Is this a case of sour grapes, or does the Gabbard campaign have a legitimate complaint?
There’s no question that Rep. Tulsi Gabbard delivered a serious blow to Sen. Kamala Harris’s presidential campaign at last month’s Democratic presidential debate.
Though Harris enjoyed a nice polling bump after “winning” the first round of debates where she broadsided Joe Biden, her numbers started falling in mid-July. When Gabbard shined the spotlight on her criminal justice record during the second round of debates, it accelerated Harris’s decline in support.
As a result, Harris has fallen to a 4th place polling average.
Gabbard, on the other hand, has languished in the bottom tier for the entirety of her campaign but still managed to meet the debate criteria established by the DNC for the first two debates.
In contrast to the first two debates, however, Gabbard may not be able to meet the DNC’s criteria for the third round next month in Houston. An analysis of polling outfits has Gabbard’s campaign questioning the validity of that criteria and the timing, hinting that the campaign believes the DNC is purposely trying to exclude her because of how well she did at the last debate.
The Hill reports:
The campaign noted that Gabbard has exceeded 2 percent support in 26 national and early state polls but said only two of those are on DNC’s “certified” list, even as “many of the uncertified polls, including those conducted by highly reputable organizations such as The Economist and the Boston Globe, are ranked by Real Clear Politics and FiveThirtyEight as more accurate than some DNC ‘certified’ polls.”
“The Gabbard campaign is calling on the DNC to hold true to their promise and make adjustments to the process now to ensure transparency and fairness,” the campaign said in a Friday release. “Crucial decisions on debate qualifications that impact the right of the American people to have the opportunity to participate fully in the Democratic process should not be made in secret by party bosses.”
The DNC raised the threshold to qualify for the upcoming September and October debates, requiring candidates to poll above 2 percent in four DNC-approved polls and raise money from at least 130,000 unique donors.
Per ABC News, Gabbard herself is unable to work “in any capacity” with her campaign right now as she is in Indonesia to complete two weeks of Army National Guard military training. So her campaign is raising these questions on her behalf.
The Gabbard campaign’s press release about the DNC referenced a polling analysis done by journalist Michael Tracey, who asserted Gabbard “is on the verge of being excluded from the next Democratic presidential debate on the basis of criteria that appear increasingly absurd.”
Here’s some of what he found:
What makes a poll “qualifying” in the eyes of the DNC? The answer is conspicuously inscrutable. Months ago, party chieftains issued a list of “approved sponsoring organizations/institutions” for polls that satisfy their criteria for debate admittance. Not appearing on that list is the Boston Globe, which sponsored a Suffolk University poll published Aug. 6 that placed Gabbard at 3%.
The DNC had proclaimed that for admittance to the September and October debates, candidates must secure polling results of 2% or more in four separate “approved” polls — but a poll sponsored by the newspaper with the largest circulation in New Hampshire (the Globe recently surpassed the New Hampshire Union Leader there) does not count, per this cockamamie criteria. There has not been an officially qualifying poll in New Hampshire, Gabbard’s best state, in over a month.
The absurdity mounts. A South Carolina poll published Aug. 14 by the Post and Courier placed Gabbard at 2%. One might have again vainly assumed that the newspaper with the largest circulation in a critical early primary state would be an “approved” sponsor per the dictates of the DNC, but it is not. Curious.
In Gabbard’s press release, her campaign notes the DNC has failed to explain what criteria they are using to “certify” polling organizations. They also point out the number of polls in which she’s hit the 2% mark:
The DNC set a threshold that candidates must meet 2% in four DNC-certified polls in order to qualify for the third and fourth Democratic primary debates. However, the DNC has not released their criteria for selecting the sixteen polling organizations they deem “certified.”
Rep. Gabbard has exceeded 2% support in 26 national and early state polls, but only two of them are on the DNC’s “certified” list. Many of the uncertified polls, including those conducted by highly reputable organizations such as The Economist and the Boston Globe, are ranked by Real Clear Politics and FiveThirtyEight as more accurate than some DNC “certified” polls.
In a 2018 memo laying out their proposed framework for the debates, the DNC wrote, “Given the fluid nature of the presidential nominating process, the DNC will continuously assess the state of the race and make adjustments to this process as appropriate.”
The Gabbard campaign is calling on the DNC to hold true to their promise and make adjustments to the process now to ensure transparency and fairness.
They further note that in contrast to the “certified” polls released between the first round of debates and the second round of debates, only four have been released from “certified” polling orgs since the second round:
Only four of the DNC’s list of sixteen qualifying polling organization …have released a new poll since the second Democratic presidential debate in Detroit (July 30-31).
Is this all a case of sour grapes for so far failing to qualify (there’s only one week left to qualify), or does the Gabbard campaign have a legitimate complaint? The DNC announced the criteria for the third debate back in May, so from that perspective it’s hard to buy any “timing” insinuations that the rules are somehow being altered behind closed doors “by party bosses” to disqualify candidates they don’t want participating.
On the other hand, considering what the DNC did to Sen. Bernie Sanders back in 2016, Gabbard’s campaign may be on to something.
— Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym “Sister Toldjah” and can be reached via Twitter. —DONATE
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