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Ten candidates have made the cut.

Democrats aren’t letting just anyone onto their presidential debate stage anymore.

Just 10 candidates qualified for September’s third debate: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Andrew Yang, and Julián Castro.

The 11 other candidates in the field all failed to meet a polling requirement imposed by the Democratic National Committee by the end of the day Wednesday.

For the first time, this debate will feature all the qualifying candidates together on a single night: Thursday, September 12. It’s co-sponsored by and will be aired on ABC and Univision.

Candidates had to hit 2 percent in four recent polls from a specific list of organizations, and get donations from 130,000 people. By contrast, to get into the first debate, you had to hit 1 percent in three polls or get donations from 65,000 people — each threshold was lower, and you didn’t need to meet both of them.

The polling threshold proved more challenging. Tom Steyer, Tulsi Gabbard, and Marianne Williamson all met the donor requirement. But Steyer fell one poll short, Gabbard fell two polls short, and Williamson fell three polls short. The rest of the candidates met neither requirement.

The good news for those who narrowly missed out is that they’ll have another chance in October. The DNC is using the same qualification rules but extending the window to make the cut by another month or so. (So Steyer will still need just one more poll, Gabbard will need two, etc.)

How to qualify for the third Democratic debate

To make it onto the debate stage, a Democratic candidate had to meet both of these two thresholds.

1) The polling threshold: A candidate must have hit 2 percent or more in at least four polls released between June 28 and August 28.

  • These can be either national polls or early state polls (of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, or South Carolina).
  • These polls must be conducted by one of these organizations: CNN, Fox News, CBS, ABC, NBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Associated Press, NPR, the Des Moines Register, Monmouth University, Quinnipiac University, the University of New Hampshire, or Winthrop University.
  • One catch is that a candidate cannot use multiple polls by the same organization covering the same geographic area. (For example, if there are two NBC national polls showing a candidate meeting the threshold, only one of them will count).

2) The donor threshold: A candidate must have received donations from 130,000 people. Also, they must have at least 400 donors each in at least 20 different states.

The names of donors who give less than $200 don’t have to be publicly disclosed, so for the time being, we’ve had to rely on the candidates’ claims that they’ve met this donor threshold. (Eventually, they have to give corroborating information to the DNC, which will double-check.)

Who qualified for the third Democratic debate?

Just these ten candidates:

  1. Joe Biden
  2. Bernie Sanders
  3. Elizabeth Warren
  4. Kamala Harris
  5. Pete Buttigieg
  6. Beto O’Rourke
  7. Cory Booker
  8. Amy Klobuchar
  9. Andrew Yang
  10. Julián Castro

Who failed to qualify for the third Democratic debate?

Three candidates have made some progress toward qualifying but didn’t seal the deal.

  • Billionaire Tom Steyer has three of four qualifying polls and says he has met the donor threshold. So he needs just one more poll to qualify.
  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) says she has met the donor threshold and she has two of four qualifying polls. So she needs two more polls to qualify.
  • Author Marianne Williamson says she met the donor threshold, and has one qualifying poll.

Everybody else in the race faces an uphill climb to qualify, with most having zero of the necessary four polls so far. They are:

  • Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana
  • Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado
  • New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio
  • Former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland
  • Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio
  • Mayor Wayne Messam of Miramar, Florida
  • Former Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania

Several candidates — Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, former Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado, Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, and Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts — quit the race when it become clear they wouldn’t qualify.

But candidates will get another chance to qualify for the fourth debate

There’s an interesting twist about qualifying for the fourth Democratic debate in October, though: It will actually be easier.

That’s because the qualification rules are exactly the same as for the third debate — except there will be more time for campaigns to make it happen.

For the polling threshold in particular, the third debate requires polls released between June 28 and August 28 be used. But for the fourth debate, that window goes from that same starting point (June 28) up until two weeks before the October debate (which doesn’t yet have a specific announced date).

The gist, as Politico points out, is that any candidates who qualify for the third debate automatically make it into the fourth debate — and on top of that roster, the rest of the field will have another month to try to get the rest of what they need as well.

So what could oddly ensue is a significantly smaller field for September’s third debate that then gets a bit bigger for October’s fourth debate.

Author: Andrew Prokop

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