For the first time this cycle, Michael Bloomberg will participate in a Democratic presidential primary debate — and it promises to be scrappy. The former New York mayor qualified for the Nevada Democratic presidential primary debate just in the nick of time, getting the last poll he needed just before tonight’s deadline. Five other candidates will join him on the stage on Wednesday night: former Vice President Joe Biden; former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; Sen. Amy Klobuchar; Sen. Bernie Sanders; and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Six candidates have made the Nevada debate
Democratic presidential candidates by whether they’ve qualified for the Nevada debate, as of Feb. 18 at 9:30 a.m. Eastern
|QUALIFYING POLLS||MET THRESHOLD FOR …|
|CANDIDATE||National, NV, SC ≥10%||NV, SC ≥12%||POLLS||1+ IA/NH DELEGATES||QUALIFIED|
There were three ways to qualify for the debate, according to rules set by the Democratic National Committee. First, a candidate could qualify by getting 10 percent or more in four national, Nevada or South Carolina polls conducted by DNC-approved pollsters and released between Jan. 15 and 11:59 p.m. Tuesday.1 Alternatively, a candidate could qualify by getting 12 percent or more in just two Nevada or South Carolina polls from approved pollsters.2 Finally, a candidate could have also qualified simply by picking up at least one pledged delegate in Iowa or New Hampshire.
Although candidates need much more polling support to make the stage this time around, one barrier to qualification has been removed: The DNC controversially decided to scrap the requirement that a candidate must have raised money from a certain number of individual donors. This opened the door for Bloomberg, who is not accepting campaign donations, to make the stage, which he did by hitting 10 percent or more in four national surveys. The other five participants all got at least one pledged delegate (although all of them except Klobuchar also met the polling standard).
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One of the candidates on the outside looking in is philanthropist Tom Steyer. He hasn’t won any pledged delegates so far, and the polling standards were much tougher to meet this time around: Not only were the thresholds roughly twice as high as in the last debate (after months of incremental increases), but the window in which qualifying polls could be released was also only about a month long — much shorter than all of the previous debates.
However, Steyer will have another shot at qualifying for the debate stage in the near future. On Saturday, the DNC announced how candidates can qualify for the next debate, which will take place in South Carolina just six days after this week’s Nevada debate. The criteria are essentially the same as the Nevada debate, except for the obvious difference that Nevada polls won’t count but Nevada delegates will (since the debate will take place after Nevada has already voted). But the window in which qualifying polls can be released is even shorter: Feb. 4-24.
That means that, so far, only five candidates are slated to appear at the South Carolina debate — the ones who have qualified via delegates:
Five candidates have made the South Carolina debate so far
Democratic presidential candidates by whether they’ve qualified for the South Carolina debate, as of Feb. 18 at 9:30 a.m. Eastern
|QUALIFYING POLLS||MET THRESHOLD FOR …|
|CANDIDATE||National, SC ≥10%||SC ≥12%||POLLS||1+ IA/NH/NV DELEGATES||QUALIFIED|
So far, only three qualifying polls have been published during the new qualifying period, and with one week to go there isn’t much time for many more to be released. But Bloomberg has cleared the 10 percent threshold in all three, so he needs just one more good poll to earn his spot on the debate stage. Steyer has a longer path, but he could make it, especially if more qualifying South Carolina polls are released, as he’s historically posted strong numbers there. He also has a shot at nabbing a delegate out of Nevada, which would automatically qualify him.
But there is also a good chance that the two upcoming debates — especially the one in Nevada — will be limited to just six candidates. If so, they will tie the Iowa debate for the smallest 2020 debates yet.
Geoffrey Skelley contributed research.