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Have We Seen The Last Of Eric Swalwell?

We’ve been closely following the race among the less-popular Democratic candidates to see who qualifies to make the stage for each debate, including looking at the Democratic National Committee’s tiebreaker rules. The latest: Steve Bullock has inched ahead of Eric Swalwell in the race to make the second round of presidential primary debates on July 30-31.

As we wrote last week, Bullock and Swalwell were tied for the 20th and final spot in the debate. Based on the first tiebreaker — the average of each candidate’s top three qualifying polls — the candidates were tied at 1 percent. And based on the second tiebreaker — the total number of qualifying polls in which each candidate earned at least 1 percent in support — Bullock and Swalwell each had three. But there was always a question of how one pollster’s surveys would be counted.

Suffolk University — working in partnership with USA Today — presents two sets of percentages in its survey reports, one rounded to the nearest whole number and one rounded to the nearest hundredth of a percent. For candidates struggling to reach 1 percent, knowing which set of numbers the DNC was going to count has huge implications. For instance, Suffolk’s June national poll had Bullock at 0.52 percent but, rounded up, had him at 1 percent. Now we know the DNC has decided to use the whole numbers for debate qualification.

In an email to the Democratic candidates on Tuesday evening, the DNC said that it had decided to count the rounded numbers for debate qualification. With that decision, Bullock now has four qualifying polls, putting him one ahead of Swalwell and in the debate — for now.

Other updates and clarifications

  • The DNC’s decision to count Suffolk’s rounded numbers also means that Cory Booker picked up his third qualifying poll for the third debate, in September. To meet the polling requirement for that debate, a candidate must receive at least 2 percent in four qualifying national or early-state surveys released after the first debate. Suffolk’s new Iowa survey found Booker at 2 percent when rounded, compared to 1.80 percent when not rounded.
  • The DNC also said its first tiebreaker rule — the average of each candidate’s top three qualifying polls — will not count multiple polls from the same pollster that cover the same geography. For example, if a low-polling candidate has two Iowa polls at 2 percent from the same pollster and two national surveys from different pollsters at 1 percent, the candidate’s polling average for tiebreaker purposes would include only one of those 2-percent surveys from Iowa.
  • But if there are candidates still tied after the polling-average tiebreaker, the number of qualifying polls in which each candidate earned at least 1 percent in support would not take pollster or geography into consideration. Instead, all qualifying polls are counted.

Geoffrey Skelley is an elections analyst at FiveThirtyEight.

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