The first debate is in eight weeks, folks.
The first Democratic presidential debate showcases that effort: Candidates can gain access to the stage through grass-roots fund-raising, and in anticipation of a “historically large primary field,” officials decided to split the event across two nights in late June, so that as many as 20 candidates could take part.
But as of Thursday morning, when Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado announced his candidacy for president, those efforts at inclusion have been placed under strain. Mr. Bennet’s entrance ticks the number of Democratic candidates in the field up to 21, and additional candidates may still join, making it a real possibility that some will be left off the debate stage.
Only 17 candidates have so far qualified for the first debate, so cuts are not guaranteed. But with nearly two months to go, more candidates could very well meet the requirements.
How to qualify
An analysis by The Times earlier this weekexplained the two routes to qualification:
• A candidate receives donations from 65,000 people, including 200 donors apiece in 20 states.
• A candidate registers 1 percent support in three polls. (Only polls from a preset list of organizations are accepted.)
How to break ties
If more than 20 candidates do manage to qualify, the D.N.C. has said it will decide who gets left out using what are essentially three tiebreakers.
In order of primacy, they are:
• Meeting both the donor and polling thresholds
• Highest polling average
• Most unique donors
Exactly how the D.N.C. will administer these tiebreakers is not clear. Its statement on the debates contains just one sentence about how participants will be selected if more than 20 candidates qualify, and it does not offer specifics on matters like how polling averages will be calculated or when the committee will stop accepting new data.
The Times’s analysis found that eight candidates had qualified only through their performance in polls, and had not reached the donor threshold.
Of those eight, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, who has received an average of about 2.6 percent support in the national polls in the analysis, seems relatively safe from getting cut.
Others, like Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington and Representatives Tim Ryan and Eric Swalwell, each average less than half of 1 percent — making them appear more at risk.
However, it is not clear which qualifying polls the D.N.C. will use to come up with an average, and a lot could change in the eight weeks between now and the first debate.