Democratic Debate Bubble Watch: Who’s In and Out

Spirituality guru, self-help author, and one-time congressional candidate, Marianne Williamson, qualified for a spot in the first series of Democratic debates on Thursday. A friend of Oprah Winfrey, Williamson’s previous experience in electoral politics was in 2014, when she finished fourth in California’s jungle primary, for the congressional seat currently occupied by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA).

A Monmouth University poll released on Thursday was the third this year to show Williamson at 1%, allowing her to meet the DNC’s polling-based criteria. Her campaign also claimed at least 65,000 unique donors, with at least 200 from 20 different states, satisfying the fundraising requirement earlier this month.

The DNC’s qualification criteria is set intentionally low for the June 26 and 27 debates. “If you can’t both get 65,000 donors AND poll at 1 percent in three polls,” opined FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver, “there’s probably something pretty wrong with you.” A maximum of 20 candidates will appear on stage, with lots drawn to determine on which night they will appear. This is to avoid the appearance of a “kids’ table” debate, as occurred during the 2016 Republicans’ race.

According to Politico, 19 candidates have met at least one requirement, with 12 meeting both. Given the size of the field, not every candidate is likely to get in. With that in mind, and the Democratic contest looking less like a pennant race and more like March Madness, here’s an early look at who’s in, out, and on the bubble, before Selection Day early next month.

LOCKS: Biden, Booker, Buttigieg, Castro, Gabbard, Harris, Klobuchar, O’Rourke, Sanders, Warren, Williamson, Yang

With the possible exception of Williamson and philanthropist Andrew Yang, these names should come as no surprise. Although we are, for all intents and purposes, in preseason, it seems very unlikely the Democratic nominee will come from outside this pool. The former Vice President has enjoyed a commanding lead in the early polls, predating his entry into the race. Sen. Sanders (I-VT) is the only other candidate to consistently poll in double digits, with Sens. Harris (D-CA) and Warren (D-MA) straddling the 10% mark. All of them are on the right side of the table in terms of polling and fundraising.

BUBBLES: Bullock, Delaney, Gillibrand, Hickenlooper, Inslee, Ryan, Swalwell

Each of these candidates have hit at least 1% in three polls approved by the DNC. They have not yet publicly announced they’ve met the donor criteria, however. It should be noted that, per FiveThirtyEight, none of them have hit 2% in three such polls. The field is capped at 20, so all of them should still get in. Candidates don’t have to meet both criteria, but of course, it would certainly help. Still, that two people who have never been elected to anything qualified before several two-term governors and one two-term senator might be cause for concern.

OUT: Bennet, de Blasio, Gravel, Messam, Moulton

None of these candidates have met either of the aforementioned criteria, and it’s not likely any of them will. Arithmetic would suggest only one of them could make it to the stage, given how many have already qualified. The final slot, per DNC rules, would go to whichever candidate could claim the highest number of unique donors, their only apparent way in. Sen. Bennet (D-CO) probably has the most to lose from being left off stage, as seemingly the only one of the quintet not running a quixotic campaign, or losing a poll among his own staff.

The field should be announced a couple of weeks before the debates, so stay tuned!

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Robert Martin (CN Staff)

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