The Democratic National Committee bowed to reality on Friday, dropping the fundraising requirements that had kept Mike Bloomberg out of the presidential debates.
But the new rules don’t kick in until after the Feb. 7 debate in New Hampshire — and overall seem designed to shrink the debate field, possibly to the advantage of establishment favorite Joe Biden.
Until now, making the debates required some minimal success both in the polls and in raising lots of donations from several states — 225,000 donors, with at least 1,000 from 20 different states, for the Feb. 7 debate.
But Bloomy refuses to spend anyone’s money but his own: “I’ve never accepted a nickel from anyone,” as he wrote in a CNN op-ed, so “I’ve always been independent of the special interests.”
He’s also not even trying to win the earliest primary states — but has still soared to fourth place in national polls of Democrats’ 2020 contest. So he should clearly be onstage in the debates. It’s only fair for him, his rivals and the voters — who deserve to see all the top contenders face off against each other.
Then again, spending some of his own $60 billion has let him lap the field when it comes to advertising — he’s shelled out an unprecedented $278 million on ads since he entered the race in November, including $11 million for a 60-second Super Bowl spot.
That “investment” has pushed him past Pete Buttigieg for fourth place and to almost double Amy Klobuchar’s polling. So the DNC is clearly wise to drop its fundraising requirements.
After all, with no need even to do fundraisers, Bloomberg has faced practically no tough questioning or chances to make gaffes: His roughest grilling to date came from a comedian — Stephen Colbert, who pushed him on stop-and-frisk.
We’ve been dubious about the DNC’s rules from the start — the way gazillionaire Tom Steyer, a total vanity candidate, gamed his way into the debates was a dead giveaway of poor design, as were the unwieldy 10-candidates-at-a-time early face-offs.
Some fix may still be in: The new rules, starting with the Feb. 19 Las Vegas debate, require a candidate to either 1) pick up a pledged delegate in the first two contests or 2) reach at least 10% in four DNC-recognized polls, or 12% in two “DNC-kosher” early-state polls.
That could limit the field to Biden, Bernie Sanders and Liz Warren — which would look like the DNC rigging the game for Biden.
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