The Wall Street Journal

2020 Democratic Debates: How the Candidates Made the Cut


The Democrats' first televised presidential primary debates will be held June 26-27 in Miami. With 23 Democrats running for U.S. president, but only 20 slots available on stage, not all made it. Illustration: Laura Kammermann

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… show captions ↓
- If a candidate goes over their allotted time,
you'll hear this.
(bell dings)
- It sounds like a game show, but it's not.
(candidates chattering over pleasant rock music)
- [Jason] It's presidential debate time again,
and this time around, it's the Democrats
who have to deal with having too many candidates.
- Some people are calling it a grown-ups' table
and a kids' table.
- You know, I'm not excited about being at a kiddie table.
- On June 26th and 27th,
the top 20 Democratic presidential candidates
go head to head in Miami, kicking off arguably
the most important televised event
of the 2020 primaries so far,
but with 20 slots to play for
and nearly two dozen contenders, not all made the cut.
The unlucky ones included Steve Bullock,
Seth Moulton, and Wayne Messam.
To avoid a kids' table style debate
where lesser-known candidates appeared on a different night,
the top candidates were placed in a separate draw
to make sure that some of the biggest names
were on stage both nights,
and a second drawing was held
to mix up the lesser-known candidates.
The first night includes the likes of Elizabeth Warren,
Cory Booker, and Amy Klobuchar,
and on the second night, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders
go up against Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg
along with some lesser-known candidates
like Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang.
The final results, it's worth noting that Biden
and Sanders, who have been one-two in most national polls,
will get the chance to face each other in person,
but Sanders and Warren, who are competing
for a similar pool of liberal voters, won't.
The race started three months ago
when the DNC announced the rules for qualification
and it left some candidates fighting for a spot.
Here's how it played out.
To qualify for the debates, candidates needed to either
achieve at least 1% in three national
or early primary state polls
or raise money from at least 65,000 donors
including a minimum of 200 each in 20 states.
Polling gave candidates who have national support
a shot at the debates.
For some of the well-known candidates like Biden,
Sanders, and Warren, this was an easy win,
but for some like Michael Bennet and Bill De Blasio,
it wasn't so easy and they barely made it.
Then, there was a separate push for the donor threshold.
The DNC said it introduced this rule to encourage candidates
to connect with grassroots voters
and show they had the financial support to run a campaign,
and with the stakes so high, candidates pulled out
all the stops on digital marketing.
There was beer pong.
(group cheering)
(rhythmic percussion music)
John Delaney took to a whiteboard
and told potential donors he'd give $2 to charity
for every $1 donated.
- So click on, give me a dollar,
and I'll give $2 to any number
of these very, very worthy organizations.
- Others like Tulsi Gabbard used Instagram
and Twitter to update their progress.
Andrew Yang and the so-called Yang Gang
got creative with memes.
The DNC said 14 candidates met both criteria,
and six qualified through polling only.
The same requirements will be used
for the July debate in Detroit,
but in September, it'll get much tougher.
Candidates will need 130,000 donors
and at least 2% in four early polls.
Currently, more than half of the candidates
are at risk of falling short. (pleasant whistling tones)

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