vision 2020

December Democratic Debate May Winnow Some More Candidates

Perhaps there will finally be fewer podiums on the stage. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Even as campaigns begin thinking about the November 20 Democratic presidential candidates’ debate in Georgia, the Democratic National Committee is moving along to the next cookie on the plate: the sixth debate, to be held in Los Angeles (at UCLA) on December 19.

According to a press release, the debate will be cosponsored by PBS NewsHour and Politico. More importantly, the DNC is again raising the qualifying thresholds. Participants must prove they have 200,000 unique donors (up from 165,000 for the November debate), with at least 800 from 20 states. And they must register at 4 percent (up from 3 percent) in four qualifying national or early state polls, or at 6 percent (up from 5 percent) in two qualifying early state polls. Qualifying polls must be released between October 16 (the day after the last debate) and December 12.

If past experience is any indication, none of the candidates likely to meet the polling criteria will have any trouble meeting the “grassroots fundraising” criteria. But the polling threshold could represent trouble for some that made the stage in October and/or have already qualified for November. Of the nine November qualifiers, four (Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Tom Steyer, and Andrew Yang) did so with one or more 3 percent showings. The new thresholds will also make it tougher for candidates who made the stage in October but haven’t qualified for November — Julián Castro, Tulsi Gabbard, and Beto O’Rourke — to rejoin the debates.

The DNC’s original plan to hold six debates in 2019 and another six through April of 2020 suggests there will be at least one more after the Los Angeles event but before voters begin voting in Iowa, where the Caucuses will occur on February 3.

December Democratic Debate May Winnow Some More Candidates