Yes, despite the Trump impeachment hearings, the Democratic presidential candidate debates continue. And when qualifying for the November 20 stage in Atlanta ended at midnight last Wednesday, ten candidates made the cut: Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Tulsi Gabbard, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer, Elizabeth Warren, and Andrew Yang. The podium arrangement hasn’t been announced yet, but it’s likely going to be Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren at center stage.
The October debaters missing in Atlanta will be the two Texans: Beto O’Rourke, who dropped out of the race two weeks ago, and Julián Castro, who met the donor threshold for inclusion but did not have a single qualifying national or early state poll. Castro has said that “it will be the end of my campaign” if he failed to qualify, so there is a death watch on his candidacy. So we are back to the ten-candidate stage that we had in June and July.
As the debaters prepare for Atlanta, qualifying for the December 19 debate in Los Angeles is well underway (the cutoff date is December 12), with higher donor (200,000) and polling (four early state or national polls at 4 percent or more, or two early state polls at 6 percent or more) thresholds. Just six candidates have made that cut: Biden, Buttigieg, Harris, Klobuchar, Sanders, and Warren. Of the other November debaters, only Yang has met the donor threshold so far (though that’s never been much of an obstacle to aspiring debaters in the past); he’s two debates shy of qualifying. Steyer has his four polls, and just needs to get his donors squared away. Gabbard has one 6 percent–plus early state poll and three 4 percent–plus polls; she needs just one more qualifying poll and then the requisite donors to make the stage.
Cory Booker is in the most trouble right now: He has zero qualifying polls and hasn’t met the donor threshold either. He really needs to cook in Atlanta to lift his standing, but then again, the New Jersey senator has been among the most effective debaters all along, without getting much of a lift. He clearly needs a break, and perhaps a real stumble from someone above him on the slippery pole that ascends up to the nomination.