While the second round of Democratic presidential debates this month will likely feature a cast of characters similar to the first, the third round — scheduled for Sept. 12-13 — could be a whole new ballgame.
Based on a the Democratic National Committee’s series of new criteria, many of the 20 candidates who took the stage in June may find themselves on the outside by September.
According to Politico, Democratic candidates must cross both polling and donor thresholds to qualify. It’s a sharp contrast from the first two rounds, for which presidential hopefuls needed to meet just one of the two qualifications.
In the September round, candidates will need at least 2 percent support in four qualifying polls and 130,000 individual donors.
The more stringent requirements could doom a majority of the crowded field.
As the New York Post reported, a handful of candidates passed the donor mark. Former Vice President Joe Biden; Sens. Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren; former Rep. Beto O’Rourke; South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; and entrepreneur Andrew Yang have already met or exceeded the 130,000 figure.
The polling requirement may prove an even tougher hurdle.
A July 2 Quinnipiac poll showed only six candidates polling at 2 percent or higher: Biden, Harris, Warren, Sanders, Buttigieg and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker. O’Rourke and Yang received just 1 percent each.
Another poll, published by ABC News and The Washington Post on July 3, revealed a slightly different picture. Booker garnered only 1 percent in the poll and the only new candidate to reach 2 percent was former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro.
Candidates on the periphery of the primary field have used a variety of tactics to try to gain relevance.
Most are finding little success.
California Rep. Eric Swalwell, a prominent gun control advocate, attempted to grab attention at the first debate by attacking Biden for his age, reminding the former vice president of his 1987 “pass the torch” comment. But Swalwell’s remark did little to increase his popularity among Democratic voters. It would be a surprise to see him on the debate stage in September.
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has attempted to brand herself as the “women’s candidate,” touting her #MeToo record and promising a “Family Bill of Rights.” Polling at less than 1 percent, she will likely have fallen off the debate stage by the third round.
While it’s increasingly clear that candidates such as Swalwell and Gillibrand simply don’t have the support to secure the nomination, the top tier of candidates is also beginning to crystallize. Biden, Sanders, Harris, Warren and Buttigieg have established themselves in the upper echelon, while Booker, O’Rourke, Yang and Castro try to break into it.
However, there doesn’t appear to be much hope for the rest of the candidates.
And with qualifications raised for the September debates, the Democratic field should look radically different by the end of the summer.
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