Montana Gov. Steve Bullock is still on the outside looking in on the first Democratic presidential primary debate, after the deadline to qualify passed Wednesday night.
Bullock, who touts his success in a red state as a playbook for defeating President Donald Trump next year, failed to earn 1 percent in a three qualifying polls as identified by the Democratic National Committee, including a poll of likely Nevada caucus-goers released Wednesday by Monmouth University, which left him one poll short of qualifying for the debates at the end of June.
Story Continued Below
Candidates can qualify for the debates on June 26 and June 27 by receiving at least 1 percent in three polls released since the beginning of the year, or by receiving donations from 65,000 supporters, including at least 200 donors apiece in 20 states.
The DNC has said that no more than 20 candidates can participate in this first round of debates. POLITICO’s analysis of public polling and campaigns’ public statements on donors indicate that 20 candidates have met the qualifications for the debate so far, leaving no spots to spare.
Of those 20, 14 have hit both the polling and grassroots donor threshold, effectively guaranteeing them a spot on stage at the end of the month: Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Julián Castro, Tulsi Gabbard, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Jay Inslee, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang.
An additional six candidates have only crossed the polling threshold, per POLITICO’s analysis: Michael Bennet, Bill de Blasio, John Delaney, John Hickenlooper, Tim Ryan and Eric Swalwell.
The four candidates who have not qualified are Bullock, Mike Gravel, Wayne Messam and Seth Moulton.
The DNC has not commented publicly on the qualifications of any individual candidates, and candidates have not officially made the debates until the DNC says so.
But chances are increasingly slim that any of the four candidates currently on the outside will make the stage. Bullock failed to receive a final last-minute poll showing him at 1 percent support, and the other three men needed more than one more 1-percent poll result to qualify.
In the new Monmouth poll of Nevada, Biden has a comfortable lead over the rest of the field. He has 36 percent, followed by Warren at 19 percent and Sanders at 13 percent. Buttigieg has 7 percent and Harris has 6 percent. Booker, O’Rourke and Yang have 2 percent each, and no other candidates polled above 1 percent.
The Monmouth University Poll was conducted from June 6-11, surveying 370 voters who are likely to attend the Democratic presidential caucuses in February 2020. It is the first premier poll taken in the early caucus state of likely Democratic caucus-goers this year.
If a last-minute poll had emerged for Bullock, he would have become the 21st candidate to cross at least the polling threshold. The DNC had previously laid out tiebreaker rules if more than 20 candidates qualified. Candidates who “double qualified,” meeting both the polling and donation criteria, will take priority.
After that, the tiebreakers favor candidates who have met the polling threshold over candidates who have only met the donation threshold. If candidates have identical polling averages, the next step is to compare the number of polls that have shown each candidate with at least 1 percent support.
Currently, several candidates have a polling average of 1 percent — including Swalwell, Bennet, de Blasio and Delaney. If Bullock had qualified before the deadline, the tiebreakers would have gone to the number of different polls in which candidates received 1 percent. That would have forced the DNC to resolve a tie between Bullock and Swalwell, who has gotten 1 percent in three polls, the bare minimum and the fewest of any of the qualified candidates.
Bullock’s likely exclusion from the debate stage is an especially bitter pill for his campaign. Last week, the DNC told POLITICO that it wouldn’t count a pair of ABC News/Washington Post polls that included open-ended questions. The DNC’s ruling left Bullock at two qualifying polls, short of the debate stage.
His campaign criticized the DNC for the move, saying the decision to exclude those polls punished the only statewide elected official from a red state and “penalizes him for doing his job.” The DNC told POLITICO that Bullock’s team had been aware of the polls’ exclusion for months, even as the party committee did not make that decision public.
A random draw to determine which candidates are on the stage on June 26 and which will be on stage on June 27 is expected to happen on Friday.
Candidates will be broken into two groups. Those polling at or above 2 percent will be randomly divided across two nights, and those polling below that mark will also be randomly divided among the two stages. Currently, POLITICO tracks eight candidates at or above the 2 percent mark: Biden, Booker, Buttigieg, Harris, Klobuchar, O’Rourke, Sanders and Warren.
The second round of debates hosted in July use identical qualification rules, leaving Bullock, Swalwell and other low-polling candidates on the edge of the criteria the next month.
Further debates in the fall have a higher threshold to qualify: Candidates must hit 2 percent in four approved polls, and receive donations from 130,000 donors, with 400 donors in 20 states.