The South Carolina debate qualification rules are really… something

5 mins read



We don’t even have Nevada out of the way yet, but the DNC is hard at work getting ready for South Carolina. There will be another debate on Feb. 25 in Charleston, hosted by CBS News and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute. The question on everyone’s minds, of course, is who is going to qualify. According to Politico, you will see some of the familiar faces we had at the last debate, but due to some tweaking of the rules, Mike Bloomberg might make it in. There’s also a (very) slim chance that Tom Steyer could as well.

The Democratic National Committee on Saturday rolled out the qualification rules for its presidential debate later this month in South Carolina — criteria that leave the door open for two billionaires, Mike Bloomberg and Tom Steyer, to join the top five candidates who emerged from Iowa and New Hampshire.

To qualify for the Feb. 25 debate in Charleston, S.C., candidates need to hit 10 percent in four polls approved by the Democratic National Committee (or 12 percent in South Carolina-specific polls) or win at least one delegate to the Democratic National Convention from one of the three preceding early states: Iowa, New Hampshire or Nevada. Polls must be released between Feb. 4 (the day after the Iowa caucuses) and Feb. 24.

We’re getting close enough to Super Tuesday that these rules don’t strike me as being particularly onerous. By this stage of the game, we don’t need two dozen candidates spread over two nights, each only getting five minutes to speak. And really, if you’ve been campaigning for this long and you still can’t manage to crack double digits in at least a few polls, odds are that the base has kind of written you off.

The one tweak to the rules that I mentioned above is the removal of the donor threshold. That’s being done as an apparent gift to Bloomberg since he doesn’t accept campaign contributions. (And he’d have a lot of gall to go around asking for money, don’t you think?) But I’m expecting the other candidates to howl about this anyway and we’ll probably hear about how the DNC is helping Mike buy the election.

We also have a debate in Nevada coming up on Wednesday. So far only Biden, Sanders, Buttigieg, Warren and Klobuchar have qualified for both Nevada and South Carolina. Tom Steyer hasn’t qualified for either thus far and he’s not expected to. But Mike Bloomberg is on the cusp in Nevada. He only needs one more approved poll above ten percent to make it onto the stage. The catch is that the poll has to hit by Tuesday. Steyer doesn’t stand a chance at Nevada and would have to show some seriously dramatic movement to get in on South Carolina.

Given all the damage that Bloomberg has been taking from oppo research showing up in the press for the past week or more, does he really want to be on the stage in either place? Everyone is attacking him right and left, bringing up everything he’s ever said about stop and frisk, as well as accusations that he should have been featured in the whole #MeToo thing for his crappy treatment of women. If he shows up on the stage, the others may declare some sort of truce and just pile on Mike to see if they can drive him out of the race before he gains any more traction.





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