Democrats Drop Donor Threshold For Nevada Debate, Opening Door To Bloomberg
(CNN) — The Democratic National Committee announced Friday that there will be no donor threshold for its upcoming Nevada debate, opening the door for former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to qualify for his first contest.
In order to qualify for the February 19 debate, a candidate either needs: 10% in four qualifying national, Nevada or South Carolina polls; or 12% in two qualifying polls from Nevada or South Carolina.
A candidate is also able to qualify if they receive a single delegate from either the Iowa caucuses or the New Hampshire primary.
The donor threshold, which previously required candidates to receives donations from a certain number of people, have been dropped. The DNC has not returned a request for comment on why the rule has been removed.
Bloomberg, despite rising poll numbers, has failed to qualify for any debate since getting into the race in November because the multi-billionaire is self-funding his presidential campaign and therefore not taking donations.
Bloomberg has yet to qualify for the Nevada debate, but his omnipresence on cable and local television airwaves has helped boost his national poll numbers in recent weeks. A NBC/Wall Street Journal nationwide poll released on Friday found, however, that the former New York Mayor had 9% support, just one percentage point off from the threshold.
A Quinnipiac University poll from this month also found Bloomberg at 8%, in the same pack as Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Bloomberg is skipping the first four nominating contests, so it is unlikely that he will receive a delegate from either Iowa or New Hampshire.
Sanders’ campaign swiftly slammed the changes.
“To now change the rules in the middle of the game to accommodate Mike Bloomberg, who is trying to buy his way into the Democratic nomination, is wrong,” said Jeff Weaver, a senior adviser to Sanders. “That’s the definition of a rigged system where the rich can buy their way in.”
Businessman Andrew Yang’s campaign also criticized the DNC.
“It’s a mistake for @TheDemocrats to change the rules for debates in the middle of this race to yield to a billionaire. We need to respect the grassroots movement leading this party forward,” SY Lee, Yang’s national press secretary, tweeted.
The former New York mayor has spent hundreds of millions on television, digital and radio ads, worrying some opponents who believe he is being unchallenged because he hasn’t been on the debate stage.
“I think that instead of just putting your money out there, he’s actually got to be on the stage and be able to go back and forth so that voters can evaluate him,” Klobuchar said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which has endorsed Warren in the Democratic primary, has asked the Democratic National Committee to change its debate criteria to ensure Bloomberg’s inclusion.
Dan Kanninen, Bloomberg’s states director, told CNN this week that the mayor is confident he would be able to “handle himself in the debate.”
“Mike Bloomberg is a pretty tough guy himself,” Kanninen said, “and someone who has been mayor of New York … for three terms and knows how to handle himself in the debate.”
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