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.
The truth is I don’t think Mike particularly wants to debate. He could easily have gotten himself onto the stage with the donor requirements.
— Andrew Yang? (@AndrewYang) February 1, 2020
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
Informed of the rule change Friday night, former Vice President Joe Biden said of Bloomberg, “He’s not even on the ballot in Nevada.”
Biden reacts to DNC rule change that means Bloomberg could make the Feb. 19 debate in Nevada – straight to the point:
"HE'S NOT EVEN ON THE BALLOT IN NEVADA!" his face in this close up lmao pic.twitter.com/rcbweViLWM
— Emily Larsen (@emilyelarsen) February 1, 2020
— Tulsi Gabbard ? (@TulsiGabbard) January 31, 2020
Democrats should not be connecting the ability to be heard to money. Period.
DNC did that in setting debate requirements & in removing them. You link money & politics, process gets corrupted. Dems should be rejecting money’s influence, not letting it guide our primary.
— Steve Bullock (@GovernorBullock) January 31, 2020
When @CoryBooker led an effort to change the debate thresholds, the DNC refused—saying they couldn’t benefit any candidate.
It seems the only candidate they’re willing to benefit is a billionaire who’s buying his way into the race. Total mess. https://t.co/mw0MhdyjBr
— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) January 31, 2020
Let’s make one thing clear: @TheDemocrats decision to change the rules now to accommodate Mike Bloomberg and not changing them in the past to ensure a more diverse debate stage is just plain wrong.https://t.co/BoCVpahWpx
— Tom Steyer (@TomSteyer) January 31, 2020
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.
H/t Vox News.