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.

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“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 BidenPresidents and 'presidents' Biden to blast Trump's church photo op in Philadelphia speech Rudy Giuliani calls on Cuomo to remove Bill de Blasio MORE, Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersFive things to watch in Tuesday's primaries Nina Turner responds to Cornel West's remarks about George Floyd COVID-19 pandemic will shrink economy by trillion in next decade: CBO MORE (I-Vt.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenGeorge Floyd's death ramps up the pressure on Biden for a black VP Judd Gregg: Biden — a path to the presidency, or not Vogue's Anna Wintour urges Biden to pick woman of color for VP MORE (D-Mass.) and Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharBottom line Judd Gregg: Biden — a path to the presidency, or not Vogue's Anna Wintour urges Biden to pick woman of color for VP MORE (D-Minn.), and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegBiden hopes to pick VP by Aug. 1 It's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process Here's how Biden can win over the minority vote and the Rust Belt 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.

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Among the higher-profile candidates who are on the chopping block are businessman Tom SteyerTom SteyerBloomberg wages war on COVID-19, but will he abandon his war on coal? Overnight Energy: 600K clean energy jobs lost during pandemic, report finds | Democrats target diseases spread by wildlife | Energy Dept. to buy 1M barrels of oil Ocasio-Cortez, Schiff team up to boost youth voter turnout MORE, entrepreneur Andrew YangAndrew YangAndrew Yang discusses his universal basic income pilot program Andrew Yang on the George Floyd protests in Minneapolis McConnell challenger on how Yang endorsement could help him MORE and Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerSchumer calls on McConnell to schedule vote on law enforcement reform bill before July 4 This week: Senate reconvenes as protests roil nation amid pandemic City leaders, Democratic lawmakers urge Trump to tamp down rhetoric as protests rage across US 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 Devi HarrisHarris: Trump 'just tear-gassed peaceful protesters for a photo op' Harris, Jeffries question why Manafort, Cohen released while others remain in prison George Floyd's death ramps up the pressure on Biden for a black VP 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."