With just four weeks to go until the second set of Democratic presidential primary debates, a handful of lower-tier candidates are in danger of missing them. A single percentage point of support in one poll could be the difference between getting invited to Detroit and being left off the debate stage.
A New York Times analysis of donor and polling data shows that as of Wednesday, seven candidates seeking the Democratic nomination are actively fighting for six slots in the upcoming debate, which again will be split over two nights, July 30 and 31.
So far, 14 candidates have qualified both by getting campaign donations from 65,000 people and by garnering at least 1 percent support in at least three qualifying polls. These candidates, listed below, are guaranteed one of 20 spots on the stage.
Seven additional candidates, six of whom took part in last week’s debates, have qualified only by one of two metrics — meeting the polling threshold — meaning they are on the bubble and the Democratic National Committee’s tiebreakers will come into play.
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At the moment, former Representative John Delaney of Maryland, former Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado and Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio appear to have an advantage over the other four. Each of them has at some point earned 2 percent support in a qualifying poll, which raises their polling averages. (For the purposes of the tiebreaker, the D.N.C. will average each candidate’s best three polls.)
That leaves Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York and Representative Eric Swalwell of California in a virtual deadlock. Mr. Bullock is the only candidate in this group who did not debate last week. All four men appear to have the exact same polling average: 1 percent.
The D.N.C. anticipated that this might happen, and officials said that in the event of a tie, they would rank the candidates based on “the total number of polls in which each candidate received 1 percent or more support.” By our count, Mr. de Blasio has eight such polls, Mr. Bennet has five, Mr. Bullock has four and Mr. Swalwell has three.
That’s why the results of polls released in the next couple of weeks will be so important to those candidates. Each will be hoping to increase his polling average, add another 1 percent result to his tally, or both.
Three more candidates — Mayor Wayne Messam of Miramar, Fla.; Representative Seth Moulton of Massachusetts; and former Representative Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania — do not appear to have qualified for the debate via donors or polling. Though there is still time for that to change, those candidates will face an uphill battle for a spot on the stage, even if they manage to qualify.
Mr. Moulton is in particularly bad shape: He has been in the race for more than two months but has not reached 1 percent in a single qualifying poll, according to the Times analysis. Aside from Mr. Sestak, who announced his campaign less than two weeks ago, Mr. Moulton is the only candidate in the 24-person field with this dubious distinction.
The 14 candidates who have locked in a spot on the July debate stage by qualifying through both donors and polling, in alphabetical order, are: former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.; Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey; Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind.; the former housing secretary Julián Castro; Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii; Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York; Senator Kamala Harris of California; Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington; Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas; Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont; Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts; the self-help author Marianne Williamson; and the former tech executive Andrew Yang.
Who could get cut from the third debate?
An even larger group of candidates is expected to be left off the stage for the third debate in September. The D.N.C. raised the qualification thresholds for it significantly.
Candidates will need to have at least 130,000 donors and earn 2 percent support in at least four qualifying polls. And this time they will have to meet both standards to make the cut.
We surveyed the campaigns last month, and while most did not provide data on unique donors, a few did. Based on that information and what has been publicly released by the campaigns, we know that seven candidates have already met the donor requirement.
Five of those seven — Mr. Biden, Mr. Buttigieg, Ms. Harris, Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren — have routinely eclipsed 2 percent support in the polls and will presumably meet the polling requirement with ease. They are all but certain to earn a spot on the stage in September. A sixth, Mr. O’Rourke, also has a track record of achieving 2 percent or higher in the polls, but a pair of post-debate surveys this week had him at 1 percent.
Mr. Yang’s campaign announced Monday that he had also exceeded 130,000 donors, making him the seventh candidate to do so. But Mr. Yang’s support in the polls has wobbled between 0 and 2 percent, and it is not clear whether he will achieve 2 percent four times in a two-month window.
The D.N.C. has said that only polls publicly released between June 28 and Aug. 28 can be used to help candidates qualify for the September debate. That means all the candidates have started counting again from zero.
Candidates like Mr. Booker and Ms. Klobuchar often poll at 2 percent and above and may very well reach the polling threshold. But they could struggle to get to 130,000 unique donors.
For just about everyone else, both the polling and donor thresholds present a significant challenge. Just this week, Politico reported that Mr. Hickenlooper had only 13,000 donors.
So, it would not be at all surprising if the September debate ends up featuring 10 candidates or fewer.
“The new 130,000-donor debate threshold is designed to cut candidates like me from the running,” Mr. Castro wrote in an email to supporters days after the new debate qualification criteria were released. “But let me make one thing perfectly clear: I have never accepted defeat without a fight — and I have no intention of starting now.”