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DNC Raises Threshold to Qualify for November Debates to 3% Polling, 165,000 Unique Donors

Democratic Debate

The Democratic National Committee released its criteria to qualify for the November presidential debate Monday.

Candidates will now need to hit 3% in at least four qualifying national or early-state polls (Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, or Nevada) or hit 5% in at least two early state polls to qualify for the fifth debate. Candidates needed at least 2% in at least four qualifying polls to qualify for the September and October debates.

Candidates must also reach at least 165,000 unique donors and have at least 600 unique donors in at least 20 individual states.

The DNC raised its polling threshold from 1% to 2% after the first two debates, leading to a significant winnowing down. Just 10 candidates appeared in the September debate after the first two debates featured 20 candidates. The October debate will have at least 11 candidates after billionaire former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer qualified.

Who will make the fifth debate?

As things stand, former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, California Sen. Kamala Harris, and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg are all but certain to qualify for the November debate.

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker has the requisite poll numbers in two polls but has yet to reach 165,000 donors.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, and entrepreneur Andrew Yang have reached the donor threshold and have one qualifying poll.

Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, and Steyer have reached the donor threshold but have not met the polling criteria in any qualifying poll.

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, former Maryland Rep. John Delaney, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, and author Marianne Williamson have reached neither the polling nor donor thresholds.

Struggling candidates complain:

Bennet complained about the new thresholds, arguing that public support in polls should not be used to narrow down the candidates.

"As we saw in a poll just this weekend, 90 percent of voters haven't decided who they are voting for," Bennet spokesperson Shannon Beckham told Politico. "Yet the DNC is using polling to winnow the field even further, when it's voters and caucus-goers who should be determining our nominee."

Booker used the news to plead for donations.

“This new 165,000 donor threshold underscores the reason we’re being radically transparent with you,” Booker wrote in a fundraising email. “The bar in this race has gotten higher and it will continue to. It’s not just the DNC threshold – our campaign needs to scale up to have a chance to stay in this race and compete to win the nomination.”