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DNC Releases New Requirements To Qualify For November Primary Debate

To qualify for the November debates, candidates must now garner at least 3 percent support in four polls and show 165,000 unique donors with at least 600 in 20 different states.


The Democratic National Committee unveiled new thresholds Monday for candidates to participate in the fifth round of primary debates slated for November.

To qualify, candidates must garner at least 3 percent support in four polls pre-approved by the DNC, up from 2 percent required for the debates in September and October. Candidates must also show 165,000 unique donors with at least 600 in 20 different states, 35,000 higher than the 130,000 previously required for the third and fourth debates.

While the new thresholds are similar to previous requirements, the DNC has created a new path to the November debate stage where candidates can qualify if reaching at least 5 percent support in two pre-approved polls conducted in any of the early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, or Nevada.

The heightened thresholds come as the candidates enter the next phase of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary with the first votes to be cast just more than four months away. Nineteen major candidates are still seeking the Democratic nomination in a race that is currently narrowing to former vice president Joe Biden and Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Yet subsequent debates have the potential to launch lesser-known candidates with significant support into top-tier contenders with stand-out performances, as happened during the summer when Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) saw her support double in the polls following an attack on Biden’s record on race, including the former Delaware senator’s opposition to busing, a tactic used to integrate schools.

Candidate have until seven days before the November debate, the date of which has not been determined yet, to meet the DNC’s new thresholds. Candidates can only use polls conducted after Sept. 13 and before the deadline to count towards their qualification.

The new requirements are unlikely to significantly narrow the number of candidates on stage, as Biden, Warren, Sanders, Harris, and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg are all likely to meet the polling threshold as soon as this week. Other candidates however, risk exclusion from the primetime event if they fail to reach the level of support needed in enough polls to qualify.

Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), former U.S. representative Beto O’Rourke (D-TX.), and tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang have each received 3 percent in at least three polls approved by the party.

Former secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro and billionaire Tom Steyer, who will be on stage for the fourth debate in Ohio next month, have yet to receive 3 percent in any pre-approved polls, while U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) is one poll away from qualifying for the debate in October but has still not received 3 percent support in any DNC-approved polls for November.