The Democratic National Committee is facing criticism from candidates who are unlikely to make the cut for the first two debates as part of the party’s 2020 presidential primary process and some likely to fall by the wayside before this fall’s debates.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a recent entrant into the race, did not meet the DNC’s standards. His campaign is not pleased that he is now unable to participate in the first two debates, Fox News reported.
“Governor Bullock got in the race late because he was doing something only a handful of people in the field seem to spend any time doing — governing,” Matt McKenna, a Democratic strategist advising Bullock, said.
“Because he decided to do his job, 100,000 Montanans have health care. If he had to make that decision again, to expand Medicaid or make sure he bent to the DNC’s obscure rules, he wouldn’t do anything differently,” McKenna said.
Even among those who made the cut for the first debates, there is a concern that the DNC is unfairly reducing the field.
“I don’t think the DNC should be winnowing the field early in the process,” Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado said.
The first set of debates take place in Miami on the nights of Wednesday, June 26, and Thursday, June 27. The subsequent debates are scheduled for July.
For those debates, the DNC format calls for 10 candidates per night for a total of 20 candidates who get to participate. That’s an issue for a field that has swelled beyond that number.
To address that, the DNC put in place two thresholds: candidates had to reach 1 percent support in three separate polls recognized by the DNC, or have 65,000 campaign donors, with at least 200 donors in at least 20 states. Candidates hitting both marks were guaranteed a spot.
Fourteen Democrats have surpassed both thresholds: former Vice President Joe Biden, Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, along with South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. Entrepreneur Andrew Yang and best-selling spiritual author Marianne Williamson have also been assured spots.
Six others have hit the polling criterion — Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, Rep. Eric Swalwell of California, former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The debates scheduled for September and October will be harder to crack. Candidates must have 130,000 unique donors, be able to show 400 unique donors in at least 20 states and be above 2 percent in four polls the DNC approves.
Ryan has objected, saying, “to start winnowing the field this early in the process I think isn’t the best way to go about doing it, because you need a chance for the American people to see you.”
Delaney was also miffed.
“The DNC is playing a gate-keeping function, and they’re creating a filter to determine which candidates can make their arguments to the American people,” he said.
DNC Chairman Tom Perez said the DNC is raising the bar in a normal way, according to CBS.
“If you can’t run an effective grassroots campaign in the year 2020, in today’s era, you’re not going to be able to win the presidency. And what our dual threshold has done is to give additional opportunity to the candidates,” he said.
“What we wanted to do was make sure that we had multiple opportunities where they could present their vision to the American people. And then, as it happens in every primary cycle, you’ve got to demonstrate progress, and that’s what September is about,” he said.
Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, one of the Democrats left out in the cold, was slightly philosophical about his plight.
“No, I’m not going to make the first debate, but I knew that, getting in so late. But I think that’s OK. This first debate’s going to have 20 people. Folks are barely going to get a chance to speak,” he said, noting that the nomination is “not going to be decided by the Democratic National Committee in their debates. It’s going to get decided by the American people.”
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