It’s going to be a lot tougher to compete for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination come September, according to Democratic National Committee guidelines released this week.
The DNC announced earlier this year that the guidelines for entering the first set of debates, set to take place over the course of two days in late June, would remain unchanged from previous cycles. But to qualify for the second series of debates, set to take place in September, the DNC is severely upping the ante.
It seems that while the DNC was willing to tolerate a field of at least two dozen candidates for a short time, they won’t be coddling competitors like Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who can barely clear 1% in national polls, forever, even if Gillibrand and others insist their Oval Office dreams aren’t dead.
The Washington Post reports that the DNC plans to double the fundraising requirement for candidates entering the second round, and will mandate a significant base of support in four specific polls, rather than a base of support calculated based on a national average.
“To appear in the party’s third debate, which will be broadcast by ABC News and Univision, candidates will have to earn 2 percent support in four party-sanctioned polls between late June and August. In addition, they will have to show they’ve attracted at least 130,000 donors since the start of the campaign, including at least 400 from 20 different states,” WaPo reports.
That’s double what most candidates need for the June debates. To qualify for the first free-for-all, presidential contenders must demonstrate either an average of 5% support in national polls or 65,000 contributions from individual donors. Most candidates — other than poor Gillibrand, New York mayor Bill de Blasio, Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA), Rep. Eric Swalwell, and a handful of complete unknowns — are almost guaranteed to make the cut.
But the DNC clearly isn’t interested in tolerating a class of 24 for very long, and obviously wants hangers-on out of the race. Only seven candidates — former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Elizbeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Texas Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) — can qualify for the September debates, unless also-ran candidates like businessman Andrew Yang and lifestyle guru Marianne Williamson pull off micracles.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) would barely miss the cut.
But while culling the herd early is probably a good move for the DNC, as it lets party brass consolidate their support and concentrate on handling fewer candidates while it maps out its 2020 election strategy, there’s no escaping that this selective reduction is coming more than a year out from the presidential election, and just under six months out of the first presidential primary. Candidates will have barely unpacked from the Iowa State Fair before they’re required to hit the bricks to double their supporter numbers.
Some candidates — especially bottom feeders — probably can’t help but consider the system unfair. What if Gillibrand suddenly becomes a household name? Or Bill de Blasio suddenly starts attracting huge crowds?
Oh, who are we kidding.