Yesterday, the Democratic National Committee announced its qualification threshold for the November presidential debates in what will almost certainly lead to a shrinking number of candidates on the debate stage.
As with prior debates, there is both a polling and donation threshold candidates must meet to make the stage in November.
On polling, candidates must reach 3% in at least four qualifying polls, either nationally or in the first four voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada. Alternatively, candidates can qualify by reaching 5% in two state-specific polls in those four states.
While that may seem like a steeper hill to climb, it could give candidates like Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker, who are firmly on the bubble for the next debate, a chance to qualify. It could also likewise propel Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who was shut out of the September debate but has since qualified for the October debate, onto the stage.
That still may not be enough for some candidates, who will also have to reach the donor threshold of 165,000 unique donors.
So who will qualify?
It’s still early to say who will qualify in the fifth debate. The qualification period for polls began on September 13th and extends until a week before the debate. But there are a few candidates who are only one poll away from qualifying and have already met the donor benchmark. They are former Vice President Joe Biden, Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
The candidates on the bubble include Booker, who has two qualifying polls but hasn’t reached 165,000 donors. His campaign recently circulated a memo saying they needed a big end-of-quarter fundraising number to stay in the race, so he’ll likely be working hard to get those donors over the next week.
Also on the bubble are Klobuchar, former congressman Beto O’Rourke and businessman Andrew Yang, who each have one qualifying poll and have already hit their donor goal. Candidates who have met the donor threshold but haven’t received a qualifying poll yet include Julian Castro, billionaire Tom Steyer (who will be in the October debate) and Gabbard.
Of the candidates on the bubble, the one currently best positioned to make the stage is O’Rourke. He’s risen to 3 or 4% in the four most recent polls included in the Real Clear Politics polling average, and in five of the last six. If that trend continues, he should have no trouble qualifying for the November debate.
Julian Castro has ground to make up if he wants to make the stage. Despite strong debate performances, his national polling has stagnated.
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