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The DNC adjusted its debate qualification requirements, opening the door for Bloomberg to qualify for the first time. Bloomberg hasn’t yet met the new requirements, so his spot on stage isn’t guaranteed.
In December, Booker petitioned for a rule change to help him make the debate stage. The new rules are different from what Booker asked for.
Fox News host Sean Hannity invited President Donald Trump to bash the Democrats running for president during an interview before the Super Bowl on Feb. 2.
"This is called our lightning round," Hannity said. "I’m just going to throw out a name, whatever comes to your mind."
When Hannity asked about former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Trump said the Democratic National Committee, which recently announced changes to its debate qualification requirements, was bending over backward to benefit him.
"Cory Booker and all these people couldn’t get any of the things that Bloomberg’s getting now," he said. "I think it’s very unfair for the Democrats."
The DNC did make significant changes to its qualification criteria, raising the polling threshold while scrapping the individual donor requirement that candidates previously had to meet.
The DNC’s recent shift does open the door for Bloomberg, who is self-funding his campaign and not taking donations, to participate in a debate for the first time.
But Trump’s claim glosses over important details. The new rules are different from what Booker asked for, and they don’t guarantee that Bloomberg will earn a spot on stage.
For the DNC’s first two debates, candidates qualified by meeting one of two requirements: Polling at 1% in three national or early-state polls approved by the DNC, or getting donations from 65,000 unique donors, with at least 200 donors per state in 20 different states.
Over time, the requirements became more difficult to satisfy. At the September debate in Houston, the thresholds for polling and donors increased, and candidates were required to meet both benchmarks, not one or the other.
By the time of the January debate in Des Moines, Iowa — the seventh on the DNC’s schedule — the polling threshold had risen to 5% in four national polls or 7% in two early-state polls, and the donor threshold bumped up to 225,000 donors, with 1,000 per state in 20 different states.
Then came the February debates, the first contests scheduled to take place after voters and caucus-goers started making their picks for a nominee.
For the Feb. 7 debate in New Hampshire, the DNC announced that while candidates could still qualify by meeting both the polling and donor thresholds set for the January debate, they could also qualify by earning one delegate to the national convention in the Iowa caucuses. (Bloomberg hasn’t campaigned in Iowa.)
For the Feb. 19 debate in Las Vegas, the DNC has eliminated the donor requirement entirely. Candidates can either qualify by polling at 10% in four national polls or 12% in two early-state polls, or by getting one delegate in either the Iowa caucuses or the New Hampshire primary. (Bloomberg’s name won’t appear on the New Hampshire ballot.)
Adrienne Watson, a spokeswoman for the DNC, told Politico that the early primary results will give a greater window into a candidate’s support than the donor tally.
"The donor threshold was 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," she said, according to Politico.
Bloomberg’s refusal to take donations precluded him from participating in the DNC’s first seven debates, and because he is skipping the early states, he is unlikely to win the delegates in Iowa or New Hampshire that could put him in the ring for the Feb. 7 debate.
That doesn’t mean he’ll make the stage. Currently, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have met the 10% polling threshold, according to Politico, which tracks public polling and has identified just one poll that has Bloomberg at 10%.
Watson told us Trump’s suggestion that the change was meant to help Bloomberg was "false."
"With the primary underway, we are assessing a candidate’s support through a significantly higher polling threshold and through actual election results," she said. "We were always planning to do this, we signaled it many times, it is not designed to benefit any one candidate, and every candidate has an equal opportunity to qualify."
Still, other Democratic candidates have denounced the change, saying the DNC is catering to the billionaire.
The DNC didn’t change the rules to ensure good, diverse candidates could remain on the debate stage. They shouldn’t change the rules to let a billionaire on. Billionaires shouldn't be allowed to play by different rules—on the debate stage, in our democracy, or in our government.— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) January 31, 2020
A Sanders adviser said the change was evidence of a "rigged system." Warren tweeted that the DNC was letting Bloomberg "play by different rules." Entrepreneur Andrew Yang said the change was "clearly tailor made to deliver (Bloomberg) to the debate stage."
In December, Booker led a push to lower qualification standards so that he, Julian Castro and others would stand a better chance of making the January and February debates.
The New Jersey senator sent a letter, signed by several candidates, requesting that the DNC go back to requiring candidates to meet the polling threshold or the donor threshold, but not both.
The DNC rejected Booker’s petition. "Our qualification criteria is extremely low and reflects where we are in the race," the committee said in a statement, per Politico. "Once voting starts in February, our criteria will reflect those contests, which is more than appropriate."
Similarly, Yang asked the DNC to commission more polls so candidates would have a higher likelihood of meeting the polling requirement.
Both of these changes would have made the path to the debates easier.
While the DNC has now scrapped the donor requirement and given candidates the option of qualifying through delegates or the polls, it has also doubled the polling threshold, a change that could potentially cut the number of candidates who qualify for the Nevada debate.
For what it’s worth, the donor threshold was not usually the requirement keeping candidates from the debates. Bloomberg is the only candidate who failed to qualify for a debate specifically because of the donor requirement, according to Politico.
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? I don’t remember it. Blacked it out.— Jenna Lowenstein (@just_jenna) January 31, 2020
Trump said, "Cory Booker and all these people couldn’t get any of the things that Bloomberg’s getting now."
The DNC did adjust its qualification criteria, doubling the polling threshold and eliminating the donor requirement that had previously kept Bloomberg from debating.
But the new rules are slightly different than what Booker asked for, and while they pave a path for Bloomberg to make his first debate, they don’t guarantee that he’ll earn a spot on stage.
We rate Trump’s statement Half True.
Fox News on YouTube, "Trump talks impeachment, 2020 Dems in exclusive Super Bowl interview," Feb. 2, 2020
Brian Stelter on Twitter, Feb. 2, 2020
ABC News, "'This Week' Transcript 2-2-20: Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Andrew Yang," Feb. 2, 2020
ABC News, "DNC scraps donor threshold for Nevada debate, opening door for Bloomberg to qualify," Feb. 1, 2020
CBS News, "Mike Bloomberg could qualify for Democratic debates after DNC rule change," Jan. 31, 2020
Slate, "DNC Changes Debate Requirements to Favor All Candidates Named Michael Bloomberg," Jan. 31, 2020
Politico, "DNC overhauls debate requirements, opening door for Bloomberg," Jan. 31, 2020
Politico, "Public polling tracker," Jan. 31, 2020
The New York Times, "D.N.C. Rules Change for Nevada Debate Could Open Door for Bloomberg," Jan. 31, 2020
The Hill, "Democrats come out swinging against new debate criteria," Jan. 31, 2020
NPR, "New Democratic Party Rules Could Put Bloomberg On Debate Stage," Jan. 31, 2020
S.Y. Lee on Twitter, Jan. 31, 2020
Elizabeth Warren on Twitter, Jan. 31, 2020
Addisu Demissie on Twitter, Jan. 31, 2020
Jenna Lowenstein on Twitter, Jan. 31, 2020
Mike Bloomberg on Twitter, Jan. 17, 2020
Politico, "New criteria announced for New Hampshire debate," Jan. 17, 2020
The Washington Post, "Here’s a key moment from the Iowa debate — and what I would have said," Jan. 15, 2020
Politico, "DNC raises thresholds again for January debate," Dec. 20, 2019
The New York Times, "The D.N.C. Chairman Knows No One Is Happy. Neither Is He," Dec. 15, 2019
The New York Times, "Cory Booker Leads the Charge to Change Debate Rules That Excluded Him," Dec. 14, 2019
Politico, "DNC balks at effort to alter debate qualifications," Dec. 14, 2019
Dave Weigel on Twitter, Nov. 20, 2019
Politico, "DNC raises thresholds for December debate," Oct. 25, 2019
Politico, "DNC raises threshold to make November debate stage," Sept. 23, 2019
Politico, "DNC rules could expand, not shrink, future debate stage," Aug. 6, 2019
Politico, "Who’s in — and out — of the first Democratic debates," June 6, 2019
Democratic National Committee, "DNC Announces Details For Third Presidential Primary Debate," May 29, 2019
Email interview with Adrienne Watson, deputy communications director for the Democratic National Committee, Feb. 2, 2020
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