Bloomberg Not Worried About Missing Democratic Debates
Under the Democratic National Committee's current qualification rules, Michael Bloomberg's self-funded campaign means he wouldn't qualify for any future debate. He doesn't seem worried about that.
Yesterday on one of the cable networks, a political analyst whose name escapes me at this point made the point that Mike Bloomberg’s decision to self-fund his presidential campaign rather than relying upon or even accepting donations means that he could be excluded from future candidate debates no matter how well he’s doing in the polls. The reason for this, of course, is that the criteria that the Democratic National Committee has been using to determine debate eligibility has been a combination of polling and campaign donations. For the upcoming December debate, for example, a candidate qualifies for the debate if they meet the following criteria:
To qualify in terms of polling, candidates must reach four percent or more in four polls approved by the DNC. Alternatively, reaching six percent or more in two DNC-approved polls conducted in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, or South Carolina will also be accepted as meeting the polling threshold. To qualify in terms of donors, candidates must receive donations from 200,000 unique donors with 800 unique donors in 20 different states, territories or the District of Columbia
The criteria for future debates, including those that will take place once voting has started has not been set, but if they also include a donation criteria this could mean that Bloomberg could be excluded from future debates even if he becomes competitive in polling and actually starts performing well in debates. At least on the surface, that doesn’t seem to be a concern to Bloomberg and his advisers:
Michael Bloomberg doesn’t plan to collect donations for his presidential campaign.
That means he won’t appear in the next Democratic debate — and risks missing the half-dozen debates planned for next year.
The billionaire businessman’s long-standing policy of bankrolling his political ambitions puts him in conflict with the Democratic National Committee’s requirements for participating in presidential primary debates. The threshold for the upcoming debate — hosted by POLITICO and PBS NewsHour on Dec. 19 — is 200,000 donors, with 800 donors in 20 different states.
Bloomberg’s absence from the debate stage is no small hurdle for the former Republican. While his personal resources dwarf his rivals’ — his official campaign launch was accompanied by a massive $34 million ad buy — Bloomberg can ill afford to pass up the opportunity to lay out his rationale for running and contrast his views on a stage with his rivals.
It also sets up an unusual scenario in which Bloomberg could be spending tens of millions of dollars on his campaign through the spring without ever directly confronting the Democrats he argues cannot defeat Donald Trump.
Bloomberg has signaled that he won’t contest DNC rules governing participation — and isn’t particularly perturbed by missing the debate.
“It is up to the DNC. They can set the rules,” Bloomberg told reporters in Virginia on Monday. “If they set the rules where I qualify, I would certainly debate. If they set the rules where I don’t qualify, then I won’t.”
The decision to willingly forgo the debate stage meshes with the type of catch-lightning-in-a-bottle campaign he is trying to run. He plans to skip the four early nominating states where organizing is at a premium and jump-start his campaign on Super Tuesday on March 3, when 15 states vote.
Bloomberg’s strategy is contingent on no clear frontrunner emerging from the early states, and a solid performance across the map on Super Tuesday. At that point, other candidates could be starved for cash and his nearly unlimited resources — his estimated fortune is $54 billion — would put him in a position to compete in big and expensive states like California and Texas. The idea is to run a general election-focused bid that tries to fly above the rest of the Democratic primary.
“What I want to do is talk directly to the public, and explain what I’ve done, and what I would do,” Bloomberg said at a news conference Monday. “If you say that in a debate, OK. Although it is hard to do that. I think I’d be much better off talking to the public, just like I am doing now.”
Bloomberg also said he had not talked to the DNC about the debate thresholds.
It’s possible, of course, that Bloomberg could end up qualifying for future debates. As things stand, the DNC plans to schedule debates in 2020 stretching from January, just before voting starts in the early stages, through at least April, the point at which voters in dozens of states will have had their say in the selection of the next Democratic nominee. For these debates, the DNC could decide to drop the donations criteria, which is arbitary at best, and tie invitations into how a candidate is actually performing in the primaries. If Bloomberg’s campaign strategy works and he starts to pick up delegates to the point where he’s at least considered a contender then he could end up on the stage after all. Indeed, it would seem unlikely that the party would exclude such a candidate from the debate stage while voters are speaking out at the ballot box.
All of this points to the extent to which Bloomberg is running an entirely unconventional campaign. Whether it succeeds or not remains to be seen.