WASHINGTON - The Democratic National Committee drew criticism from 2020 Democratic presidential candidates who didn’t qualify for the next debate on Thursday in Los Angeles.
The Democratic presidential debates provide voters a chance to see the candidates handling tough questions and outlining their policy positions.
But with so many contenders in the race, not all of them have been able to take the stage.
“The DNC has made it hard. They have said that if you participate in a non-sanctioned DNC debate, you can never participate in a DNC event again,” said Former Maryland Congressman John Delaney.
After appearing in the first debate, Delaney hasn’t been able to qualify for any of the following match-ups.
DNC rules call for candidates to meet certain polling and grassroots fundraising thresholds that for some are hard to achieve.
“I think the Republicans, to some extent in 2016, probably did it right, and they had two stages. If you were a top-polling candidate, you are ‘the main stage,’ and if you were not the top-polling candidate, you were on the secondary stage,” Delaney continued. “But at least everyone’s voices were heard. And the American people had an opportunity to hear from all these different candidates.”
Other candidates have gone further in their criticism, saying the rules could actually hurt the party’s goal of inspiring diverse candidates.
“It’s really unfortunate that the party that’s seeking justice and fairness and inclusion has created a set of rules that can be undermined so easily,” another Democratic 2020 hopeful, Cory Booker, D-N.J., told FOX News.
Just six candidates are qualified for the Dec. 19 debate, and Booker is not one of them. He met the threshold of donors required to qualify, but he has yet to make the polling qualifications — either 4 perecent support in at least four polls or 6 percent support in two early-state polls. The deadline was last Thursday, and did not hit the mark on a single poll.
“I'm a little upset with the (Democratic National Committee) right now because they seem to be trying to make the decisions for you,” Booker told a Sunday afternoon crowd gathered in a Dubuque, Iowa bar.
Booker also noted the New Hampshire Democratic Party voted this weekend to send the DNC a statement urging the party to revisit the qualifying standards for the debate to ensure greater diversity and give voters “the greatest opportunity" to hear from the candidates.
While a good debate performance on the national stage can help tremendously with fundraising, some candidates don’t need the money or the debates, while other candidates need both.
“Mike Bloomberg was able to get into the race because he doesn’t have to raise any money,” said Matt Littman, a political analyst. “Deval Patrick got into the race — he’s certainly a well-qualified person. You haven’t even heard his name since he announced, because he doesn’t have any money.”
Now questions over the debate process and which candidates are making the cut have led many of the contenders to complain to the DNC, which so far has said the rules will stay in place for now.
Xochitl Hinojosa, a spokeswoman for the DNC, called the party's debate rules “inclusive" and said no candidate who has gone on to be the party's nominee has polled lower than 4% at this point in past primaries.
“While we are legally required to have objective criteria for each debate, our qualifying criteria has stayed extremely low throughout this entire process," she said in an emailed statement. “We’ve never seen a political party take this many steps to be inclusive.“
Businessman Andrew Yang qualified last Tuesday to participate in this week's Democratic presidential debate, making him the seventh candidate to make the stage in Los Angeles.
The 44-year-old entrepreneur received 4 percent in a national poll by Quinnipiac University, meeting the polling threshold set by the DNC.
The candidates who have met the DNC's polling and fundraising requirements for the Dec. 19 debate at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles include: former Vice President Joe Biden, Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and businessman Tom Steyer.
Yang is the only non-white candidate to qualify for the debate so far. Sen. Kamala Harris, who is black, had met the requirements but dropped out of the 2020 race in early December, making it possible that only white candidates would be on the stage.
Yang has been slowly gaining support in recent weeks, and topped several of his rivals when he brought in $10 million for his campaign in the third quarter — an amount he says he's on pace to top in the last three months of this year.
His signature policy is to provide a universal basic income of $1,000 to every adult — money he says will help Americans adapt to an economy that is rapidly becoming automated. At a debate earlier this fall he announced his campaign would begin providing the so-called “freedom dividends” to 10 people, drawing criticism from some that he was trying to buy votes.
Yang is currently on a five-day bus tour of Iowa, the state that will kick off voting for the Democratic primary in February.
The Associated Press and Stringr contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.