Gabbard drives coverage in push to qualify for October debate

Gabbard drives coverage in push to qualify for October debate
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Presidential contender Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardJill Stein: 'I am not a Russian spy' Trump criticizes Clinton for suggesting Jill Stein was Russian asset Yang defends Gabbard: She 'deserves much more respect' MORE (D-Hawaii) is drumming up coverage with cable news hits and pointed social media posts as she looks to cut through a crowded primary field and earn a spot on the October debate stage.

Gabbard's campaign has said it is only one qualifying poll away from joining 11 other Democrats who have already qualified for next month's event, a list that includes former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenCNN's Anderson Cooper mocks WH press secretary over Fox News interview Yang cautions Democrats: Impeachment might not be 'successful' Ocasio-Cortez: Sanders' heart attack was a 'gut check' moment MORE, Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenTrump says his Doral resort will no longer host G-7 after backlash Ocasio-Cortez: Sanders' heart attack was a 'gut check' moment Ocasio-Cortez tweets endorsement of Sanders MORE (D-Mass.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersOcasio-Cortez: Sanders' heart attack was a 'gut check' moment Ocasio-Cortez tweets endorsement of Sanders Ocasio-Cortez throws support to Sanders at Queens rally MORE (I-Vt.), and, most recently, billionaire Tom SteyerThomas (Tom) Fahr SteyerThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden camp faces new challenges 2020 Democrats recognize Pronouns Day Third-quarter fundraising sets Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg apart MORE.


Gabbard missed out on being onstage at the debate last week.

The four-term congresswoman, a member of the Hawaii National Guard who served in Iraq, has grabbed media attention this week after accusing President Trump in a tweet of trying to “pimp out” the U.S. military after the president suggested he's waiting to hear from Saudi Arabia before deciding whether to take military action against Iran.

“My fellow service members and I, we are not your prostitutes and you are not our pimp,” Gabbard told Trump in a video she shared on Twitter Tuesday. 

That post came after Gabbard said in another tweet on Monday that “Having our country act as Saudi Arabia's bitch is not 'America First,’ ” a dig at the president’s 2016 campaign slogan.

Both tweets come after drones attacked part of Saudi Arabia's oil supply over the weekend, which the Trump administration is blaming on Iran.

Gabbard’s Tuesday video was liked 28,000 times, as of the afternoon. Her Monday tweet was liked more than 58,000 thousand times

She’s also appeared in cable news and other media outlets, including doubling down on her attack on Trump and Saudi Arabia in an interview with Hill.TV

The ramped-up media appearances come as Democratic candidates face a looming deadline of Oct. 1 to qualify for next month's debate, which is set to take place on Oct. 15 and is hosted by CNN and The New York Times. If more candidates qualify, another debate night will be added. 

Gabbard has already met one of the criteria: she has accumulated at least 130,000 individual donors.

Her campaign has said she has garnered three of the four polls with at least 2 percent support needed to meet the second and final criteria for the debate. However, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) will have the last decision on whether the surveys meet their qualifying criteria.

Strategist Brad Bannon said Gabbard’s attempts to break through will likely land her a spot onstage next month. 

“She’s been doing a lot of media hits, and you know it may do the trick,” he said. 

Bannon said the primary race is fluid and reaching the 2 percent threshold in polls is ultimately mainly about name recognition. 

“If you look at the polls, hardly any … Democratic primary voter knows who Tulsi Gabbard is. So if they see her three or four times on TV or on social media, that might very well be enough,” he said.

Like other candidates seeking to make the stage, Gabbard is also spending on digital ads.

Her campaign spent $25,845 on political ads on Facebook in the last seven days, according to Facebook’s ad archive. That is less than other candidates in value, but it makes up almost 20 percent of the ad buys Gabbard has placed on Facebook since May 2018. 

Most of Gabbard’s ads reference her military service, with at least one centered on her serving in the Iraq War after the 9/11 attack.

Her military service could give her a boost by separating herself from the pack, Bannon said. 

“My guess is she’ll probably get that 2 percent in the poll because she’s working at it,” he added. 

“She’s hanging by the thread if she makes the debate,” Bannon added. “If she doesn’t make the debate, she doesn’t exist anymore.” 

A spokesperson for Gabbard’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment. 

The push to qualify for the October debate comes after she criticized the DNC's qualifying criteria when she failed to make the stage this month.

In an interview with conservative Fox News host Tucker CarlsonTucker CarlsonNBC-Universal rejects outside investigation of Matt Lauer Megyn Kelly appearance on Fox News draws more than 4 million viewers The Hill's 12:30 Report: Hunter Biden speaks out amid Ukraine controversy MORE last month, she blasted the DNC over what she said was an unfair process, claiming she reached the 2 percent threshold in multiple polls not approved by the committee. 

The DNC has defended its process. 

Gabbard announced last week that a Washington Post/ABC news poll had her at 2 percent, giving her a third qualifying poll before next month’s debate. 

A DNC spokesperson was not immediately available to confirm if Gabbard’s assessment is correct. The DNC told FiveThirtyEight it is looking at a different set of respondents and the poll will not count for Gabbard. 

Making the debate stage could give momentum to her campaign. A handful of candidates such as Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockSuper PAC seeks to spend more than million supporting Yang The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden camp faces new challenges Private flight spending soars in Democratic presidential race MORE, Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetSenate Democrats want Warren to talk costs on 'Medicare for All' The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden camp faces new challenges Bennet reintroduces bill to ban lawmakers from becoming lobbyists MORE (Colo.), or New York City Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioNew York City lawmakers vote to close Rikers Island jail by 2026 2020 Presidential Candidates Cooperate, or else: New York threatens fines to force people to help block immigration enforcement MORE are seen as facing longer odds to join the stage next month.