DNC raises qualifying thresholds for fifth presidential debate

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) on Monday announced new criteria to qualify for the fifth presidential primary debate, raising the bar for candidates hoping to make the stage in November.

In order to qualify for the fifth debate, candidates will have to amass support from at least 165,000 unique donors, including a minimum of 600 donors per state in at least 20 states.

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They’ll also have to register at least 3 percent in four or more qualifying polls or 5 percent in two single-state polls in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina or Nevada. To count towards the debate criteria, those polls will have to be released between Sept. 13 and a week before the debate.

The DNC has steadily imposed steeper requirements to qualify for its presidential debates. The past two debates required candidates to collect contributions from 130,000 unique donors and notch at least 2 percent in four qualifying polls, doubling the criteria compared to the initial two debates.

But the new requirements unveiled on Monday aren’t as austere as some candidates had predicted. Many campaigns warned in recent weeks that the DNC would likely double the existing donor threshold, suggesting that candidates could be required to collect contributions from as many as 260,000 donors.

The new criteria are reflective of the fine line the DNC has sought to walk throughout its presidential nominating contest.

On one hand, the committee has been tasked with overseeing a historically crowded and diverse field of candidates jockeying for the Democratic nomination. But DNC officials have also sought to head off accusations that they are trying to winnow down the number of candidates before voters have a chance to weigh in. Currently, 19 candidates are running for the Democratic nomination.

Already, a handful of candidates have dropped out of the presidential race after struggling to make the debates. 

Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeBipartisan governors press Biden administration on Canadian border restrictions Overnight Energy: Haaland, Native American leaders press for Indigenous land protections | Biden to return to pre-Obama water protections | Western governors ask Biden for aid on wildfires Western governors ask Biden for aid on wildfires MORE, former Colorado Gov. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperManchin grills Haaland over Biden oil and gas moratorium It's time for US to get serious about cleaning up space junk Bipartisan group says it's still on track after setback on Senate floor MORE and Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandTreat broadband as infrastructure and we have a chance to get it right House panel looks to help military sexual assault survivors To make energy green, remove red tape MORE (D-N.Y.) ended their campaigns after it became clear that they would miss the fall debates. New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio dropped out of the race last week for the same reason.

Perhaps the most significant change in the new criteria is that candidates now have two ways of meeting the DNC’s polling requirement. They can either register 3 percent in four national or state polls, or they can hit 5 percent in at least two single-state polls from one of the early primary and caucus states.

A handful of candidates already appear to have met the new donor threshold, including former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenGOP report on COVID-19 origins homes in on lab leak theory READ: The .2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Senators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session MORE, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenCalifornia Democrats warn of low turnout in recall election Pelosi disputes Biden's power to forgive student loans Warren hits the airwaves for Newsom ahead of recall election MORE (D-Mass.), Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSenators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session Bipartisan infrastructure win shows Democrats must continue working across the aisle 'The land is us' — Tribal activist turns from Keystone XL to Line 3 MORE (I-Vt.), Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - CDC equates Delta to chickenpox in contagiousness Harris's bad polls trigger Democratic worries Why in the world are White House reporters being told to mask up again? MORE (D-Calif.) and South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegSunday shows - Delta variant, infrastructure dominate Sunday shows preview: Delta concerns prompt CDC mask update; bipartisan infrastructure bill to face challenges in Senate Chasten Buttigieg: DC 'almost unaffordable' MORE.

Only three qualifying polls have been released since Sept. 13, meaning that no candidate has met both criteria yet.

But the new requirements are likely to pose challenges for several candidates, who haven’t yet met the lower benchmarks for the fourth presidential debate in October.

In recent weeks, several candidates have pointed to the DNC’s anticipated decision to raise the qualifying thresholds as part of their fundraising pleas. Within minutes of the new criteria being announced, Sen. Cory BookerCory BookerWomen urge tech giants to innovate on office return Human rights can't be a sacrificial lamb for climate action Senate Democrats press administration on human rights abuses in Philippines MORE (D-N.J.) seized on the news in a fundraising email to supporters. 

“This new 165,000 donor threshold underscores the reason we’re being radically transparent with you,” Booker wrote. “The bar in this race has gotten higher and it will continue to. It’s not just the DNC threshold – our campaign needs to scale up to have a chance to stay in this race and compete to win the nomination.”

-- Updated at 3:47 p.m.