Democrats reveal 20 candidates to reach presidential debates

The Democratic National Committee has announced that 20 candidates have qualified for the party’s first presidential debates later this month.

Montana governor Steve Bullock and representative Seth Moulton of Massachusetts were the only major candidates out of the two dozen hopefuls who failed to meet the polling or grassroots fundraising targets needed to get a debate spot.

Steve Bullock (Charlie Neibergall/AP)
Steve Bullock (Charlie Neibergall/AP)

Two lesser-known candidates, former senator Mike Gravel of Alaska and Wayne Messam – mayor of Miramar, Florida – also missed the cut-off.

Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado and New York mayor Bill de Blasio both made the debate based on polling measures.

Michael Bennet (Charlie Neibergall/AP)
Michael Bennet (Charlie Neibergall/AP)

The campaign’s opening debates, set for June 26-27 in Miami, will offer a prime opportunity for many White House hopefuls to reshape a race defined in recent weeks by former vice president Joe Biden’s domination of national and many early state polls.

An NBC News draw will divide the large field between the first and second debate night. Party officials have promised to weight the drawing with the intention of ensuring that top tier and lagging candidates are spread roughly evenly over the two nights.

Those assignments will determine the debate strategies for many campaigns. Candidates will have to decide whether to go after front-runners such as Mr Biden, challenge others in the pack, or stand out by remaining above the fray. They must also decide how much to focus on President Donald Trump.

Joe Biden (John Bazemore/AP)
Joe Biden (John Bazemore/AP)

Some candidates have criticised the debate qualifying rules that party chairman Tom Perez set this year. The polling and fundraising thresholds will remain the same for the July debates over two nights in Detroit.

Mr Bullock’s campaign insists he has reached a party benchmark of a minimum 1% in at least three polls by approved organisations, but party officials say he is wrongly counting a Washington Post-ABC poll from February.

He said he was “certainly disappointed” by the DNC’s decision.

“But the greater point really is also that I’m the only one in the field that’s actually won in a Trump state, and we need to win back some of the places we’ve lost,” he said on MSNBC.

The polling and fundraising marks will double for the third and fourth debates in September and October. Candidates will have to meet both marks instead of one or the other. That means 2% in the approved polls and a donor list of at least 130,000 unique contributors.

John Hickenlooper (Alex Brandon/AP)
John Hickenlooper (Alex Brandon/AP)

Former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, who will appear in the first debate, questioned some of the rules during a campaign stop before the DNC announcement, but said candidates have little choice other than to meet them.

“Fighting with the DNC is a little like fighting with the weather,” he said. “You can rage against the storm, but you will not have great effect. I think the rules are the rules.”

– Full list of candidates:

Michael Bennet, senator from Colorado

Joe Biden, former vice president

Cory Booker, senator from New Jersey

Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana

Julian Castro, former housing and urban development secretary

Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York City

John Delaney, former congressman from Maryland

Tulsi Gabbard, congresswoman from Hawaii

Kirsten Gillibrand, senator from New York

Kamala Harris, senator from California

John Hickenlooper, former Colorado governor

Jay Inslee, Washington governor

Amy Klobuchar, senator from Minnesota

Beto O’Rourke, former congressman from Texas

Tim Ryan, congressman from Ohio

Bernie Sanders, senator from Vermont

Eric Swalwell, congressman from California

Elizabeth Warren, senator from Massachusetts

Marianne Williamson, author and spiritual guru

Andrew Yang, entrepreneur

- Press Association

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