Democrats again ups stakes for 7th candidate debate
Columbia, S.C. — The Democratic National Committee is again upping its polling and fundraising requirements for presidential hopefuls to qualify for participating in the campaign’s seventh debate in January, the first in a series of four held in the earliest-voting states.
On Friday, party officials announced that qualifiers will need to meet one of two polling requirements to make the stage at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa: either receiving 5% in at least four national or early-state surveys approved by the party, or receiving 7% in two early-state polls.
In terms of fundraising, candidates must receive donations from at least 225,000 unique donors, with a minimum of 1,000 unique donors per state in at least 20 states. That’s up from 200,000 unique overall donors, and 800 in 20 states for the December debate in Los Angeles.
The steadily stiffening requirements from debate to debate have been heavily scrutinized by candidates and party activists, as DNC Chairman Tom Perez has juggled the tasks of keeping a historically large field from being too unwieldy for voters while keeping his promise that everyone running would have a fair shot to make a case on the national stage.
Perez has defended the moves, saying that campaigns have had plenty of notice and that candidates who couldn’t meet the qualifications weren’t building the support necessary to defeat President Donald Trump next year. Party leaders have championed the transparency of their process, saying campaigns had no objections when they were told nearly a year ago about the stair-stepping qualifications.
Ahead of Thursday night’s debate, nine candidates wrote to party leaders urging them to consider changing qualifications for subsequent debates, arguing that the thresholds had made the competing field less diverse.
The field of seven candidates – former Vice President Joe Biden, Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, as well as South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, businessman Andrew Yang and billionaire Tom Steyer – was the smallest and least diverse of the 2020 cycle, which at times has sprawled onto two stages on back-to-back nights.
The confab was without New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who failed to qualify but has expressed confidence he will return to the stage for a subsequent debate. California Sen. Kamala Harris, on stage at all previous debates, ended her campaign earlier this month.
The qualification deadline for polls, donations and fundraising is Jan. 10.
CNN and The Des Moines Register are co-hosting the debate at Drake University on Jan. 14, about three weeks before Democrats make their first primary preferences known in the state’s caucuses. The next debate is scheduled for Feb. 7 in Manchester, New Hampshire. Democrats will debate in Las Vegas on Feb. 19, and they’ll meet for a debate in Charleston, South Carolina, on Feb. 25.
The Iowa caucuses formally usher in the Democratic contest in more than 40 days.