This last Wednesday in August was the deadline to reach the criteria for inclusion in the third Democrat debate to be held on September 12th. Those criteria were:
- A minimum of 2% support in DNC-approved national or early primary state polls;
- Obtain a minimum of 130,000 unique donors, and;
- Obtain a minimum of 400 donors in at least 20 states.
The ten who qualified are Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Robert O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Andrew Yang. These are considered the “winners” as concerns the criteria, but the real winners are the voting public who, if even interested at all, have to endure only one night of silliness. Along the way, three candidates have officially withdrawn from the race: Eric Swalwell, John Hicklenhooper, and Kirsten Gillibrand.
Some Democrats are drooling at the fact that Biden and Warren will have to share the same stage. With both Warren and Sanders positioning themselves as the alternative to the presumptive front-runner (Biden), they are expecting a Biden-Warren brawl. But let’s not kid ourselves: with ten people on the debate stage, their time will still be limited just as if there were two debates with ten people apiece. This is actually good for Biden as it limits the expected attacks on him. The downside for Biden is that the three candidates behind him in the polls now get a direct chance to attack him in a single night.
But interested parties should be wary. Attacking Biden in the Detroit debate did very little to move the needle among Democrat voters. He still leads by double digits in many polls- nationally and statewide. Even still, a 10-person debate holds pitfalls for Joe Biden. After the first debate when Harris landed blows on Biden, even though he maintained an overall lead, there were many defections from Biden to Harris. With Warren and Sanders vying for the “viable option” to Biden, it will be interesting to see the three-way dynamics between those candidates.
There is another dynamic at work. Besides the three who dropped out, the next debate is in October and the criteria for inclusion have not changed. Thus, there are several candidates on the cusp. Tom Steyer is likely to spend millions to make the October debate. The most interesting name, however, is that of Tulsi Gabbard. Harkening back to 2016, it should be remembered that Gabbard was an open supporter of the candidacy of Bernie Sanders. This occurred amid charges of “rigging” within the DNC in favor of Hillary Clinton. The charges came not only from Trump but also from Sanders and his supporters. Gabbard was a vocal name within the DNC and protested in a snit.
This time around, Gabbard is a candidate who is the apparent target of rigging. For example, in many polls, she registers above those invited to the September debate. In two key early state instances- New Hampshire and South Carolina- Gabbard polls ahead of September invitees in surveys conducted by the largest daily newspapers in those states. That is because the DNC is using newspapers with the highest circulation in those states in 2016, not 2019.
As Gabbard correctly stated to the Washington Examiner, she has exceeded 2% on 26 national polls and several early state primary polls. However, several of them are not on the list of DNC-approved polls. In fact, many of the polls where she does get 2% have been ranked more accurate than many DNC-approved polls. Given Gabbard’s vocal complaining in 2019, we may be witnessing a repeat of 2016 where a non-preferred candidate is being excluded by the DNC in favor of others, notably Biden. Thus, since she is on the cusp, one should not expect Gabbard to drop out.
Tom Steyer is one who has gamed the system. His campaign bought 8 million voter files compiled by a group called Need to Impeach and rented others from NextGen America, two groups he formed and funds. He then embarked on a $7 million, one-month digital advertising campaign imploring people to donate $1 so he could qualify for the debate. That campaign almost paid off as he missed the cut off by a single poll.
It should be no secret that the DNC has a preferred candidate in Joe Biden. They believe he is the most electable- gaffes, memory lapses, and false stories be damned. They are singularly dedicated to one mission: the defeat of Trump in 2020 and believe Biden is the person to do just that. They realize that putting forward a stone-cold socialist like Sanders or Warren is a losing proposition despite the pressures they feel from the more radical socialists within their ranks.
Importantly, with so many candidates and an increasing likelihood we will see more than ten candidates on a debate stage(s) come October, the winnowing process can inflict damage on the Democrats come 2020. Democrat voters, especially the younger ones, have to question whether they can support an establishment preferred candidate two presidential cycles in a row. The animosity towards the DNC in slanting the field in favor of Clinton in 2016 to the detriment of Sanders still irks many of the Bernie Bros. There is a difference this time around: There are Bernie Bros and Warren Warriors who should their candidate not be the nominee against Trump in 2020 would feel slighted.
Among Democrat voters, Biden’s support is in the 33% range meaning 67% prefer another candidate. The question is what percentage of those supporters of candidates other than Biden (especially those of Sanders and Warren) are willing to bite the bullet and vote for Biden should he be the nominee? Will they protest with their feet and stay home on Election Day? Enough doing so could be enough to negate any GOTV efforts of the Democrats, particularly in key states where Sanders and Warren are as preferred as Biden.
Some have compared the impending 2020 election to 1972. This writer believes it is like 2016 all over again with the DNC slanting the rules in favor of a preferred candidate. The biggest difference, however, is that instead of one candidate being establishment-rejected, there will likely be two this time around.