Michael Bennet slams DNC over debate qualification rules: Process is ‘stifling debate’

WASHINGTON — Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., told delegates at the Democratic National Committee summer meeting on Friday that the DNC’s rules for qualifying for the party’s presidential primary debates are“stifling debate at a time when we need it most.” 

“We’re rewarding celebrity candidates with millions of Twitter followers, billionaires who buy their way onto the debate stage, and candidates who have been running for president for years,” Bennet, one of more than 20 candidates running for the Democratic presidential nomination, said. “It forces campaigns to force over millions of dollars to Facebook, the same platform that let the Russians interfere in 2016, instead of harnessing the resources to talk to voters.”

Billionaire businessman Tom Steyer, a late arrival to the 2020 Democratic field, was the top spender among his rivals this month, buying millions worth of Facebook and Google advertisements just in the past two weeks. 

He has yet to qualify for the September debate which will be hosted by ABC in Houston, and has vowed to spend $100 million of his own money to support his presidential campaign, which Steyer launched after pushing for the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

The DNC’s process is stifling debate at a time when we need it most. And it will NOT help us beat Donald Trump.

If we wanted to be the party that excluded people, we’d be Republicans. pic.twitter.com/EqsHvnoQ5h

To make the stage in Houston, a candidate must meet a 2% polling threshold and have 130,000 unique donors, with a minimum of 400 unique donors per state in at least 20 states, to qualify by the August 28 deadline.

The DNC also determined that debates should have no more than 10 people on stage, meaning that any more candidates qualify for next month’s debate would force a second night of discussion.

So far, 10 candidates have qualified for the third debate: Former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, California Sen. Kamala Harris, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, businessman Andrew Yang and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro. 

If Tom Steyer becomes the 11th candidate to qualify, ABC would have to produce a second night of the September debate

As the deadline for qualifying approaches, three candidates have dropped out in the last two weeks: Rep. Seth Moulton, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

The Democratic 2020 candidates had until August 21 to qualify for CNN’s climate crisis town hall. They had to reach 2% in at least four Democratic National Committee-approved polls conducted between June 28 and Aug. 21. 

Friday Bennet also criticized the rules to qualify for CNN climate town hall. “Jay Inslee dropped out this week not just because he didn’t qualify for the third debate – but because he didn’t qualify for the climate change town hall,” Bennet said. “Think about that for a moment. The climate change candidate didn’t qualify for the climate change town hall!”

Bennet continued with, “If we wanted to be the party that excluded people, we’d be Republicans.”

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