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Seven Candidates Have Now Qualified For The November Democratic Debate

We’re a week away from the fourth Democratic primary debate on Oct. 15, and the stage is now set with 12 candidates. But our eyes are already turned toward the fifth debate, where things are starting to get a little crowded with seven candidates now qualified. Over the weekend, both Sen. Cory Booker and billionaire activist Tom Steyer earned the last qualifying poll they needed for November’s event, with Steyer making the cut despite having not even appeared in a single debate yet!

When we checked in last week, only the five polling front-runners had made the fifth debate. But since then, a Winthrop University survey released on Oct. 1 gave Booker his third qualifying poll (Steyer already had three), and then a Fox News poll released on Sunday gave both Steyer (4 percent support) and Booker (3 percent support) their fourth qualifying poll. Booker’s inclusion is certainly good news for his chances, as he’s often languished behind the front-runners in the polls. As for Steyer, his prodigious ad spending in the early states, along with the groundwork he laid with his pro-impeachment organization Need to Impeach, seems to have really paid dividends. All of Steyer’s qualifying surveys have come from an early state — either South Carolina or Nevada — whereas the other six qualifiers each have at least one national qualifying poll to their name.

To review, the Democratic National Committee’s qualifying criteria require candidates to have four surveys of at least 3 percent in national or early-state polls or to get at least 5 percent support in two polls from the early states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina (under this scenario, polls from the same pollster in the same state count). Candidates also need contributions from 165,000 unique donors (including at least 600 individual donors in at least 20 states).1

Seven candidates have now made the November debate

Democratic presidential candidates* by whether and how they have qualified for the fifth primary debate, as of Oct. 7

NO. OF Qualifying polls MET THRESHOLD FOR …
Candidate ≥ 3% EARLY STATE ≥5% Polls Donors Qualified
Joe Biden 11 7
Bernie Sanders 11 7
Elizabeth Warren 11 7
Kamala Harris 11 3
Pete Buttigieg 10 2
Cory Booker 4 0
Tom Steyer 4 0
Andrew Yang 3 0
Amy Klobuchar 1 0
Beto O’Rourke 1 0
Julián Castro 0 0
Tulsi Gabbard 0 0
Michael Bennet 0 0
Steve Bullock 0 0
John Delaney 0 0
Tim Ryan 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 in at least four national or early-state polls or 5 percent 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.


As for the remaining 11 candidates that FiveThirtyEight considers “major” who haven’t yet qualified, only five have met the donor threshold. And of those five, tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang is the closest to qualifying — he needs just one more poll to make it. Meanwhile, Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke each need three more qualifying surveys, which leaves them with quite a bit of work to do. Neither former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro nor Rep. Tulsi Gabbard have a single qualifying poll to speak of, so they might be in serious danger of missing the debate.

The other six candidates are all in even more trouble and, as I wrote last week, belong in a tier of candidates who have little to no chance of qualifying, as they haven’t met the donor requirement or earned one qualifying poll. Of course, the date for the November debate hasn’t yet been announced, so the qualification deadline remains up in the air. That could help out some candidates on the edge. But at this point, it’s still hard to imagine that more than 10 candidates will make the stage.


  1. 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.

Geoffrey Skelley is a senior elections analyst at FiveThirtyEight.