No sooner did the ink dry on yesterday’s story about which candidates have made the cut for the December Democratic debate than we now have another name to add. Billionaire investor and Democratic fundraiser Tom Steyer has officially made the cut for December having accumulated enough donors and now poll numbers to earn a spot.
The announcement comes reported from Steyer’s campaign for now, but will be formalized by the DNC and others soon:
Tom Steyer’s campaign says he has qualified for the December Democratic presidential primary debate, making the billionaire activist the seventh candidate to do so.
To qualify, candidates need to hit either 4 percent in four polls approved by the Democratic National Committee or 6 percent in two polls in early nominating states and get contributions from 200,000 donors. Steyer’s campaign announced that he crossed the 200,000 donor threshold on Tuesday; he had already achieved the requisite number of qualifying polls.
The ongoing presence of Steyer on the debate stage continues to draw criticism and controversy, especially as other well-qualified elected Democratic politicians drop out of the race. Just days ago, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and Pennysvalnnia Congressman Joe Sestak ended their respective presidential campaigns gaining no traction and having no chance at joining future debates.
The accusation from some is that Steyer “bought” his way onto the debate stage using his personal fortune to drop millions of dollars in advertising which has garnered attention for his candidacy.
One article that caught my eye came from a writer in New York Magazine was a tongue-in-cheek story about the “underdog” single-digit billionaire now stuck in a war against a much wealthier, multi-digit billionaire opponent:
Tom Steyer’s presidential campaign wasn’t born on third base. Unlike some other Democratic candidates, the humble hedge-fund manager didn’t enter the 2020 race with national name recognition, his own journalistic empire, or a multibillion-dollar personal fortune. In fact, Steyer’s wealthiest intraparty rival could afford to buy up every last thing he owns more than 30 times over.
And yet, through hard work, determination, and $63 million in television ad buys, this salt-of-the-earth, single-digit billionaire has earned his place on the Democratic debate stage in December, while Michael “Moneybags” Bloomberg has not.
The irony is that as wealthy as Steyer is, with a net worth well north of $1 billion, Mike Bloomberg is actually much wealthier and has just begun to dump some of his couch change on television ad buys:
Bloomberg, for his part, appears poised to outshine Steyer in their vote-buying contest. Last week, the megabillionaire (whose net worth is estimated at $54.6 billion, dwarfing Steyer’s piddling $1.6 billion) launched a $30 million ad blitz, the most expensive single week of campaign advertising in the history of presidential primaries.
In return, Bloomberg saw his support in national polls more than double to over 5 percent. Morning Consult’s tracking poll currently puts Bloomberg in a tie for fifth place with Kamala Harris; Steyer, meanwhile, is in a four-way tie for eighth with 2 percent support. But the former New York mayor has sworn off all campaign contributions, and is thus incapable of qualifying for any of the remaining Democratic debates, barring a change in the rules.
As the story notes, Bloomberg is not accepting donations, making him ineligible to join the debate stage under the current rules even if he does start polling ahead of some of the current candidates on stage. For now, Steyer will remain the lone billionaire representing for his posse on stage while Bloomberg must watch from the cozy privacy of his Bermuda waterfront home.
December Debate Candidates
Here’s the updated December list with Steyer now qualifying:
|Num||Candidate||Polls AND Donors||Donors Only|
As the Politico story also notes, it seems possible that we could add two more names despite my original belief that December would be a rather small affair. Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and businessman Andrew Yang have both met the donor threshold, but they lack the poll numbers.
Both candidates are just one poll away from making the cut and as more and more of the one-percenters drop out, like Bullock and Sestak, the more likely it becomes that the upper-bottom tier picks up a little more support which could easily earn them a debate stage invite.
We could be adding one or two more names by the end of the week or early next week.