DNC Sets Criteria For December Debate
The stage for the sixth Democratic debate in December is likely to be much smaller.
The Democratic National Committee has announced the criteria for the fifth debate of the election cycle, and it is clear these new criteria will make it difficult for anyone beyond the top five candidates to qualify for the debate stage going forward:
The halfway mark of the Democratic debate calendar is coming up, and the sixth debate will likely feature the smallest stage yet.
New thresholds announced by the Democratic National Committee for the sixth debate — which will be hosted by POLITICO and PBS on Dec. 19 in Los Angeles — represent only a modest step up from the criteria for the next debate in November. But they could still seriously endanger the participation of all but the top five candidates.
To make the December debate, candidates must hit 4 percent support in at least four DNC-approved polls of primary voters nationally or in early-voting states (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada or South Carolina) — or, instead, they can qualify by hitting 6 percent in two approved early-state polls. Candidates must also bring in donations from 200,000 unique donors, with a minimum of 800 donors in 20 states, territories or the District of Columbia.
The DNC has continuously stepped up the requirements to participate in successive debates throughout the year. The new thresholds will put pressure on Democratic candidates outside a top five — Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg and Kamala Harris — who have routinely polled above 4 percent in approved surveys so far.
Based on this chart from Politico, it appears as if former Vice-President Biden, Senator Warren, and Senator Sanders have all qualified for the December debate by meeting both the polling and the donor support criteria. The two other members of the top five — Senator Kamala Harris and Mayor Pete Buttigieg — have both met the donor criteria but have yet to meet the polling criteria. Given their position in polling at the state and national level, though, it’s likely that they’ll be able to qualify well before the December 12th cutoff date. Two other candidates, Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang, have met the donor criteria as well but are far behind on the polling criteria. Beyond this, though, it seems unlikely that any other candidates will qualify, including past debate participants such as Beto O’Rourke, Cory Booker, Andrew Yang, and Amy Klobuchar will be able to meet the criteria. If that is the case, then the debate stage will be at its smallest yet with just five participants, which seems like an ideal place to be just two months before voting began. (Source)
Before we get to the December debate, of course, this is the fifth debate, which will be held on November 20th in Georgia and broadcast on NBC. To qualify for that debate, candidates must get 3% or more in four national polls approved by the DNC or get 5% or more in two polls in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, or South Carolina. Additionally, candidates must have 160,000 unique donors with at least 600 unique donors coming from 20 different states or the District of Columbia. So far, nine candidates have qualified for this debate, with the most recent being Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. Three other candidates — Beto O’Rourke, Tulsi Gabbard, and Julian Castro — have met the donor criteria but not the polling criteria. (Source) This could mean that as few as nine candidates will be on the stage next month.
Dropping the number of debate participants to as few as five seems to me to be entirely appropriate given the fact that we’re getting closer to the time when voting will start. Debates in the past have given virtually all of the candidates the chance to make their case to a national audience at least once, and if they’re unable to get above 4% in a poll it seems clear that they are not going to be the nominee. Absent something surprising, it seems clear now that the Democratic nominee is going to be one of five people, former Vice-President Biden, Senator Warren, Senator Sanders, Senator Harris, or Mayor Buttigieg. Perhaps someone else, such as Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar will surprise us in Iowa, but beyond that the stage has literally been set. It’s time for the dance to begin.