No Marianne Williamson? No reason to watch, then.
To qualify for this one a candidate needed to poll two percent or better in four national or early-state polls plus receive donations from at least 130,000 different people, including 400 each from 20 different states. If more than 10 candidates cleared that bar, ABC was planning to split the debate again into two nights. Which, under the circumstances, might have been a good thing: As tired as everyone is of multi-night debates, there’s a difference between two groups of 10 that are larded up with clown candidates like Bill de Blasio and two groups of five or six stocked with people who have a more realistic chance at the nomination. Imagine a group of five that included both Biden and Warren, giving them an extended opportunity to go at each other with little interruption.
But no, only 10 made it. There was one minor surprise among those who did and two minor surprises among those who didn’t. The de facto finalists for the nomination:
The minor surprise is Yang, whose passionate online following pushed him past officeholders like Michael Bennet, Steve Bullock, Tulsi Gabbard, and de Blasio. At 2.5 percent, he’s actually sixth among all Dems in RCP’s poll of polls right now, slightly ahead of O’Rourke, Booker, Castro, and Klobuchar. It’s hard to imagine him having a “breakout moment” in an exchange with some other candidate, but maybe he doesn’t need one. Just the fact that he’ll have more time to speak on a less crowded stage might help him build on his polling.
The two surprise misses are Tulsi Gabbard and billionaire Tom Steyer, each of whom cleared the bar on donations and had multiple polls of two percent or better — but not quite four of them. (Gabbard had two, Steyer three.) Gabbard must feel cheated since she’s actually outpolling some of the candidates who qualified for the debate in the RCP average: She’s at 1.4 percent, slightly ahead of Castro and Klobuchar, although it’s only one pollster, YouGov, that consistently has her at two percent or better. Steyer, meanwhile, has been pouring money into early states in order to raise his profile there. He’s already touched three percent in Iowa and four percent in New Hampshire. Which means we’re likely to see him at the fourth debate in October: For whatever weird reason, the DNC made the requirements for that one the same as for this one. So if Steyer can get one more poll at two percent or better in the next few weeks, he’s in that debate. And of course, so is everyone who already managed to qualify for the third debate.
“But AP,” you say, “why the hell would Democrats want the debate field to *expand* after raising the bar for qualifying for later debates? The whole point here is to narrow the field, right?” Uh, right. I don’t know why they didn’t require better polling and more donations for the fourth debate. Presumably they wanted to give late entrants a chance to make a splash and land a spot onstage. Imagine how excited Nancy Pelosi must be to see Steyer, one of the loudest impeachment advocates in the country, on the cusp of buying his way onto the stage next month and turning up the pressure on House Dems.
That also explains why some of the no-shotters might not quit the race immediately after failing to qualify for debate three. Gabbard certainly won’t; she has a chance of qualifying for the fourth with two more hopeful polls this month. Williamson, who had one poll of two percent or better, may hang around too because why not? As for Bennet, Bullock, John Delaney, Tim Ryan, and (grumble) de Blasio, they might as well bail out now. With no platform at the third debate, what’s their springboard to a polling surge?
Anyway, congrats to Kamala Harris on not having to face Gabbard a second time. I’m not sure her campaign could have survived it. As for Gabbard possibly running as a far-left independent and sabotaging the Democratic nominee if she flames out of the primary — a scenario some lefties, suspicious of her right-wing fan base, have pondered — she told CNN this morning there’s no way. But then, she *would* say that when she’s still trying to earn Democratic votes, wouldn’t she? Exit question: It’s the fourth debate, not the third one, that’s shaping up to be lively, right? That’s the one where all the longshots like Beto, Booker, Castro, and Klobuchar will have to do something dramatic in hopes of building enough support in polls to qualify for debate five.
Tulsi Gabbard says she won't run as an independent if she doesn’t secure the Democratic nomination: “I've ruled that out. I'm going to continue to focus on moving our campaign forward, continuing this grassroots campaign, continuing to deliver our message to the American people” pic.twitter.com/8E0HZ9PKni
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) August 29, 2019