On Friday, the Democratic National Committee announced new qualification criteria for the Nevada Democratic presidential primary debate, scheduled for Feb. 19.
The most likely beneficiary from the new guidelines is billionaire former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, which is leading other Democratic presidential candidates to question the party’s motives behind the changes.
According to a Jan. 17 DNC news release, in order for primary candidates to qualify for the Feb. 7 New Hampshire primary debate, they were required to either meet the “delegate threshold” — by having been “allocated at least one pledged delegate to the Democratic National Convention … from the state of Iowa” — or the “alternate threshold,” which included both a “polling requirement” and a “grassroots fundraising requirement.”
“To meet the Grassroots Fundraising Threshold,” the news release said, candidates must have received donations from “at least 1) 225,000 unique donors; and (2) a minimum of 1,000 unique donors per state in at least 20 U.S. states, U.S. territories, or the District of Columbia.”
For candidates like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and entrepreneur Andrew Yang, whose extensive grassroots efforts have been a big part of their campaigns, this qualification was important.
Bloomberg, however, has built up his campaign through his own wealth — a fact that he claims gives him the freedom to “act independently … without having to do what donors expect,” according to a statement from his campaign manager, Kevin Sheekey.
So far, Bloomberg has not appeared on the debate stage — due to the fact that he is not taking campaign donations — but the updated qualification criteria for the Nevada debate will likely change that.
On Friday, the DNC announced the criteria for candidates to appear at the Feb. 19 Nevada primary debate.
Not only was the polling requirement raised, as candidates now must have received at least 10 percent support in four state or national polls, but the grassroots fundraising requirement was removed.
“We are thrilled that voters could soon have the chance to see Mike Bloomberg on the debate stage, hear his vision for the country, and see why he is the strongest candidate to defeat Donald Trump and bring our country together,” Sheekey said in a statement to NPR.
According to Yang’s press secretary, SY Lee, it’s a “mistake” for the party “to change the rules for debates in the middle of this race to yield to a billionaire.”
It’s a mistake for @TheDemocrats to change the rules for debates in the middle of this race to yield to a billionaire. We need to respect the grassroots movement leading this party forward. https://t.co/JekLi6eo3I
— SY Lee? (@szeyian) January 31, 2020
“We need to respect the grassroots movement leading this party forward,” he added.
Sanders’ campaign, which has been famously been vocal of the Democratic Party’s alleged biases, initially claimed the new guidelines prove the system is “rigged.”
“To now change the rules in the middle of the game to accommodate Mike Bloomberg, who is trying to buy his way into the Democratic nomination, is wrong,” Sanders senior adviser Jeff Weaver said in a statement to NPR.
“That’s the definition of a rigged system.”
On Monday, however, following President Donald Trump’s accusations that the DNC is once again working against Sanders, Weaver denied that the primary process was rigged.
“It is not currently rigged,” Weaver told MSNBC.
“Last time it was rigged.”
But Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who’s also running for the Democratic presidential nomination, said Bloomberg should be given the opportunity to debate on stage.
“I think that instead of just putting your money out there, he’s actually gotta be on the stage and be able to go back and forth so that voters can evaluate him in that way,” she said on MSNBC.
CORRECTION, Feb. 7, 2020: When originally published, the title of this article incorrectly stated Bloomberg was likely the biggest “benefactor” of the debate rule changes. The title has been updated to reflect that Bloomberg was likely the biggest “beneficiary” of the DNC’s changes. We apologize to our readers for the error and for any confusion we may have caused.
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