An official with the DNC has announced on Twitter that the threshold for participating in a Democratic debate will be increased. This announcement was made around the same time that American Samoa caucus rewarded Tulsi Gabbard with a delegate after she earned 29.3 percent of the votes with 99 percent reporting on Super Tuesday. (Since then, Gabbard has been confirmed to have two delegates.) The DNC’s debate threshold had allowed anyone to qualify to be in a debate if they gained one delegate in a primary or caucus, but the tweet from an official with the DNC indicates that might change. And several days later, the DNC confirmed that they were changing the threshold and Gabbard did not qualify.
Xochitl Hinojosa, the communications director for the Democratic Party, tweeted about the threshold changes on Twitter.
She wrote on the night of Super Tuesday: “We have two more debates– of course the threshold will go up. By the time we have the March debate, almost 2,000 delegates will be allocated. The threshold will reflect where we are in the race, as it always has.”
Her tweet, which specifically references delegate counts, seemed to indicate that the delegate threshold will increase. However, she didn’t go into more details about how that might change.
The comment was made around the same time that people began speculating online that Gabbard could have a place on the debate stage now that she has earned delegates. The next two debates will be in March and April. The March debate will be in Phoenix on March 15, two days before the primary in Arizona. That debate will be hosted by CNN and Univision, with CHC Bold of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
According to KITV 4, Gabbard earned two delegates in the American Samoa caucus. Mike Bloomberg earned four delegates, part of his total of 59 from Super Tuesday.
The February 25 debate allowed candidates to be on the stage if they got at least one delegate, or if they had 12 percent in two DNC-qualified South Carolina polls, or at least 10 percent in four DNC-qualified national polls.
Don Ford, Democratic strategist, told Heavy that the DNC shouldn’t change the rules for a debate after someone qualifies.
“You can’t change a threshold after someone qualifies,” Ford said. “That is outright cheating. You can change the threshold for the last debate, but changing the one now would be seriously not following their own rules when criteria can already be changed way more easily than any other type of rule. This would be breaking the party and too far.”
The DNC later confirmed that they were indeed changing the requirements and Gabbard doesn’t meet those, The Hill reported. The new requirements for delegates are getting at least 20 percent of the delegates as of March 15. Gabbard’s two delegates don’t meet this requirement. Only Sanders and Biden qualify for this next debate.
People on Twitter aren’t too happy about this possible rule change.
Others are pointing out that the DNC dropped donation requirements, which gave Mike Bloomberg a chance to join the debate stage. Now they’re changing the thresholds again, but this time it’s not going to help Tulsi Gabbard.
Hinojosa later retweeted a message about how the donation change “leveled the playing field” for candidates. The quote was from a New York Times reporter, Maggie Haberman, who wrote: “One of the most consequential moments of the primary campaign was the DNC changing the donor requirement for the debates, which was misinterpreted as somehow helping Bloomberg, as opposed to leveling the playing field for his rivals in terms of the $$.”
The DNC later confirmed they were changing the threshold. Gabbard does not qualify.