The Democratic field for the 2020 presidential election has 24 candidates.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) knows this is too many people, so officials have taken steps to make it harder for the candidates to reach the third and fourth primary debates.

DNC Chairman Tom Perez announced the debates back in December. He also promised to provide “rules that will give everyone in a potentially large field a fair shot at voters’ attention.” Then again, at that time, I am sure he did not think the field would grow to 24 candidates. For all we know more people will jump in.

While candidates have concentrated on crucial states like Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina, Perez decided not to have debates in those states. The Associated Press reported in December:

Candidates will be assigned at random, Perez said, to avoid the party picking and choosing who is a top-tier contender, as Republicans did during their 2016 primary debates.

“Democrats want to put our eventual nominee in the strongest position possible to defeat Donald Trump,” Perez said. He said officials have “listened to voices across our party about how we can make the primary process better” and set rules that “will help every candidate feel like they got a fair shake.”

National figures like former Vice President Joe Biden and Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey likely would have no trouble qualifying for the debate stage regardless of the rules.

But for upstart candidates, from governors and mayors to little-known members of Congress, getting a slot in the initial debates could be a make-or-break opportunity. One such candidate, Rep. John Delaney of Maryland, has already invested considerable time and money in Iowa and New Hampshire. In a statement Thursday, he called it “encouraging that the DNC is really embracing a fair process.”

The DNC wanted to set the bar low for the first debates after it came under fire for showing preference to failed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Yet only 20 candidates can participate in these two debates.

The first debate takes place on July 26 and 27 in Miami while the second debate happens on July 30 and 31 in Detroit. Candidates must “carry a polling threshold of 1% and a fundraising mark of 65,000 donors with a minimum of 200 in at least 20 states.”

To participate in the third debate, hosted by ABC News and Univision in September, the candidates “can participate only by reaching 2% in four approved polls released between June 28 and Aug. 28 while also collecting contributions from a minimum of 130,000 unique donors before Aug. 28.” Each candidate must have “a minimum of 400 individuals in at least 20 states.”

As far as we know, the third debate in October has the same criteria. I wonder if DeLaney still feels the same way.

The DNC stated that these debates will only take place if necessary.

Will the requirements harm any of the candidates? From The Associated Press:

About a half-dozen candidates have demonstrated the capacity to hit the new marks with relative ease. Several more are on the fence, and perhaps another dozen face an uphill path. Debate slots are a coveted opportunity for candidates looking to break from the pack, and not being on the stage could be the death knell for a struggling campaign.

We all know the requirements will not affect former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Some lower tier candidates do not like the changes.

New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley brushed aside the complaints. He told the candidates that “[I]f they believe they have a better plan, other than having three back to back debates each month with nine of the candidates at each, I’d be interested in hearing it.”

Exactly. Instead of whining, keep putting yourself out there and reach as many people as you can.


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