Steyer qualifies for Iowa debate after surprise surge in Nev., S.C. polls

Steyer qualifies for Iowa debate after surprise surge in Nev., S.C. polls
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Billionaire businessman Tom SteyerTom Fahr SteyerWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Five takeaways from the Democratic debate Sanders most searched, most tweeted about candidate during Democratic debate MORE appears to have qualified for Tuesday's Democratic presidential debate in Iowa on the strength of his surprise showing in two Fox News polls released Thursday, just a day before the qualifying deadline.

A Fox News survey of Nevada found Steyer jumping 7 points and pulling into a third place tie with Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Five takeaways from the Democratic debate Sanders most searched, most tweeted about candidate during Democratic debate MORE (D-Mass.) at 12 percent support. Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Five takeaways from the Democratic debate Sanders most searched, most tweeted about candidate during Democratic debate MORE led with 23 percent, followed by Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Five takeaways from the Democratic debate Sanders most searched, most tweeted about candidate during Democratic debate MORE (I-Vt.) at 17 percent. 

A separate Fox News poll of South Carolina found Steyer surging into second place with 15 percent support, an 11 point gain from October. Biden has a big lead over the field with 36 percent in South Carolina, according to the poll.

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These unexpected results appear to have earned Steyer a late entry into next week’s Democratic debate, as candidates have until Friday to hit 5 percent support in four national polls or 7 percent support in two early-state polls to qualify.

The Democratic National Committee counts the Fox News polls as qualifying surveys, giving Steyer two early-state polls in which he surpassed the 7 percent mark.

Steyer’s campaign announced last week that he’d reached the 225,000 unique donors threshold to qualify.

In addition to Steyer, Biden, Sanders, Warren, former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Five takeaways from the Democratic debate Sanders most searched, most tweeted about candidate during Democratic debate MORE and Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Sanders most searched, most tweeted about candidate during Democratic debate Democrats duke it out in most negative debate so far MORE have qualified for the January debate, which takes place less than three weeks before the Iowa caucuses.

Tech entrepreneur Andrew YangAndrew YangThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders steamrolls to South Carolina primary, Super Tuesday Yang calls on someone to 'pull an Andrew Yang' and bow out of 2020 race Yang criticizes caucus voting method, says they don't encourage high voter turnout MORE, who raised an astonishing $16.5 million in the fourth quarter, is at risk of missing the benchmark for the debate stage. He did not reach the polling numbers in either of the Fox News surveys released Thursday or the Monmouth University survey of New Hampshire. He has only one qualifying poll under his belt with the deadline looming.

Steyer’s late qualification is a stunning turn of events for the billionaire, who has sunk tens of millions of dollars of his own money into a campaign that had, until now, failed to produce any meaningful upward movement in the polls.

According to the latest data from Advertising Analytics, Steyer has spent $67 million on the airwaves so far, more than the rest of the Democratic field combined, with the exception of former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael Rubens BloombergWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Sanders most searched, most tweeted about candidate during Democratic debate Democrats duke it out in most negative debate so far MORE, a fellow billionaire who has spent more than $140 million of his own money on campaign ads.