DNC defends 'inclusive' standards with some 2020 Democrats set to miss January debate

DNC defends 'inclusive' standards with some 2020 Democrats set to miss January debate

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) is defending itself from criticism that its qualification standards for the 2020 primary debates are leaving too many candidates out of the critical events. 

With only five candidates, all of whom are white, having qualified for next week’s debate, the DNC is facing a whirlwind of accusations that its thresholds have hindered candidates of color and that a dip in the number of polls conducted at the end of 2019 could hurt those candidates' chances of making the Jan. 14 stage in Iowa.

The DNC maintains that it has been inclusive and transparent in the primary process, having publicized its increasingly stringent debate qualifications for each event in advance as it tries to winnow a still-crowded field.


“The DNC has been more than inclusive throughout this entire process with an expansive list of qualifying polls, including 19 qualifying polls thus far for the January debate, 9 [of] which are state polls,” Adrienne Watson, a DNC spokeswoman, said in a statement to The Hill.

“In addition, we have not only expanded the list [of] poll sponsors this cycle to include online polls, but we have expanded the qualifying period for the January debate to account for the holidays,” she added.

To qualify for next week’s debate, candidates must garner the support of 225,000 unique donors and reach 5 percent support in at least four DNC-approved polls or at least 7 percent support in two single-state polls focused on Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina or Nevada.

Thus far, only former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenPrivacy, civil rights groups demand transparency from Amazon on election data breaches Facebook takes down Trump campaign ads tying refugees to coronavirus Trump crowd chants 'lock her up' about Omar as president warns of refugees in Minnesota MORE, Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocrats say Biden survived brutal debate — and that's enough The Hill's Morning Report - Fight night: Trump, Biden hurl insults in nasty debate Trump, Biden clash over health care as debate begins MORE (I-Vt.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren slams Trump over Proud Boys comments Ocasio-Cortez, Warren pull out of New Yorker Festival amid labor dispute The Hill's Morning Report - Fight night: Trump, Biden hurl insults in nasty debate MORE (D-Mass.) and Amy KlobucharAmy Klobuchar3 reasons why Biden is misreading the politics of court packing Social media platforms put muscle into National Voter Registration Day Battle lines drawn on precedent in Supreme Court fight MORE (D-Minn.), and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegCindy McCain joins board of Biden's presidential transition team Billionaire who donated to Trump in 2016 donates to Biden The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - GOP closes ranks to fill SCOTUS vacancy by November MORE have qualified for the stage.

The DNC’s defense is the culmination of weeks of criticism from endangered candidates who are all but certain to miss out on next week’s debate barring a polling surge by this Friday’s qualification deadline.


Among the higher-profile candidates who are on the chopping block are businessman Tom SteyerTom SteyerTV ads favored Biden 2-1 in past month Inslee calls Biden climate plan 'perfect for the moment' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump administration finalizes plan to open up Alaska wildlife refuge to drilling | California finalizes fuel efficiency deal with five automakers, undercutting Trump | Democrats use vulnerable GOP senators to get rare win on environment MORE, entrepreneur Andrew YangAndrew YangThe shape of guaranteed income Biden's latest small business outreach is just ... awful Doctor who allegedly assaulted Evelyn Yang arrested on federal charges MORE and Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerPreventing next pandemic requires new bill's global solutions Meeting Trump Supreme Court pick a bridge too far for some Democrats Warren won't meet with Barrett, calling Trump's nomination an 'illegitimate power grab' MORE. Steyer needs two more qualifying polls, Yang needs one more and Booker has yet to register at 5 percent in a single poll.

“In an eventful campaign environment in which support shifts significantly over short periods of time, the lack of polling is poised to yield a field that is unrepresentative of voters’ current support,” Steyer’s campaign said in a statement last week announcing it had hit the donor threshold for the debate. 

The criticism of the debate qualifications has been put into even sharper relief in recent months over the departures of high-profile candidates of color from what started as one of the most diverse primary fields in modern history. 

Booker, one of two black candidates remaining in the race, has taken up the mantle of promoting diversity in the field after Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisDebate commission adding option to cut candidates' mics: report Debates panel says changes under consideration 'to ensure a more orderly discussion' The Hill's 12:30 Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - Country reacts to debate night of mudslinging MORE (D-Calif.), who is of Jamaican and Indian descent, and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, who is Hispanic, withdrew from the primary.

“The escalating thresholds over the past few months have unnecessarily and artificially narrowed what started as the strongest and most diverse Democratic field in history before voters have had a chance to be heard,” several candidates said in a memo last month to the DNC that was spearheaded by Booker. 

Some candidates have implored the DNC to consider alternative methods to qualify for the debates, including Booker’s effort to allow candidates onstage who hit either the donor or polling threshold rather than both and Yang’s request that the body sponsor its own early state polls, though neither suggestion appears to have gained sway in the DNC.

"There will be no less than 20 qualifying polls," DNC Chairman Tom PerezThomas Edward PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE said on MSNBC on Tuesday. "The moment the DNC starts doing its own polling and then you get the results, we're going to create a whole new set of trust issues because people will say, 'Oh, you rigged this.' And that's why we use independent pollsters."