Democrats ditch donor requirement for debates, meaning Bloomberg could qualify

Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, a democratic presidential candidate, attends the U.S Conference of Mayors 88th Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C, January 22, 2020.

Yasin Ozturk | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The Democratic National Committee unveiled new debate rules on Friday that drop the requirement that candidates obtain a minimum number of campaign contributors, opening the door for former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg to take the debate stage.

The new rules will apply to the ninth Democratic presidential debate, which is scheduled for Feb. 19 in Nevada.

To qualify for the debate, candidates must either win a delegate during the first contests taking place in Iowa and New Hampshire next week or receive 10% or more in at least four DNC-approved polls released between Jan. 15 and Feb. 18.

Candidates may also qualify by receiving 12% or more support in two state polls of Nevada or South Carolina, the third and fourth states to award delegates in the Democratic primary.

Bloomberg, a billionaire who has spent more than $200 million to fund campaign advertisements so far, is not competing in the first four states and is not accepting campaign contributions. He is polling in fourth place in national surveys, earning approximately 8% support.

The only candidates that are currently qualified for the Nevada debate are former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. The next Democratic debate will take place Feb. 7 in New Hampshire.

Seven candidates have qualified for that debate, including former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, the activist and businessman Tom Steyer, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, in addition to the three who have already qualified for Nevada. 

Bloomberg’s rivals in the race immediately pounced on the DNC for changing up the debate rules. 

Sanders’s campaign manager Faiz Shakir said in a tweet that that DNC was “changing the rules to benefit a billionaire.”

“I much prefer Democrats being a grassroots party. And under Bernie Sanders, that’s the way it will be,” he said.

S.Y. Lee, the national press secretary for Yang, said in a statement that it was a “mistake for the DNC 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,” Lee said.

The other major candidates declined or did not respond to requests for comment. 

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