WASHINGTON, February 2, 2020 — Current and former Democratic presidential contenders on Friday criticized the Democratic National Committee for changing debate qualification requirements in a way that favored former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg.
The new debate stage rules, first reported by Politico, eliminate the requirement that candidates achieve a minimum number of donors. That rule applied to the first eight debates of the primary season, including an upcoming debate at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Bloomberg, who along with fellow billionaire Tom Steyer has dumped millions of his own dollars into his presidential bid, has not solicited donations for his campaign and fell short of past debates’ donor thresholds.
Now, without a donor floor, polling requirements alone stand between him and the Feb. 19 debate stage in Las Vegas. The DNC’s latest rules, which have gotten tougher with time, require 10% approval in four national polls or 12% in two polls in Nevada and South Carolina — an attainable challenge for Bloomberg.
Or, in place of polling requirements, any candidate who wins at least one national convention delegate during the Iowa or New Hampshire votes will qualify, according to the new rules.
“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,” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) senior adviser Jeff Weaver told several outlets.
“That’s the definition of a rigged system.”
In a statement, DNC spokesperson Adrienne Watson defended eliminating the donor threshold, calling it “appropriate for the opening stages of the race, when candidates were building their organizations and there were no metrics available outside of polling to distinguish those making progress from those who weren’t.”
Several current and former candidates felt differently.
Sen. Corey Booker’s (D-NJ) former campaign manager, Addisu Demissie, tweeted in response to the rule change that among the most significant days on the campaign trail was when the DNC announced a 130,000 donor threshold to qualify for the next debate stage.
“Oh, do you mean the day I literally Control+A+ Deleted a plan for a whole entire early game, early state persuasion strategy and used the money to buy email addresses instead?” former Booker deputy campaign manager Jenna Lowenstein responded. “I don’t remember it. Blacked it out.”
At least one campaign endorsed the change: Bloomberg’s
“We are thrilled that voters could soon have the chance to see Mike Bloomberg on the debate stage, hear his vision for the country, and see why he is the strongest candidate to defeat Donald Trump and bring our country together,” the former New York City mayor’s campaign manager said.