By Jim EllisAug. 23, 2019 — The Democratic National Committee leaders’ strategy to substantially increase the presidential debate qualification requirements in order to decrease the unwieldy and bloated candidate field is working.
The prerequisites to prove that a campaign has more than 130,000 donors and that each candidate reaches a minimum of two percent support from four of eight designated pollsters paid another dividend Wednesday as Washington Gov. Jay Inslee became the third Democratic candidate to officially exit the race.
Not making the debate stage signifies that a candidate has no chance to become a top-tier candidate. Without national exposure, also-ran candidates have little opportunity to increase name identification and familiarity in order to raise enough money to deliver a message, motivate people to work on their campaign, and attract serious media attention both nationally and in the important local markets within key states.
Inslee follows Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper in making the decision to bow out of the race, and there are likely to be several more following suit once it becomes even more evident that the lower-tier candidates will no longer have the opportunity to climb onto the national debate stage.
Gov. Inslee, in an interview on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” Wednesday, stated ” … it’s become clear that I’m not going to be carrying the ball. I’m not going to be the president, so I’m withdrawing tonight from the race.” He is expected to announce that he will seek a third term as Washington’s governor.
The Inslee withdrawal is not a surprise to anyone, apparently even to the candidate himself. He remained non-committal about ruling out running for a third gubernatorial term, which froze most of the Washington Democratic potential aspirants in place. The rhetoric blocked them from overtly assembling a statewide campaign since most correctly interpreted the political tea leaves as meaning that Inslee would, in fact, be back to seek re-election.
With 10 candidates now qualified for the next debate since former HUD Secretary Julian Castro just joined the top-tier candidates of Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Pete Buttigieg who are also joined by Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), ex-Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), and businessman Andrew Yang, it remains to be seen just how many of those who won’t meet the qualifications will continue.
It appears that at least two candidates are on the cusp of qualifying, and still could because the deadline is not until Aug. 28. Both Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and billionaire Tom Steyer have met the contributor goal and need at least one more poll showing them with two percent support.
Therefore, with little chance that Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT), Reps. Tim Ryan (D-OH), and Seth Moulton (D-MA), New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, ex-Rep. John Delaney (D-MD), and author Marianne Williamson will earn a podium position for the next debate Sept. 12-13 in Houston, it remains to be seen just how much longer any of them can sustain their national campaigns.
Thus, with the field reduced to, say, 12 candidates in the near future, the chances increase for some of the lower-tier candidates to make an upward move and expand the number of contenders who actually would have a chance to win the nomination.