Democrats’ Debate Qualification Rules Too Easy to Game
Rich candidates are buying artificial donors to stay in the contest.
There are too many people who have no business running for President doing so in the Democratic field, to the detriment of candidates who have a legitimate chance of facing off against President Trump. The party should be working aggressively to narrow the debates to viable candidates while simultaneously pushing others to run for winnable Senate seats. Instead, they’re rewarding billionaires and forcing others to spend their resources chasing artificial supporters.
Democratic presidential hopeful Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) slammed the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) debate qualification rules on Tuesday after billionaire Tom Steyer reached the donor threshold for the party’s fall primary debates.
“The DNC donor requirement may have been added with the right intentions, but there’s no doubt that it’s created a situation in which billionaires can buy their way onto the debate stage, and campaigns are forced to spend millions on digital ads chasing one dollar donors — not talking directly to voters,” Bullock said in a statement. His presidential campaign has made a tentpole issue out of working to get big money out of politics.
“We’re kidding ourselves if we’re calling a $10 million purchase of 130,000 donors a demonstration of grassroots support,” he continued.
Steyer’s campaign announced on Tuesday that he had reached the required number of donors needed to qualify for the third and fourth Democratic primary debates.
Candidates must bring in at least 130,000 donors and register at least 2 percent in four surveys from DNC-approved pollsters.
While Steyer only launched his campaign over a month ago, he has acquired donor support through aggressive ad spending on Facebook, Google and cable news.—The Hill, “Bullock knocks DNC rules after Steyer reaches donor threshold for fall debates“
I certainly don’t feel sorry for Bullock, who’s part of the problem here. He’s a complete unknown outside of Montana and should be running to defeat Republican Steve Gaines to help his party retake that body. Still, he’s right: the notion that Steyer deserves to be on the debate stage more than him because he can buy “supporters” is absurd. (They’re both at 0.5% in the RealClearPolitics average.)
Meanwhile, not only did viewer interest in the debates decline markedly between the first and second round but, as Jennifer Rubin has pointed out, they’ve neither allowed any of the less-known candidates to break through nor shaken up the relative standing of the pre-debate frontrunners.
Granting that polling this far out is more a measure of name recognition than support, it’s nonetheless a much better proxy for viability than the ability to persuade people to donate $1 to a campaign. And, since it’s much, much easier to buy donors than popular support, it virtually requires no-name candidates interesting in continuing their vanity campaign to spend their advertising budgets on social media platforms to gin up “support.”
The voting in Iowa and New Hampshire will be over in six months. Candidates who aren’t a 5% in the polls by now simply aren’t viable. I would use a trusted index rather than random individual polls. Using 5% in the RCP average as the threshold we’d be left with five candidates: Joe Biden (30.8%), Elizabeth Warren (18%), Bernie Sanders (16.8%), Kamala Harris (8.3%), and Pete Buttigieg (6.3%). The next candidate, Beto O’Rourke, is way down at 2%—a massive drop-off.
Two rounds with the fifteen dwarfs is more than enough. Get it down to candidates who have even a remote chance to win the nomination, have substantive discussions that allow all of them to speak in more than sound bytes, and winnow the field to one.