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 GabbardDemocrat Kai Kahele wins Hawaii primary to replace Tulsi Gabbard Financial firms facing serious hacking threat in COVID-19 era Gabbard drops defamation lawsuit against Clinton 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 BidenTrump denies White House asked about adding him to Mount Rushmore HuffPost reporter: Biden's VP shortlist doesn't suggest progressive economic policies Jill Biden says she plans to continue teaching if she becomes first lady MORE, Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenHuffPost reporter: Biden's VP shortlist doesn't suggest progressive economic policies Hillary Clinton labels Trump coronavirus executive actions a 'stunt' Michelle Obama, Sanders, Kasich to be featured on first night of Democratic convention: report MORE (D-Mass.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersTrump is fighting the wrong war Michelle Obama, Sanders, Kasich to be featured on first night of Democratic convention: report The Memo: Trump team pounces on Biden gaffes MORE (I-Vt.), and, most recently, billionaire Tom SteyerTom SteyerSteyer endorses reparations bill, commits to working with Jackson Lee Progressive group launches M pro-Biden ad buy targeting young voters The Hill's Campaign Report: Jacksonville mandates face coverings as GOP convention approaches 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 CarlsonTucker Carlson calls Fauci a 'fraud' after tense hearing Tucker Carlson calls Obama 'one of the sleaziest and most dishonest figures' in US political history Don't count out Duckworth in Biden VP race 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 BullockRepublicans uncomfortably playing defense 300 green groups say Senate has 'moral duty' to reject Trump's public lands nominee Lincoln Project targets Senate races in Alaska, Maine, Montana with M ad buy MORE, Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetExpanding our health force can save lives and create jobs simultaneously How Congress is preventing a Medicare bankruptcy during COVID-19 Tom Cotton rips NY Times for Chinese scientist op-ed criticizing US coronavirus response MORE (Colo.), or New York City Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Key 48 hours loom as negotiators push for relief deal Overnight Health Care: Fauci says family has faced threats | Moderna to charge to a dose for its vaccine | NYC adding checkpoints to enforce quarantine New York City adding 'key entry point' checkpoints to enforce quarantine MORE are seen as facing longer odds to join the stage next month.