Half of the Democratic presidential field is unlikely to make the next primary debate as deadline day arrived Wednesday with only 10 contenders having qualified thus far.
Two new polls out Wednesday morning failed to boost any additional candidates to the debate stage and the clock is ticking toward the end-of-the-day deadline to make the cut.
If only 10 candidates ultimately qualify, that would guarantee a debate match-up yet unseen in the Democratic primary process: front runners Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren going head to head.
Half the Democratic field – including several candidates who were on stage at the July debate in Detroit – are in danger of not making September’s
If only 10 candidates qualify for the third debate, that would guarantee a match-up yet unseen: Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren going head to head
Indeed, a one-night debate would have all the top tier candidates on stage together: Biden, Warren, Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris in addition to Pete Buttigieg, Cory Booker, Julian Castro, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, and Andrew Yang.
The contenders left out in the cold, however, are already complaining about the stricter benchmarks needed to make September’s stage – 130,000 donors plus 2 per cent in four pre-determined polls.
A few candidates were close: Tulsi Gabbard hit the 2 per cent mark in two polls and her campaign said she hit the donor thresh hold.
Businessman Tom Steyer – who has yet to participate in a debate – was one poll away from qualifying and has met the donor mark.
But neither of them hit the 2 per cent mark in two polls that came out Wednesday morning – Quinnipiac, where Gabbard got 1 per cent and Steyer received a statistically zero number, and Suffolk/USA Today, where both received 1 per cent.
Marianne Williamson has hit the donor mark but only had 2 per cent in one poll.
Her campaign complained about the process the Democratic National Committee used to determine who made the stage.
The DNC – before the first primary debate back in June – outlined the methodology polls needed to use in order to be counted in the qualifications.
There were 17 polls that made the cut.
Candidates who made September Debate
Williamson’s campaign complained that not all 17 approved outlets conducted polls during the qualification period for the third debate, which hurt her chances.
‘If the DNC had followed the process they announced in February and kept to the promised 17 qualifying polls, the lineup of the upcoming third debate might be very different,’ Williamson communications director Patricia Ewing said in a statement.
Williamson told ABC News on Tuesday that not being in the debate won’t slow down her campaign.
‘This love train is on a roll,’ she said.
Gabbard’s campaign also complained about the lack of qualifying polls for the third debate.
‘Notably, there have been only four qualifying polls released after the second Democratic primary debate compared with fourteen qualifying polls released in the month after the first Democratic primary debate,’ her campaign said in a statement last week.
Several contenders in the first two debates were not close to making the September stage: Michael Bennet, Steve Bullock, Bill de Blasio, John Delaney, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Tim Ryan.
But the staff of some of these candidates are discussing their options going forward, Politico reported, including a push to let contenders appear in unsanctioned debates or other events, which the DNC has banned as a condition for inclusion in the party-approved debates.
The candidates vowed to keep campaigning but are missing the opportunity for national attention – a break out moment in a debate can spark upheavals in fundraising and poll numbers.
‘I’m not going to be on the debate stage next month, but I am going to be out in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina and Nevada building the constituency for change this country needs,’ Bennet said at the Democratic National Committee summer meeting in San Francisco on Friday.
‘There is another bite at the apple in October,’ de Blasio said Thursday on MSNBC.
Marianne Williamson and Tulsi Gabbard have complained about the lack of qualifying polls conducted for the third debate
The next debate is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 12 at Texas Southern University, a historically black public university in Houston. ABC is the host network with George Stephanopoulos, David Muir, Linsey Davis and Univision Anchor Jorge Ramos moderating.
The candidates will have one minute and 15 seconds for direct response to questions from the moderators and 45 seconds to respond to follow-up questions and rebuttals.
If a second night is needed, that debate will take place on Friday, Sept. 13.
The Democratic National Committee is expected to formally announce who will debate in Houston after the qualification period closes Wednesday evening.
But there is good news for the candidates who don’t make the September stage – they could still make October’s gathering.
The DNC announced earlier this month they are giving the candidates until two weeks before the October debate to qualify – and set the start of the qualification period as June 28, which was the same start time as qualifications for the September debate.
This means that all candidates who make September’s stage are automatically in October’s debate plus it gives those contenders not making the grade for Houston extra time to make the next showdown.
It’s uncertain how much extra time as no date has been set yet for the October gathering. But it could be up to three or four weeks.