There’s nearly a month to go until the next Democratic presidential debate—but 2020 candidates have less than two weeks to qualify, facing a deadline of August 28.
The crowded field started debate season with 20 candidates qualifying, by either hitting 1% in three polls or getting donations from 65,000 individual donors. In preparation for the third debate, to be held on September 12 and 13 in Houston and hosted by ABC and Univision, the Democratic National Committee sought to make it more difficult for candidates to meet the qualifying criteria.
This time around, a candidate must have received donations from 130,000 individuals, including at least 400 donors in a minimum of 20 different states. Candidates must also hit at least 2% in four polls to appear on the debate stage next month. Eligible polls must have been released between June 28 and August 28 and can be national or early state polls. They must also be conducted by a set of pre-approved organizations. A candidate cannot, however, use multiple polls covering the same geographic area conducted by the same organization to count toward this criteria.
Despite these requirements, nine candidates have already made the cut: former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Cory Booker, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.
There are at least two other candidates who are nearing meeting the criteria as well: new entry, billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer, and former HUD Secretary Julián Castro. Steyer met the fundraising threshold this week and needs to hit at least 2% in just one more poll in order to make his first debate appearance. Castro similarly needs just one more poll of 2% or higher.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has exceeded the 130,000 donor threshold and has one qualifying poll. Should she reach at least 2% in two other polls, she could also appear onstage in September. The final candidate that appears to have a shot is Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who has one qualifying poll and is nearing the donor requirement.
That leaves Gov. Jay Inslee, Marianne Williamson, Sen. Michael Bennet, Gov. Steve Bullock, Mayor Bill de Blasio, former Rep. John Delaney, Rep. Seth Moulton, Rep. Tim Ryan, and former Rep. Joe Sestak—all of whom are unlikely to make it to the next debate. Former Gov. John Hickenlooper, who dropped out of the race Thursday, also had not met the requirements to make it to the third debate.
Yet even though there may be just somewhere between nine and 13 candidates who meet the criteria for September’s debate, it’s still not over for the remaining candidates. The DNC has decided that polls counted toward the third debate—those conducted between June 28 and August 28—can also count toward the fourth debate, to be held in October. That means that all of the candidates will essentially have another month to meet the criteria, potentially deterring some of the lower performing candidates from dropping out of the race.
With more than 20 candidates still in the running and this fairly lax criteria to make it to the fourth debate, it remains to be seen how long it will take for the field to naturally winnow itself down.
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