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Who Has — And Hasn’t — Qualified For The November Democratic Debate

After the fourth Democratic primary debate in October included a record-setting 12 candidates on stage, it looks like the fifth debate in November will max out at 10 (so the tougher thresholds didn’t make a huge difference, it seems). Today is the deadline to qualify for the November debate, and while another qualifying poll could drop, it’s nearly impossible that anyone else will make the stage, as none of the remaining candidates have a single qualifying poll to their name.

That means Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is once again the last candidate to qualify, earning her fourth qualifying poll last Wednesday (she picked up a fifth qualifying survey on Monday, too). And while former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro met the donor requirement a while ago, he hasn’t earned a single qualifying poll, so if what he said previously about missing the debate spelling the end of his campaign is true, we might be saying farewell to Castro soon. Below are the 10 candidates who will be on the Atlanta stage come Nov. 20:

The November debate is set with 10 candidates

Democratic presidential candidates* by whether and how they have qualified for the fifth primary debate, as of Nov. 13

Joe Biden 25 18
Bernie Sanders 25 18
Elizabeth Warren 25 18
Pete Buttigieg 24 11
Kamala Harris 23 6
Andrew Yang 14 2
Tom Steyer 13 0
Amy Klobuchar 11 3
Cory Booker 6 0
Tulsi Gabbard 5 2
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.


As a reminder, to make the debate, candidates needed at least 3 percent support in four 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.1 They also need contributions from 165,000 unique donors (including at least 600 individual donors in at least 20 states or territories.)2

Most of the qualifying candidates had little trouble in meeting these requirements, as seven of the 10 contenders had qualified by the first week of October. From there, tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang qualified on Oct. 8, Sen. Amy Klobuchar qualified on Oct. 24, and Gabbard qualified on Nov. 6.

With those 10 candidates making the stage, that leaves six active candidates whom FiveThirtyEight considers “major” on the outside looking in, and among those, only Castro is anywhere near qualification. I say “active” because the candidate field might once again expand as both former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick are considering making late entrances into the presidential race. So far, though, they haven’t officially said they’re running, and neither picked up a qualifying poll for the November debate, although a Nov. 12 Monmouth University poll did include Bloomberg.

And a Morning Consult/Politico poll released on Nov. 10 found Bloomberg at 4 percent nationally. So if Bloomberg were to reach that mark — or exceed it — in four Democratic National Committee-approved polls by Dec. 12, he would meet the polling requirement for the sixth debate on Dec. 19 in Los Angeles. (There’s also the possibility he could qualify via the second polling pathway if he hit at least 6 percent in two polls from any of the four early states.)3 That said, he would still need to quickly attract 200,000 unique donors (including at least 800 donors in at least 20 states or territories), which could be challenging as a billionaire who’d mostly self-fund his campaign, although billionaire activist Tom Steyer seemed to have little problem ramping up his donor base quickly.

The days of a crowded debate stage might be finally drawing to a close, though, even as Bloomberg and Patrick consider a run. Only six candidates have qualified for the December debate so far, and the higher qualifying thresholds for polls (4 percent in any qualifying poll or 6 percent in two early-state polls) may mean some candidates who’ve made most — or all — of the previous debates are now be in danger of missing the next one. Then again, a strong debate performance next Wednesday night could always tip the balance in favor of someone who has yet to qualify.


  1. Under this scenario, polls can count even if they are from the same pollster in the same state, which is not the case for the four-poll path.

  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 165,000 donors also have at least 600 donors from each of 20 states or territories.

  3. Polls from the same pollster in the same state count for candidates using the 6 percent-threshold.

Geoffrey Skelley is a senior elections analyst at FiveThirtyEight.