2020 Daily Trail Markers: The DNC raises debate requirements again

The Democratic National Committee is upping the thresholds for the seventh Democratic presidential debate despite criticism from the candidates. On Friday, the DNC announced there will be an increase in the polling and donor thresholds to participate in the next debate, which will be held January 14th in Des Moines, Iowa. 

CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice says candidates will need to receive 5% polling in at least four qualified national or state polls, or 7% polling in four qualified early state polls released between November 14th and 11:59pm on January 10th. Additionally, candidates need to demonstrate they’ve received contributions from 225,000 unique donors with a minimum of 1,000 in at least 20 states, territories or the District of Columbia. The deadline for donations is also January 10th. 

Both qualifications raise the thresholds from the December debate where candidates needed 4% in four polls or 6% in two state polls as well as 200,000 unique donors.

CBS News analysis finds only 5 candidates have qualified so far for the January debate based on the new thresholds. Those candidates include Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. No other candidate has met both thresholds. 

The only other candidate to meet the new polling threshold as of now is Mike Bloomberg. However, he has said he would not solicit donations, meaning he will not meet that threshold and get to participate unless the rules are changed. The new qualifications come after the DNC has faced criticism for its debate thresholds. In December, the previous thresholds led to just 7 candidates qualifying for the debate.

Currently, no candidates of color are qualified for the January debate despite Democrats once touting the most diverse presidential field in history. In a recent letter obtained by CBS News, nine Democratic candidates, including the front-runners, called for the DNC to reopen the debates to a larger pool of contenders. The letter claimed the rules have “unnecessarily and artificially narrowed what started as the strongest and most diverse Democratic field in history before voters have had a chance to be heard.”

During the second day of his four day bus tour in Iowa, Senator Cory Booker, who pushed the DNC to change the thresholds to either a polling or donor requirement, reacted to the news of the increased thresholds for the January debate. “This 5% one makes me a little curious especially because, I mean, the legendary 2003 December polling that had [Howard] Dean so far ahead and [John] Edwards and [John] Kerry below this threshold and then they go on to finish one and two,” Booker told reporters. 

CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster says Booker expressed concerns about whether there would be enough polls between now and the deadline, saying that also hurt him before the December debate. “There was a polling desert between our best debate and this one,” Booker said. The 7th debate will be the first held in a state with an early contest. CNN and the Des Moines Register will be co-hosting. The Iowa caucuses take place February 3rd. The DNC previously also announced debates in New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina with qualifications to be announced at a later date.



Colorado Senator Michael Bennet announced today he will open his campaign fundraisers to press. Bennet joins Former Vice President Joe Biden, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Senator Cory Booker and Senator Amy Klobuchar in allowing journalists entry into private fundraising events. 

“Nobody had ever asked me before,” Bennet said, pressed on the move towards transparency. “I guess my rationale was if it comes with more fundraisers, I’m for it.” While campaigning in Peterborough, New Hamphire, Friday afternoon, Bennet told reporters he watched all but the final half hour of last night’s Democratic Debate. “I thought it was fine,” Bennet said. “I wish that the debate stage rules were not written the way they are because I think they would have benefited from having others on there as well.”

CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga says the Colorado lawmaker did not qualify for December’s debate stage but will  continue his retail push in New Hampshire this weekend. Asked what was missing from the stage, Bennet touted his healthcare public option legislation and Senate immigration work as a member of the ‘Gang of Eight’ bipartisan group. Bennet added, “I spent ten years in the Senate, and I’m 55 years old. I think that’s a good combination for this election and this race, which I think is wide open.”


CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice says Senator Amy Klobuchar is riding high after the 6th Democratic presidential debate Thursday night in Los Angeles. According to her campaign communications director, the Minnesota lawmaker had her best debate night so far, raising $500,000 in online donations in about 12 hours following the debate. 

According to CBS News’ analysis, Klobuchar had the second most speaking time during the debate, just behind Senator Bernie Sanders. Klobuchar is leaning in on Iowa, heading straight back to the Hawkeye State right after the debate. She kicked off a 27-county “For All of America” bus tour on Friday which will take her across the state over the four days before wrapping up on Monday in time for Christmas.



There were a trio of notable Iowa endorsements today for three different candidates, says CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster. Former Iowa Democratic gubernatorial candidate and John Kerry’s 2004 Iowa state director John Norris is backing Senator Elizabeth Warren. “I’m endorsing Elizabeth for president because she’s put the fight for economic and social justice at the core of her candidacy,” Norris said in a statement. “We must end the power the wealthy exert over our government and economy, and I have complete confidence that Elizabeth will fight for that every single day as our president.” 

Meawhile, during a campaign stop in Adel, Dallas County Democrats Chair Bryce Smith announced that he’s endorsing Senator Cory Booker. “He exemplifies the meaning of moral courage and standing up for what is right, even when what is right is not always the easiest,” Smith said in a statement. “I know a President Booker will call upon us, the American people, to do more for one another with him, and we will see him by our side fighting the good fight.” 

Finally, on the heels of the debate, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg received an endorsement from former Iowa state senator and Brigadier General Steve Warnstadt. “Through his service as mayor and in the military, Pete has a unique understanding of the fundamental changes shaping our domestic and international situation,” Warnstadt said in a statement. 

“He has the leadership to bring our country together in times of deep division. And he has the practical plans that reflect our nation’s historic values and will move our country forward.”


Several campaigns are wrapping up the year with new endorsements in Nevada. CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin says the Stonewall Democratic Club and Clark County Left Caucus this week made public their backing of Bernie Sanders. Elizabeth Warren has a handful of new endorsers of her own, including the co-founder and some members of the Indivisible branch in Northern Nevada. 

Pete Buttigieg’s campaign rolled out an endorsement from former Nevada state senator Patricia Farley, a former Republican who survived a GOP-led recall campaign in 2017. And Cory Booker says he’s now scored his 100th endorser in Nevada, including one state legislator who had earlier this month endorsed Julián Castro. “Although I will caucus for Julián, I also believe that Senator Booker understands the need of communities like mine,” Assemblywoman Selena Torres told CBS News in a statement, explaining her realignment.



Republican support continues for Congressman Jeff Van Drew, the newest addition for House Republicans. The New Jersey Congressman was endorsed by President Trump on Thursday after his party switch, and in a new ad by the Committee to Defend the President, Van Drew is praised for his decision to vote against impeachment. 

“Democrats are always saying, ‘We always have to put country over party…’ well that’s just what Jeff Van Drew did. Standing by President Trump rather than participating in a sham impeachment. It takes guts to stand up for what’s right, even when the mob rises against you. So call Congressman Van Drew and thank him for standing by president Trump. And re-elect Van Drew in 2020,” the ad says. 

One of Van Drew’s original challengers, businessman David Richter, was removed from the National Republican Congressional Committee’s “Young Guns” list, which promotes notable 2020 recruits. Richter Tweeted that he wasn’t too worried about the removal. “They’ll ad me back after I win the GOP primary,” he said.

According to CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro, NRCC Chairman Tom Emmer said in a statement on Thursday that Van Drew’s 2nd Congressional district “is now a Republican seat and we will fight tooth and nail to ensure it remains a Republican seat.” 

In special election news, former Congressman Sean Duffy endorsed state assemblyman Tom Tiffany in the race for Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional district seat. In a campaign event on Thursday, both Duffy and Tiffany criticized House Democrats for voting for impeachment. “What we’re looking at here and what we saw happen yesterday…is an impeachment of a president who has done nothing but fight for the forgotten men and women of America,” Duffy said. 

A Marquette Law School Poll showed that 61 percent respondents in the 7th district, which a Republican has held since 2010, are against impeachment. The general election there will take place in May 2020. 



Newly-elected Governor Andy Beshear, who was name checked in last night’s debate by both Senator Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar in a conversation about health care, has wrapped up a busy first week as governor. In addition to restoring voting rights to over 100,000 formerly convicted felons, which he announced at his inauguration, he restructured the state’s board of education and dropped Medicaid work requirements, which put into place by his predecessor, Republican Matt Bevin. 

Education and Medicaid were both frequent themes during Beshear’s campaign, and Democratic Governors Association deputy communications director Christina Amestoy told Navarro that the new governor is “already delivering on these commitments. Gov. Beshear has proven what type of governor he will be – someone who fights every day for Kentuckians’ health care, schools, and future – a stark contrast to his predecessor.”

But his campaign opponent has also stayed in the news. Bevin’s last-minute pardons as he was walking out of the governor’s mansion have been criticized from Republican and Democratic state leaders alike. In a Thursday radio interview, Bevin defended the pardons, specifically the pardon of 41-year-old Micah Schoettle, who was convicted of child rape. Bevin said he pardoned Schottle because there were was not enough physical evidence. 

“These girls both were examined medically. They were examined physically. There was zero evidence. Zero. Both their hymens were intact. This is perhaps more specific than people would want, but trust me, if you have been repeatedly sexually violated as a small child by an adult, there are going to be repercussions of that physically and medically,” Bevin said. Kentucky’s chief medical examiner, Dr. George Nichols, told the Courier-Journal that Bevin’s statement is “flatly incorrect.”



In an email to supporters, former presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke announced the launch of his “Powered by People” organization, a group focused on flipping the Texas State Legislature in 2020 ahead of redistricting in 2021. 

Currently, the Texas state House is nine seats away from Democratic control. Their first test in 2020 will be a January runoff in State House District 28, near the Houston-Fort Bend area, between Democrat Eliz Markowitz and Republican John Zerwas. O’Rourke has been actively campaigning and advocating for Markowitz, and wrote in a launch email that a win there “will inspire the confidence, financial support and volunteer turnout to pick up the 8 additional seats we need to control the state house and make progress on gun violence, healthcare, education and climate.”  

“Powered by People will organize grassroots volunteers to do the tough, necessary work that wins elections: registering Texans to vote (especially those that have just moved to Texas and those who are just turning 18), knocking on their doors, making phone calls, and connecting the dots so that we all understand that in order to make progress on the issues we care most about — like gun violence, healthcare and climate — we will have to register, volunteer and vote,” O’Rourke’s email read.

2021’s redistricting is expected to add up to six U.S. Congressional districts to Texas due to the growing number of people moving into the state. According to a 2017 survey by the U.S. census Bureau, Texas is second in the nation when it comes to people migrating from another state. Democratic control in the state house will allow them to establish an independent redistricting committee “to ensure fair maps,” Markowitz told Navarro. 

On O’Rourke’s organization launch, Markowitz called it “incredible.” “It’s going to activate a whole base of voters who may not have been as aware for this election… [Beto] will be traveling close to the election to help turnout voters, win the first seat of 2020,” she said. “I think things are going amazingly well, people are excited to start 2020 on the left foot.” 

Additional state legislatures that redistricting-focused groups are watching: Florida’s State Senate, Minnesota’s State Senate, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

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