Democratic Presidential Field Will Look A Lot Smaller By September

The Democratic presidential field is going to look a lot smaller by the fall.

The Democratic National Committee, in announcing debates on Sept. 12 (and Sept. 13 for overflow, if necessary) with ABC News and Univision, released new rules for getting on the stage for those debates.

The new qualification standards will require candidates to double their poll numbers and grassroots fundraising support from what’s required for the debates through the summer.

A notable change: Candidates can qualify for the June and July debates by meeting only one of two standards — measured by polling or grassroots fundraising. The new rules for September and October require them to meet both benchmarks.

Here are the new rules:


  • 2% in four separate national or early state polls, up from 1% in three polls for the summer debates

Grassroots fundraising:

  • 130,000 unique donors, up from 65,000
  • 400 unique donors across at least 20 states, up from 200

So what does that all mean in practice? Currently there are almost two dozen major Democratic presidential candidates, and 18 of them have qualified for the first debates in Miami June 26-27 so far.

But the new standards would severely cut down on the crop. Just nine candidates have reached the 2% polling threshold in at least one of six recent approved national or state polls — former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, California Sen. Kamala Harris, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and former Obama administration Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro.

Castro only reached 2% in one national Fox News poll, so he technically wouldn’t be allowed on the stage. And the group would likely be winnowed further when the fundraising threshold is counted.

For context, and for those playing at home, the DNC-approved polls have to be associated with or conducted by the following: the Associated Press, ABC News, CBS News, CNN, The Des Moines Register, Fox News, Monmouth University, NBC News, The New York Times, NPR, Quinnipiac, the University of New Hampshire, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Washington Post and Winthrop University.

Per the DNC: “Any candidate’s four qualifying polls must be conducted by different organizations, or if by the same organization, must be in different geographical areas.”

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