Unlike prior years, when participation in primary debates was more strongly curtailed by both national parties, the 2020 Democratic primary debate stage will be filled with a maximum of 20 candidates. To accommodate a stage this large, the debate will be split over two nights, with ten candidates per night, selected at random from the pool of candidates meeting the debate polling and/or fundraising thresholds.
Democratic Primary Debate Qualifications
According to new rules released for the 2020 cycle by the Democratic National Committee, candidates will have two ways to qualify for a debate slot.
Option 1: The candidate must get at least 65,000 unique donors to their campaign, with at least 200 donors in 20 different states. The idea behind this is to show broad support from around the country.
Option 2: The candidate must obtain at least 1 percent in three polls recognized by the DNC as acceptable public opinion polls. The idea here is to prove that a candidate has at least minimal appeal to voters.
Tiebreaker: In case more than twenty candidates meet the qualifications, the DNC will then award debate slots in this priority order:
1) Candidates meeting both thresholds
2) Candidates with the highest polling average
3) Candidates with the highest number of unique donors
These rules will help to make sure that every candidate has fair access to the debate stage.
Who Makes The Cut?
Most of the top tier candidates have already easily qualified meeting both the polling and fundraising benchmarks set by the DNC. Here’s a breakdown of which candidates currently qualify and the method by which they qualify.
Polling And Fundraising
Joe Biden – Biden will most certainly qualify by both standards but since he has not, as a candidate, released fundraising information, we can’t say exactly how many unique donors he has, but it will be more than enough to qualify under polling and fundraising.
Bernie Sanders – Sanders is usually near the top of national and early state polls and has over 500,000 unique donors
Kamala Harris – Harris has also polled well above the minimum and has over 200,000 unique donors
Elizabeth Warren – Warren is doing well enough in polls to clinch a spot, and she has over 130,000 unique donors
Beto O’Rourke – O’Rourke has also qualified through polls without sweating too much and also has a wide donor base already of over 200,000 unique donors
Pete Buttigieg – Buttigieg emerged from being a little-known mayor to a major candidate, easily surpassing the polling threshold and also the donor threshold with over 150,000 unique donors
Andrew Yang – Yang has built a groundswell of support using organic appeal. He has the poll numbers needed and has over 80,000 unique donors giving him easy debate stage access
These candidates all surpass the needed one percent polling threshold in national polls, state polls, or a combination of both.
• Cory Booker
• Julian Castro
• Amy Klobuchar
• John Delaney
• Jay Inslee
• John Hickenlooper
• Kirsten Gillibrand
• Tim Ryan
These candidates don’t meet polling numbers, but they do have the necessary number of unique donors and fundraising requirements to gain debate participation.
• Tulsi Gabbard – Gabbard is the lone candidate meeting the fundraising requirements but not showing up in most polling data. Regardless of the lack of polling support, Gabbard has earned a spot based on fundraising.
On The Verge
These candidates are on the cusp of breaking onto the debate stage, and with just over two months to go until the end of June, many of them will make the cut:
• Eric Swalwell
• Seth Moulton
• Marianne Williamson
• Mike Gravel
• Wayne Messam
If any of the “on the verge” candidates are your favorites, don’t fret! There is still time to qualify for the first Democratic debate. In fact, there is a chance that a candidate misses the first debate, but meets the qualifications by the time the second Democratic debate rolls around in late July from Detroit.