NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, June 13th, 2019

We now know who will be in the first debates – but not everybody is happy about it

On Wednes­day night, the dead­line to qual­i­fy for the first Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial debate in Mia­mi arrived. Can­di­dates had until mid­night to qual­i­fy by either reach­ing one per­cent sup­port in three Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty-approved polls or secur­ing 65,000 unique donors to con­tribute to their cam­paign.

By late morn­ing on Thurs­day, twen­ty Democ­rats had qual­i­fied under these rules (four­teen have reached both the polling and donor tar­gets) set by the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee. Coin­ci­den­tal­ly, DNC Chair Tom Perez had already set a firm numer­i­cal lim­it of twen­ty can­di­dates for the first debate.

The qual­i­fy­ing twen­ty will not all par­tic­i­pate in the same debate – there are so many can­di­dates that the DNC has decid­ed to split the event over two nights (June 26th and 27th), with ten par­tic­i­pants each night. The DNC has not yet revealed which can­di­dates will appear on which night, although they have a com­plex sys­tem to ensure that high polling can­di­dates will appear on each night.

Can­di­dates who have qual­i­fied will now be brush­ing up on their debate skills and thor­ough­ly research­ing their rivals’ plat­forms to com­pare with their own.

Four Democ­rats run­ning for the pres­i­den­cy have not qual­i­fied for the first round of debates, a fact that will like­ly dev­as­tate their cam­paigns. May­or Wayne Mes­sam, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Seth Moul­ton and octo­ge­nar­i­an Mike Grav­el of Alas­ka have fall­en way short of qual­i­fy­ing, not reach­ing 1% in a sin­gle poll between them.

Mon­tana Gov­er­nor Steve Bul­lock has been infu­ri­at­ed by his exclu­sion from the debate stage. Bul­lock had been con­fi­dent in the fact that he was polling at 1% in three polls when the DNC sud­den­ly dis­qual­i­fied one of the polls (con­duct­ed by ABC News/Washington Post) on the basis that the poll did not pro­vide a full list of can­di­dates to the par­tic­i­pants. Bullock’s team spent Wednes­day denounc­ing the DNC’s posi­tion and writ­ing to Tom Perez to angri­ly com­plain about the sit­u­a­tion.

Montana Governor Steve Bullock

Mon­tana Gov­er­nor Steve Bul­lock speaks at an event in Yel­low­stone (Pho­to: YPF/Matt Ludin)

The cam­paign also released a video of one of Bullock’s con­stituents – Mon­tana res­i­dent Madi­son John­son– who claimed, “You won’t see Gov­er­nor Steve Bul­lock at the first debate, and I’m the rea­son why.”

Accord­ing to the video, while oth­er can­di­dates were focus­ing on get­ting their cam­paigns rolling, the Gov­er­nor was far too busy bat­tling state Repub­li­cans in Mon­tana over health­care. Hence, his cam­paign was at a dis­ad­van­tage.

Bullock’s cam­paign failed to explain why the numer­ous oth­er cur­rent­ly-serv­ing elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives – includ­ing a gov­er­nor, sen­a­tors, mem­bers of Con­gress and may­ors – were able to per­form their duties and set up a pres­i­den­tial cam­paign at the same time, while Bul­lock was unable to.

Even if Bullock’s argu­ments win over a lot of peo­ple, he is still faced with the prob­lem of being the twen­ty-first can­di­date to qual­i­fy, when the lim­it has already been firm­ly set at twen­ty. That fact is like­ly to mean that the DNC will find it much eas­i­er to push his com­plaints aside and focus on the already huge num­ber of can­di­dates who def­i­nite­ly did qual­i­fy.

The first round of Demo­c­ra­t­ic debates will take place on the June 26th and 27th in Mia­mi. They will be streamed online for free on NBCNews.com, MSNBC.com, the NBC News App, and Telemundo’s dig­i­tal plat­forms.

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