the transcript here. We have included updates below. Many of the discussion questions will still apply since they are about important civics issues.


***Watch the Nevada debate on NBC here , even if it’s just for a few minutes. Watch highlights from TIME here.

***Check out this story with your students: 6 takeaways from the Las Vegas Democratic debate (Mini-lesson: Break your students into groups and have them summarize one of the takeaways from the article, share with the class and discuss your reaction to them.)

If you are looking for debate resources, check these two out:

1. Democratic Debate activity for Nevada Feb. 19, 2020: Have students use this short #DemDebate Handout as they watch the debate. Students choose 3 issues and record what the candidates’ said and share how well they think the candidates responded.

2. Create a #DemDebate BINGO sheet and discuss in class the next day.


In the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, most of the candidates have fanned out across Nevada, whose caucuses will be held February 22nd. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar, as well as Pete Buttigieg, are aiming to build on their momentum, while former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren hope to push their campaigns in a new direction. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has risen in national polls, so far spending nearly $420 million of his own fortune on advertising, will also be on the debate stage.

Fellow candidates have accused him of trying to buy the election while other criticism against Bloomberg involves issues of policing when he was NYC mayor and allegations of sexism and sexual harassment. In a tweet over the weekend, Bloomberg seemed to address the latter saying, “I would not be where I am today without the talented women around me. I’ve depended on their leadership, their advice and their contributions. As I’ve demonstrated throughout my career, I will always be a champion for women in the workplace.”

Some important details about the debate itself and how candidates qualified, according to the website FiveThirtyEight, include the following:

“There were three ways to qualify for the [Nevada] debate, according to rules set by the Democratic National Committee. First, a candidate could qualify by getting 10 percent or more in four national, Nevada or South Carolina polls conducted by DNC-approved pollsters and released between Jan. 15 and 11:59 p.m. Tuesday. Alternatively, a candidate could qualify by getting 12 percent or more in just two Nevada or South Carolina polls from approved pollsters. Finally, a candidate could have also qualified simply by picking up at least one pledged delegate in Iowa or New Hampshire.”

One key obstacle to qualifying for the Nevada debate has been removed, according to FiveThirtyEight: “The DNC controversially decided to scrap the requirement that a candidate must have raised money from a certain number of individual donors. This opened the door for Bloomberg, who is not accepting campaign donations, to make the stage, which he did by hitting 10 percent or more in four national surveys.”

Discussion questions:  (Pick the questions that are most relevant to your class.)

  1. Essential question: What makes for a strong candidate performance during a presidential debate?
  2. What issues do you think the moderators will ask the candidates about in Nevada’s Democratic debate?
  3. What issues would you like the moderators to ask about? Play this video by PBS’ Student Reporting Labs (SRL) of students asking questions. What questions are missing?
  4. What do you know about Michael Bloomberg? Do you think the criticism from the other candidates is fair or unfair that he is “buying” his way into office?
  5. Nevada uses the caucus system, which will be held on Feb. 24th. What is a caucus? Read the article, “Presidential caucuses are complicated. Why do some states use them?”.
  6. If you watch the Democratic debate, fill out this #DemDebate form to record issues and judge how candidates performed.
  7. Media literacy: Polls play a key role in elections, but how reliable are they? What information should you look for before reading a political poll? Read this recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll Results: Election 2020. (Be sure to check out NewsHour’s article on it, too.) Take a look at the “Results” and “Methods” tabs. How many people were polled? What are some of the categories poll goers are broken into? Check the bottom of page where it says “MOE” (margin of error). What is the MOE on the poll? Why do polls have margins of error?

Extension activity:

Try this lesson plan on polls called “Polling Pitfalls.”

For updates from our “Super Civics 2020” series containing teacher resources on Election 2020, click here.

Sign up for short education highlights from the PBS NewsHour here.

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