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Gabbard campaign joins voices raising concerns over Democrat debate-qualifying criteria

In order to qualify for the next round of Democratic presidential debates in September, the Democratic National Committee’s rules require all candidates to have 130,000 unique donors and to have reached 2 percent in four approved polls. Representative Gabbard (D-Hawaii) has surpassed 2 percent in 26 national and state polls – including two polls by the biggest newspapers in the early primary states of New Hampshire and South Carolina – but only two of these are DNC-certified.  Strangely, the DNC has not released the criteria it used to select the sixteen polling organizations they have certified.

“Without these exclusions, Gabbard would have already qualified,” her campaign says. Gabbard’s team also point out that there have only been four certified polls released since the second round of Democratic debates, whereas there were 14 released after the first debate.

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Gabbard was the most googled candidate after her second debate and had a standout moment when she confronted Kamala Harris’s record of incarcerating people for marijuana use when she was attorney general. She was also the most googled candidate during the first debate. 

The DNC had said that it would “continually assess” the race and make adjustments when necessary, given the fluid nature of the race, when it released a memo explaining its process in 2018, and the Gabbard campaign is calling on it to do so now to ensure fairness before the August 28 cut-off date. 

“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 Gabbard campaign cautioned. 

Gabbard isn’t alone in voicing discontent with the DNC’s methods. Colorado Senator Michael Bennet criticized the process in front of DNC Chair Tom Perez on Friday, saying it was “stifling debate at a time when we need it most.” 

“We’re rewarding celebrity candidates with millions of Twitter followers, billionaires who buy their way onto the debate stage, and candidates who have been running for president for years,” he said. 

Andrew Yang, who has since qualified, slammed the DNC in July for excluding one of two NBC polls he said had reached the 2 percent threshold in. “It is frustrating to see the rules be changed mid-game,” his campaign said. 

Gabbard stood down as DNC vice-chair during the 2016 election to endorse Sanders after she failed to get more debates added to the primary. Leaked DNC emails later revealed that the committee had shown bias against Sanders to favor Hillary Clinton as the party’s chosen candidate.

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