Former VP Joe Biden is leading the pack of 2020 Dems by a wide margin. What does the former VP think of the field of Democrats.?
WASHINGTON â€“ Democrats are ready to debate.
And their first sparring partner:Â The Democratic National Committee.
With less than a month until the DNCâ€™s first primary debate, tensions between 2020 presidential candidates and their partyâ€™s national organization are rising. Candidates are criticizing the debate requirements, especially after a new polling guideline was revealedÂ this week which has the effect of excluding Montana Gov. Steve Bullock. The DNC is also getting some flak for refusing to hold a debate focused only on climate change.
All this a week before the DNC will likely have the official list of candidates who will make the first debate stage.
Only 20 of the 23 presidential candidates vying to be the Democratic nominee will be on the stage later this month in Miami, where the DNC will hold the first debateÂ overÂ two days, June 26 and June 27, with 10 candidates on stage each day.
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Currently, to qualify for the DNC’s summer debates, candidates must draw the support of 1% or more of those surveyed in at least three polls, which could be national or Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, or Nevada polls.Â Presidential hopefuls also canÂ qualify by receiving donations from at least 65,000 individual donors and a minimum of 200 individual donors per state in at least 20 states.Â
But on Thursday, the DNCÂ informed PoliticoÂ that two specificÂ Washington Post/ABC News polls cannot be used by candidates to meet the polling qualification criterion.Â One of the polls was being used by Bullock to qualify for the first debate.Â
Candidates have untilÂ June 12 to meet the polling thresholdÂ and their donor data must be turned in by June 13 at 11 a.m., DNC spokeswoman Xichotl Hinojosa told USA TODAY.Â
So far, only 13Â campaigns have said they meet both the polling and donor qualification criteriaÂ for the summer debates.
They are: former Vice President Joe Biden of Delaware, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Rep. Beto Oâ€™Rourke, D-Tex., Sen.Â Cory Booker, D-N.J.,Â entrepreneur Andrew Yang of New York, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., former HUD Secretary Julian Castro of Texas, Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee and activist Marianne Williamson.
According to Politico, seven other candidates have met the polling threshold: Sen.Â Michael Bennet, D-Colo., New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Former Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Former Colorado Gov.Â John Hickenlooper, Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, and Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif.
Hereâ€™s a breakdown of the backlash the DNC is receiving ahead of the first 2020 primary debate:
Bullock camp criticizes ‘arbitrary threshold’
The most vocal opponent ofÂ the DNC’s recent announcement about accepted polling for debate qualificationÂ isÂ Bullock,Â the only statewide officeholder in the party’s 2020 field to winÂ in a state won by President Donald Trump.
Bullock, who jumped into the 2020 race in mid-May, is currently the only candidate to be affected by the latest DNC announcement. He polled at 1% in a January Washington Post/ABC News poll, which was open-ended andÂ those surveyed were not read a list of candidates. The poll included Democratic figures, such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, former first lady Michelle Obama and billionaire media mogul Oprah Winfrey, each of themÂ polled at more than 1%.
Bullock campaign manager Jenn Ridder told USA TODAY that the DNC is “certainly trying to shape the outlook of this campaign” by determining who gets to be in the first primary debate. She criticized the “arbitrary threshold” that wouldn’t allow late candidates to surge later on the campaign.
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“I think that we’re 250 days out from the election, from the first time folks are voting, and they’re already deciding who’s in and who’s out by determining who is on the stage,” she said.
But Bullock’s late candidacy came after he presided over his stateâ€™s Republican-majority legislative session. The governorÂ expanded Medicaid and passed an infrastructure bill in the most recentÂ session. Lawmakers only hold a regular session for 90 days just once every two years.
Ridder said that the campaign feels that Bullock is “being punished for having to do his job.”
Hinojosa, the DNC spokeswoman, said in a statement that the Bullock campaign was notified “several times beginning in March that this poll would not count because it was open-ended and not a traditional horse race question.” In addition, Hinojosa said the Bullock campaign was notified that the new exemption would be made public Thursday when Politico reported it.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock announced Tuesday that he is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, distinguishing himself as the field’s only statewide elected official to win a state that President Donald Trump carried in 2016. (May 14)
“Yeah we’ve known about this rule, but how is anyone else to know about it?” Ridder said. “This is a rule that was exclusive to us.”
When asked whether the Bullock campaign feels like the DNC is specifically targeting the Montana governor, Ridder said: “I don’t think there’s a conspiracy.”
“It’s more that this rule that they’ve decided to make public [Thursday]Â only impacts our campaign,” she continued, adding that reporters repeatedly asked the DNC to clarify its rules but were stonewalled until this week.
Despite the new rule, Ridder said Bullock is “going to hit the ground running.”
“We’re still hopeful that we’ll make it, but we will be active no matter what and make sure to keep talking to voters with or without being on that stage,” Ridder said.
Washington Gov. JayÂ Inslee has centered his presidential campaign around climate change.
And earlier this year, he advocated for a debate centered on thatÂ topic after severalÂ grassroots organizations, including MoveOn, the Sunrise Movement, Greenpeace, and others,Â called on the DNC to host aÂ climate debate.
The DNC denied the request.
Hinojosa said in a statement to CNN that the DNC’s goalÂ “is to provide a platform for candidates to have a vigorous discussion on ideas and solutions on the many issues that voters care about, including the economy, climate change, and health care.”
â€œThe grassroots of the Democratic Party have clearly spoken in favor of a climate debate,” Inslee said in a statement Thursday.Â “I remain deeply disappointed that the DNC has chosen not to listen to these Democrats, and has threatened to punish candidates who would participate in an outside climate debate.”
Inslee said in a statement Wednesday that the DNC told him thatÂ “if we participated in anyone else’sÂ climateÂ debate, we will not be invited to futureÂ debates.”
“This is deeply disappointing,” the governor said in the statement. “The DNC is silencing the voices of Democratic activists, many of our progressive partner organizations, and nearly half of the Democratic presidential field, who want toÂ debateÂ the existential crisis of our time.”
The DNC said that although climate change is a top issue for many in the party, the committeeÂ isÂ not holding entire debates on single issues,Â “because we want to make sure voters have the ability to hear from candidates on dozens of issues of importance to American voters,” Hinojosa continued in her statement to CNN.
Warren,Â Oâ€™Rourke, Castro, Sanders, Gillibrand, and Bennet have all also endorsed a climateÂ change debate.
Prior DNC backlash
Complaints about the DNC’s standards for the debates began late last month.
The DNC in late May announcedÂ new rules for itsÂ fall primary debates. Candidates must hit 2% in four qualifying polls and have at least 130,000 individual donors before they canÂ qualify for debates scheduled for September and October.
DNC Chairman Tom Perez in a recentÂ interviewÂ said “in the fall weâ€™re going to raise the threshold because thatâ€™s what we always do.”
“You have to demonstrate that youâ€™re making progress,” heÂ said during an interview on CNN. “You canâ€™t win the presidency in the modern era if you canâ€™t build relationships with the grassroots.”
Several Democratic candidates have yet to hit 1% in polling, much less reachÂ the 65,000 individual donor threshold for the summer debates. The DNC’s criteria for the fall debates could, therefore, pose a hurdle for some in the 2020 field. Since the new criteria were announced, several candidates criticized the DNC.
Bennet bashed the new rules as “arbitrary” while campaigning in New Hampshire last week. Delaney sent a letter to the DNC questioning how itÂ came up with itsÂ criteria.
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This election cycle isÂ not the first time Democratic candidates have taken issue with the committee.
Throughout the 2016 primary season, Sanders’ campaign repeatedly accused the DNC of bias in favor ofÂ former secretary of state Hillary Clinton. The Vermont senator’s criticisms were basically confirmed afterÂ WikiLeaks in July 2016 posted almost 20,000 emails from top DNC officials, some of which criticized Sanders.
One leaked email suggested that Sanders’ campaign was “a mess.”Â Another email from Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who was the chairwoman at the time, swatted down responding to a story in which Sanders said he would oust Wasserman-Schultz as the head of the DNC.Â She resigned after the emails were released.
“This is a silly story,” Wasserman-Schultz wrote in an email. “He isnâ€™t going to be president.”
Contributing: Ledyard King,Â Aamer Madhani
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