CNN will be hosting the first Democrat debate next month (… finally) but we shouldn’t expect the same sort of drama and theater that came out of the GOP contests thus far. First of all, they won’t need nearly as many podiums and you can expect each of the candidates to get a lot more time on camera because of the thinner field. But even in terms of the preparations and logistics, there will be some striking contrasts going on behind the scenes. First of all, when the GOP field was vying for a chance to do battle they had to make it through a bruising, poll driven elimination process just to get a spot on the main stage. When the Democrats meet for their first confrontation the rules for getting a seat seem to be a bit more… relaxed. In fact, for at least one potential contender you don’t even need to be a declared candidate to have the welcome mat rolled out. (WaPo)

Vice President Biden could qualify to participate in the first Democratic debate even if he did not decide to enter the race until debate day, according to participation criteria released by host organization CNN on Monday.

The news organization’s apparent message to Biden: despite the fact that he remains publicly uncommitted to launching a 2016 presidential run, it will keep a spot open for him.

The first Democratic debate, which will take place in Las Vegas, is already slated to feature former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, former Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee and former Virginia senator Jim Webb.

When CNN welcomed the GOP, all of the candidates had to not only reach a certain threshold in the polls (which Biden does) but they had to be formally declared candidates. That means having officially declared and filed the appropriate documents with the Federal Election Commission. There are other tedious steps involved. The rest of the Democrats currently slated to appear have done all of that, but in Biden’s case the rules will apparently be slackened a bit.

[Biden] would need to file a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission — or merely publicly commit to filing such a statement — before taking the stage.

Publicly commit to filing such a statement?” Would they have let Trump get away with that? As I recall that was one of the first barriers that was tossed in The Donald’s path and he had to scramble to get it done before he was allowed a spot behind the podium.

Look, I’m not saying that Biden isn’t a legitimate candidate (assuming he decides to run) or that he shouldn’t be in the debate in that case. The guy is a serious politician who has run before, has spent plenty of time in the Executive branch and wouldn’t be doing it on a lark. He’s also obviously one of the Democrats would would be taken seriously if he entered, so it’s not like we’re arguing to have Vermin Supreme on the stage.

But at the same time, it seems as if the rules are in place for a reason. No matter how obvious of a choice it would be to have Biden on the stage and regardless of how bad we may feel about the personal tragedy his family has had to deal with over the death of their son, shouldn’t everyone up there need to conform to the same rules? Joe has my sympathy and condolences over the loss of his child but if he actually does want to run for the presidency it’s time to get off the pot, get his forms filed and get into the race already. If he’s not up to the task of being a candidate then just tell us and let everyone get on with their own campaigns. And with all that said, there’s no excuse for CNN grading him on a curve.