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One (Last?) Candidate Qualifies For The November Debate

The clock is ticking for Democratic presidential contenders hoping to make the fifth debate on Nov. 20— just six days left to qualify — and the sixth debate on Dec. 19. And a new survey of the Iowa caucusgoers by Quinnipiac University has given two candidates the final qualifying poll they need. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard got 3 percent support in the new poll, which qualifies her for the November debate, while Sen. Amy Klobuchar earned 5 percent, putting her on the December stage. By our count, this means 10 candidates have now made the fifth debate and six have qualified for the sixth, so let’s check in to see where things stand for the other candidates.

First up, the November debate. It looks as if Gabbard might be the last candidate to qualify by the Nov. 13 deadline. Of the six other “major” candidates1 who haven’t yet qualified but are still in the race, not one has a single qualifying poll. Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro has met the donor threshold, but he’s had no such luck in the polling department, so watch out — Castro might drop out soon, as he has said it will be “the end of my campaign” if he doesn’t make the stage.

Ten candidates have now made the November debate

Democratic presidential candidates* by whether and how they have qualified for the fifth primary debate, as of Nov. 6

NO. OF QUALIFYING POLLS MET THRESHOLD FOR …
CANDIDATE ≥ 3% EARLY STATE ≥5% POLLS 165K+ DONORS QUALIFIED
Joe Biden 23 16
Bernie Sanders 23 16
Elizabeth Warren 23 16
Pete Buttigieg 22 9
Kamala Harris 22 6
Andrew Yang 12 2
Tom Steyer 11 0
Amy Klobuchar 9 2
Cory Booker 6 0
Tulsi Gabbard 4 1
Julián Castro 0 0
Michael Bennet 0 0
Steve Bullock 0 0
John Delaney 0 0
Joe Sestak 0 0
Marianne Williamson 0 0

*For candidates considered “major” by FiveThirtyEight.

To qualify for the fifth debate, a candidate must reach 3 percent support in at least four national or early-state polls or 5 percent support in at least two early-state polls from qualifying polling organizations. Candidates must also have at least 165,000 unique donors, including at least 600 donors in at least 20 states or territories. We rely on self-reported figures from the campaigns for candidates’ fundraising numbers, and we’ve assumed that candidates who have reported having at least 165,000 donors also have at least 600 donors in 20 states or territories.

Source: POLLS, CAMPAIGNS, MEDIA REPORTS

(As a reminder, making the November debate requires candidates to have four surveys of at least 3 percent support in national or early-state polls, or at least 5 percent support in two polls from the early states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.2 They also need contributions from 165,000 unique donors — including at least 600 individual donors in at least 20 states or territories.)3

So with the stage likely set for November, the December debate moves into the spotlight. The sixth debate qualifying thresholds are tougher: Candidates must earn 4 percent support in four national or early-state surveys, or 6 percent support in two early-state polls,4 as well as contributions from 200,000 unique donors (including at least 800 donors in at least 20 states or territories). Klobuchar is now the sixth candidate to hit this mark (since we last checked in, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, got his fourth qualifying poll on Oct. 29 and Sen. Kamala Harris got hers on Nov. 3).

Six candidates have now made the December debate

Democratic presidential candidates* by whether and how they have qualified for the sixth primary debate, as of Nov. 6

NO. OF QUALIFYING POLLS MET THRESHOLD FOR …
CANDIDATE ≥ 4% EARLY STATE ≥6% POLLS 200K+ DONORS QUALIFIED
Joe Biden 13 6
Bernie Sanders 13 6
Elizabeth Warren 13 6
Pete Buttigieg 12 5
Kamala Harris 6 1
Amy Klobuchar 4 0
Tulsi Gabbard 2 0
Tom Steyer 2 0
Andrew Yang 1 0
Michael Bennet 0 0
Cory Booker 0 0
Steve Bullock 0 0
Julián Castro 0 0
John Delaney 0 0
Joe Sestak 0 0
Marianne Williamson 0 0

*For candidates considered “major” by FiveThirtyEight.

To qualify for the sixth debate, a candidate must reach 4 percent support in at least four national or early-state polls or 6 percent support in at least two early-state polls from qualifying polling organizations. Candidates must also have at least 200,000 unique donors, including at least 800 donors in at least 20 states or territories. We rely on self-reported figures from the campaigns for candidates’ fundraising numbers, and we’ve assumed that candidates who have reported having at least 200,000 donors also have at least 800 donors in 20 states or territories.

Source: POLLS, CAMPAIGNS, MEDIA REPORTS

The December debate qualification period ends on Dec. 12, so the number of candidates on the stage could still grow. And of the short list, the four who’ve made the November debate but haven’t yet qualified for December are the likeliest to make it, although securing a spot in the lineup is hardly guaranteed.

Of that quartet, only tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang has cleared the donor threshold (though it seems probable that Gabbard, billionaire activist Tom Steyer and Sen. Cory Booker can also attract 200,000 unique donors by the deadline). Getting enough qualifying polls, on the other hand, will be challenging. So far, Gabbard and Steyer are closest with two surveys each, while Yang has one to his name. Booker is in real trouble, though. He hasn’t hit 4 percent in a single debate-qualifying poll since late August, so reaching that threshold in four surveys will likely be difficult. But for Booker and the others still short of qualifying for December, their showing in November could give them the boost they need — or, then again, it could be all she wrote.

Footnotes

  1. Based on FiveThirtyEight’s definition

  2. Under this scenario, polls from the same pollster in the same state count.

  3. We rely on self-reported figures from the campaigns for candidates’ fundraising numbers, and we’ve assumed that candidates who have reported having at least 165,000 donors also have at least 600 donors from each of 20 states or territories.

  4. As with the November debate, polls from the same pollster in the same state count.

Geoffrey Skelley is an elections analyst at FiveThirtyEight.

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