RENO, Nevada — Left-wing billionaire Tom Steyer would have qualified for Wednesday’s Democrat debate by Monday evening, but the arcane rules of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) may keep him from the stage.
With barely 24 hours to go before the 11:59 p.m. ET deadline on Tuesday, Steyer has yet to meet the minimum criteria of receiving “10% or more support in at least four polls (which may be national polls, or single-state polls of South Carolina, and/or Nevada) ” or “12% or more support in two single-state polls in South Carolina and/or Nevada.”
On Monday, Steyer received 10% in a “Data for Progress” poll in Nevada, but it is not included in the DNC’s approved list of “qualifying” polls. He also received 11% in a recent Las Vegas Review-Journal poll, but that poll was dropped by the DNC last year.
Steyer has also received 14% and 18% in two recent South Carolina polls, but those were also conducted by entities not appearing on the DNC’s approved list, even though they are politically independent.
Therefore Steyer has, in fact, met or exceeded the DNC’s criteria, whether 10% for four polls and 12% for two polls in early states — but unless more polls emerge before Tuesday night, he will not qualify.
As Breitbart News reported, Steyer wrote last week to the DNC to ask it to extend the window for qualification back in time, noting there had been no qualifying polls in Nevada or South Carolina for weeks.
The DNC lists the “qualifying polls” as follows:
Each poll must be sponsored by one of the following 14 entities or pairs of entities (“Qualifying Poll Sponsors”): Associated Press; ABC News/Washington Post; CBS News/YouGov; CNN; Fox News; Monmouth University; National Public Radio; NBC News/Wall Street Journal; NBC News/Marist; New York Times; Nevada Independent/Mellman Group; Quinnipiac University; USA Today/Suffolk University; Winthrop University. For individual entities that are included only in Qualifying Poll Sponsor pairs but are not listed individually, independent polling by such individual entities or polling conducted in new partnerships with such individual entities shall not meet the Qualifying Poll Criteria. The DNC reserves the right to add a Nevada-specific or South Carolina-specific poll sponsor to this list in the near future.
If Steyer failed to make the stage in Nevada, it would be additionally disappointing given the money he has spent focusing on the state: at one point he alone accounted for more than 90% of the political ad spending on television in both Nevada and South Carolina.
Another billionaire in the same boat is former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who benefited from new rules changes at the DNC that dropped the requirement for a minimum number of campaign donors. Bloomberg still needs to hit 10% in one more poll by a DNC-approved pollster to make the stage on Wednesday night. (He is not on the ballot in Nevada, but is seeking to enter the national spotlight.)
On Monday evening, Steyer aides — including Steyer, son, Sam — gathered at a bar in Reno to meet with local community leaders whom they hope to enlist in their cause, with or without the debate.
Local community meeting with @TomSteyer’s son, @SSteyer41, in Reno ahead of #NevadaCaucus. Theme of the meeting is climate change, but it’s also about early voting. Steyer is still waiting to find out if he will qualify for the #DemocraticDebate Wed. #Nevada #2020 pic.twitter.com/FjRSHKRCTk
— Joel B. Pollak (@joelpollak) February 18, 2020
The focus of the gathering was climate change policy, but there was ample discussion of early voting, which continues through Tuesday, and the Saturday caucuses themselves, which will be held at noon.
The debate, hosted by MSNBC, will be held at the Paris Theater in Las Vegas from 9:00 to 11:00 p.m. ET Wednesday.
The candidates who have qualified thus far are: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT); former Vice President Joe Biden; former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA); and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). All finished in the top five in Iowa and New Hampshire.
It is unclear if any new qualifying polls will be released before the Tuesday deadline.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.