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Seven Candidates Have Qualified For The December Democratic Debate

The crowded Democratic presidential candidate field has defined much of the 2020 election cycle, including the size of the primary debates, with the October debate featuring a historic 12 candidates on a single stage. In fact, up to this point, no debate has had fewer than 10 participants. But that looks likely to change today as it’s the last day candidates can qualify for the Dec. 19 debate, and at this point, only seven candidates have qualified.

It’s possible another poll could drop today — any poll released before midnight by a qualifying pollster counts — that gives Rep. Tulsi Gabbard the last poll she needs to qualify (although she has said she won’t participate). But it seems likely that tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang will be the last candidate to have made the cut, having just earned his last qualifying poll on Tuesday.

Seven candidates have made the December debate

Democratic presidential candidates* by whether and how they have qualified for the sixth primary debate, as of Dec. 12

Joe Biden 22 15
Bernie Sanders 22 15
Elizabeth Warren 22 15
Pete Buttigieg 21 14
Amy Klobuchar 8 1
Tom Steyer 4 0
Andrew Yang 4 0
Tulsi Gabbard 3 1
Cory Booker 0 0
Julián Castro 0 0
Michael Bloomberg 2 0
Michael Bennet 0 0
John Delaney 0 0
Deval Patrick 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. Information released by campaigns is used to determine whether a candidate has hit the donor threshold. If a campaign announced it had reached 200,000 donors but did not say whether it had at least 800 donors in 20 states or territories, we assumed that it had met the latter requirement as well.


Remember, to qualify candidates must earn 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.1 Candidates must also meet the fundraising requirements of 200,000 unique donors (including at least 800 donors in at least 20 states or territories).2

Excluding Yang and billionaire activist Tom Steyer, who qualified last Tuesday after reaching the donor threshold (he got his fourth poll on Nov. 18), the other five candidates all qualified with time to spare. (Former Vice President Joe Biden, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren all qualified on Oct. 24 after the release of the first four qualifying December debate polls, followed by South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg on Oct. 29 and Sen. Amy Klobuchar on Nov. 6.)

But, of course, the debate stage would have been more crowded had Sen. Kamala Harris not dropped out as she’d already qualified for the debate on Nov. 3. In the wake of her exit, Sen. Cory Booker and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro have criticized the debate field for being too white, but while both ended up meeting the donor threshold, neither has received a single qualifying poll. As things stand, Yang will likely be the only nonwhite debater on next week’s stage.

We’ll have to wait and see whether any of the campaigns that missed out decide that they can’t keep going without the debate limelight. The DNC’s qualification rules have played a part in winnowing during this cycle, and they may affect things once again. Either way, the December debate looks to be a much cozier affair.


  1. For the 6 percent threshold, polls from the same pollster in the same state count.

  2. 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 from each of 20 states or territories.

Geoffrey Skelley is a senior elections analyst at FiveThirtyEight.