Are the Democratic debate standards unfair? | The Tylt
During the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, the Democratic party was roundly criticized for myriad policies which seemed to favor Hillary Clinton over other candidates, including Bernie Sanders. In an effort to avoid such accusations during this election, the DNC instituted new rules about qualifications for debates. For the third and fourth debates, candidates have to achieve 2% support in at least four polls and 130,000 unique donors across 20 states and at least 400 in each state. Some candidates now say these standards are too high. What do you think?
Are the Democratic debate standards unfair?
Twenty Democrats made the first debates in the summer of 2019. However, only half that number managed to meet the new standards necessary to take the stage in September. Several candidates, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, dropped out of the race after not qualifying for the debate. Per NPR, many of the candidates who did not qualify for the September debate have complained that the rules are unfair.
Former Montana Gov. Steve Bullock has been outspoken about the rules, too. He said they have turned the primary into "The Hunger Games"; contended that they are hurting governors, like himself and Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington state, who dropped out; and benefiting people with money like Tom Steyer, a billionaire venture capitalist.
Steyer did not qualify for the September debate, but he is close to qualifying for the October one. He spent $12 million on ads, which helped raise his name identification and gather the 130,000 donors needed. He just needs one more poll to show him at 2% to qualify for the next debate.
"We're kidding ourselves if we're calling a $10 million purchase of 130,000 donors a demonstration of grassroots support," Bullock said in a statement. "It's not serving the candidates, and it sure isn't helping the voters who will actually decide this election."
Not every candidate sees missing this round of debates as a death sentence for their campaign. Per the New York Times:
While a handful of candidates have already quit, unwilling to suffer the indignity of trudging on without making the debates, Mr. Biden’s penchant for self-inflicted errors has prompted most of those polling in single digits to believe his hold on the lead is tenuous and that they should stay in the race. And for the more centrist candidates, their calculation is that the half of the primary electorate that calls itself moderate or conservative will not turn to Mr. Sanders or Ms. Warren if and when Mr. Biden fades.
These twin wagers have meant an unusually large number of underdogs are forging ahead against the odds, ensuring that the historically large Democratic field remains unwieldy and that the lagging candidates must go to new lengths to get attention.
There are worries the DNC is once again excluding candidates and making decisions for the electorate.
FiveThirtyEight did a study showing that even if the DNS used different polls to make their determination, the results would be similar. Therefore, candidates cannot complain that they are favored or not by different polls.
OK, so first up: Who would have made the stage in our most generous scenario where all polls are counted? Well, maybe not as many candidates as you’d expect given the parameters. Gabbard and Steyer would make the stage with nine and seven polls, respectively. And author and motivational speaker Marianne Williamson comes a little closer to making it with two qualifying polls. (She also has met the donor requirement.) But this still leaves out seven candidates that FiveThirtyEight considers “major” as well as the candidates who have dropped out since the second debate.
So, OK — what about the scenario in which we limit our scope to pollsters with at least a B- grade, according to our pollster ratings? It makes sense that the DNC would want to limit at least some of the pollsters included. So we chose pollsters that are still high quality, but our list of pollsters ends up being a little more expansive than the list of DNC-approved pollsters. And under this scenario, the same 12 candidates would make the stage as in the “all polls” scenario, but it’s a much closer cutoff — Steyer would have ended up with exactly four qualifying polls and Gabbard five — just one fewer than former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro.