Let The Winnowing Begin

As many as twelve candidates for the Democratic nomination may not qualify for the next debate. They should use that as an opportunity to get out of a race they clearly aren't going to win.

As I noted earlier today, Washington Governor Jay Inslee is the latest candidate to drop out of the race for the Democratic Presidential nomination. The main reason for his decision to do so at this point, apparently, was the fact that he was unlikely to qualify for the third debate, set to be broadcast in mid-September by ABC News. Those criteria include placing at 2% or higher in four separate polls at the state or national level and getting donations from 130,000 individual donors regardless of the amount of the donation.

As The New York Times reports, as of now, it’s quite possible that as few as ten candidates will meet those criteria:

The third round of Democratic debates is on the cusp of stretching from one night to two.

ABC News, which is hosting the debate in Houston, announced Wednesday that if 10 or fewer candidates qualify, it would be held on a single night, Sept. 12. But if that number ticks up to 11, the debate will take place on Sept. 12 and 13 — mimicking the format of the first two sets of debates, which featured 20 candidates split evenly over two evenings.

With one week left before the deadline to qualify for the third debate, 10 candidates for president have met the thresholds set by the Democratic National Committee, according to an analysis of polling and fund-raising data by The New York Times.

And an 11th candidate may not be far off: Tom Steyer, the former hedge fund investor turned impeachment activist, needs only one more qualifying poll to make the cut; Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii is two polls short; and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York would need 20,000 more donors and three more polls.

To qualify for a spot on the stage in Houston, candidates must have procured donations from at least 130,000 individual donors and earned 2 percent support in at least four qualifying polls.

Then ten candidates that have qualified so far include all five of the top five candidates — former Vice President Biden, Senators Warren, Sanders, and Harris, and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg — the qualifiers include Senators Booker and Klobuchar, former Congressman Beto O’Rourke, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, and former Obama Administration Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro. Sitting on the cusp of qualification are billionaire Tom Steyer, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. Steyer has reached the donation criteria but needs to place above 2% in one more poll. Gabbard has also met the donation criteria but needs to meet the cutoff in at least two more polls. Gillibrand, meanwhile, needs to qualify in three more polls and needs another 20,000 donors. The cutoff for qualification is next Wednesday, August 28th.

If none of the four candidates on the cusp qualify for the debate, then the debate will be limited to one night and will include all of the qualifying candidates. However, if more than ten candidates qualify then the debate will be split up into two nights as we’ve seen before. Although I would personally suggest that if there’s only one more candidate who qualifies then it would make more sense to have one debate with eleven participants than two nights of debate.

Whatever the result, though, this means that there are at least eight candidates who will not qualify at all. This includes candidates such as Congressmen John Delaney and Tim Ryan, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio, Marianne Williamson, who has stood out as the gadfly of the first two debates, Colorado Senator Michael Bennet, Montana Governor Steve Bullock, Congressman Seth Moulton, and former Pennsylvania Congressman Joe Sestak. These candidates are unlikely to qualify for any future debates and ought to consider ending their campaigns at this point.

FILED UNDER: 2020 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Teve says:

    Everybody’s wondering where Inslee’s supporter is going to go.

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Please oh please oh please…

    How is Andrew Yang still in this conversation?

  3. Kathy says:


    How is Andrew Yang still in this conversation?

    One thousand bucks per month would be my guess.

  4. Jay L Gischer says:

    I saw an ad of Williamson’s on YouTube in the last couple days. She’s adorable, and I’d like to amplify her message. But nope, she’s not going to be president.

  5. Tyrell says:

    I saw this video of a speech by NYC Mayor Big Bill DeBlasio. His voice has really changed – very high pitched now. Strange. They say it is higher than his poll numbers.

  6. Anonne says:

    Gabbard has met the threshold in a number of polls, and some well clear of the 2% margin. But those polls are not being counted, because, reasons. a.k.a., DNC f**kery.

  7. Neil Hudelson says:


    At least here in the upper midwest, Yang seems to be taking the role Bernie had in 2016 with a lot of nontraditional voters. Programmers who get hard when they hear “disruption.” People who often say “why vote? They are all the same,” or “why don’t they just…” Bass players living in their parents’ garages.

    You know, morons.

  8. Neil Hudelson says:


    I believe the DNC defined what polls would and would not count at the beginning of this process, no? Are you saying they are excluding polls they earlier said they would include? I have to admit I do not pay attention to Williamson’s campaign whatsoever, so I’m just asking for clarification.

  9. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Tyrell: I haven’t heard him but voices raise in pitch as people lose their hearing sometimes.

  10. Jen says:

    @Neil Hudelson: My hunch is the criticism about Gabbard’s eligibility (not Williamson) runs parallel to this post at RCP.

  11. An Interested Party says:

    @Jen: Nothing like a little concern trolling and ratfucking to start the day…