Bloomberg could qualify for debates under new party rules

Feb 1, 2020, 6:32 AM
Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, center, greets ...
Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, center, greets supporters at a campaign office, Monday, Jan. 27, 2020, in Scarborough, Maine. Bloomberg announced two former Utah mayors as the co-chairs of the Bloomberg Utah campaign. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The party announced Friday three different ways for candidates to reach the debate stage that involve reaching certain polling thresholds or banking a convention delegate in the first two nominating contests held in Iowa and New Hampshire. Under these new conditions, Bloomberg could qualify for the debates.

The Democratic National Committee has dropped grassroots fundraising qualifications for the party’s Feb. 19 debate before the Nevada caucuses, opening the possibility that billionaire Michael Bloomberg could make his first appearance on stage.

All previous debates have included a fundraising element, and since September, candidates have had to reach both polling thresholds and grassroots fundraising marks. Bloomberg, a former New York City mayor, has not yet hit the polling marks, but he will have until Feb. 18, the day before the debate, to do so — a prospect that pleases some rivals and incenses others.

How candidates qualify

Under the DNC rules, candidates have multiple paths to the stage: reach 10% support in some combination of four national polls or early state polls from Nevada or South Carolina; reach 12% support in two polls from Nevada or South Carolina or both; or bank a convention delegate in Iowa or New Hampshire, which host the first two nominating votes in early February.

Party Chairman Tom Perez and his aides have said for months that the DNC would likely shift to qualifying standards based on actual results once voting began. But the move is nonetheless significant given Bloomberg’s unique presence in the race.

The ultrabillionaire is self-funding his White House bid — spending at least $188 million from the time he entered the race on Nov. 24 until the end of the year, according to disclosures filed Friday — and thus never could have qualified had Perez continued to require debate participants to reach a certain number of donors.

Bloomberg could qualify for debates

The Bloomberg campaign praised the DNC’s decision to change the debate rules, which could pave the way for Bloomberg to qualify for debates.

“We are thrilled that voters could soon have the chance to see Mike Bloomberg on the debate stage, hear his vision for the country, and see why he is the strongest candidate to defeat Donald Trump and bring our country together,” campaign manager Kevin Sheekey said in a statement.

Bloomberg underscored recently that he had no intention of accepting contributions, even from small-dollar donors.

“I don’t even want the appearance of impropriety, and I hope party leaders change the rules,” he said while campaigning in Texas, but “if they don’t, so what? … I’m going to take my message directly to the voters.”

Rival campaigns have complained for weeks that Bloomberg has been avoiding scrutiny as he spreads his personal fortune across Super Tuesday states, part of his unusual campaign that is skipping the first four states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. Bloomberg donated more than $100,000 to the DNC just days before he entered the race; candidates typically make such contributions to get access to the party’s national voter database.

How this will change the scene

But how to treat him on the debate stage is a tricky proposition for the campaigns. Some candidates have argued he should be subjected to the same questioning they’ve endured for months, yet rival campaigns also are wary about validating Bloomberg as a legitimate threat. And they already privately acknowledge that his personal fortune makes him a variable they must consider, regardless of the debates, as they try to amass the nearly 2,000 delegates that will be necessary to win the nomination.

Relaxing rules that govern debates almost certainly will leave some former candidates unhappy. Julián Castro and Cory Booker, in particular, have complained that the DNC’s rules unfairly targeted minority candidates because even grassroots donor bases are whiter than the Democratic electorate.

In response to the rules change, Booker’s former campaign manager Addisu Demissie sent out a tweet with a GIF of Justin Timberlake looking incredulous. Asked for additional comment, Demissie pointed back to the tweet.

Jeff Weaver, a senior adviser for Bernie Sanders, said it would be “wrong” to change rules that would “accommodate Mayor Bloomberg, who has raised no grassroots donations and is instead flooding the airwaves across the country funded by his billions of dollars of personal assets.”

“Now, at this late hour, to change the rules to accommodate a billionaire who wants to buy his way into the party would be unconscionable,” Weaver said. “No one should be allowed to buy their way onto the debate stage or the nomination.”

Echoing the Sanders team, Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren said there shouldn’t be a separate set of rules for billionaires.

“The DNC didn’t change the rules to ensure good, diverse candidates could remain on the debate stage. They shouldn’t change the rules to let a billionaire on,” Warren tweeted.

Other Democrats have encouraged the DNC to allow Bloomberg’s participation.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar said this week that she’d be “fine” with Bloomberg being on the debate stage.

“I think that instead of just putting your money out there, he’s actually got to be on the stage and be able to go back-and-forth so voters can evaluate him in that way,” she said on MSNBC.


Associated Press writers Brian Slodysko in Des Moines, Iowa, and Kathleen Ronayne in Manchester, N.H., contributed to this report.


Similar stories:

Michael Bloomberg to campaign in Utah

Michael Bloomberg launches Democratic presidential bid

Today’s Top Stories


Jeff Gray is pictured. Photo credit: Jeff Gray Campaign Facebook page....
Lindsay Aerts and Samantha Herrera

Jeff Gray to bring back death penalty after becoming presumptive next Utah County Attorney

In the race for Utah County Attorney, prosecutor Jeff Gray beat incumbent David Leavitt and is expected to take office in January.
8 days ago
A voter drops a ballot into a box at the Salt Lake County Government Center in Salt Lake City on Mo...
Becky Bruce

The Utah primary election is expected to be ‘pretty normal’

Tuesday's primary election in Utah is expected to be about average for a midterm election.
10 days ago
A voter fills in the ballot on the voting machine during the Election Day voting at Vivint Smart Ho...
Lindsay Aerts

State elections leaders dismiss state lawmakers claims of vote switching

WASATCH COUNTY, Utah — The State Elections Office says all of the state’s voting machines are working correctly ahead of Primary Election Day Tuesday. This comes after Rep. Phil Lyman, R-Blanding, made claims on social media, that some of the machines were changing people’s votes. Screenshot of Lyman’s social media post. Lyman posted on Facebook […]
10 days ago
A crowd gathers in front of the Utah State Capitol on Friday, June 24, 2022, to protest the U.S. Su...
Waverly Golden

Planned Parenthood of Utah files lawsuit against the state

Utah's Trigger Law saw its first challenge on Saturday as Planned Parenthood of Utah filed a lawsuit to block the law that went into effect Friday evening.
11 days ago
marriage Utah Sen. Derek Kitchen firearm codify...
Mark Jones

With Roe v. Wade now overturned, could same-sex marriage be next?

Many people are wondering what precedents the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on next, possibly same-sex marriage. Utah Sen. Derek Kitchen says the court could do so it wishes.
13 days ago
A crowd gathers in front of the Utah State Capitol on Friday, June 24, 2022, to protest the U.S. Su...
Mark Jones

S.B. 174 now in effect in Utah with Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v. Wade

With the overturn of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Utah trigger law, known as S.B. 174 is now in effect in the state.
13 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
Bloomberg could qualify for debates under new party rules