Democratic Race Stable as Ten Candidates Qualify for Debate

Little is changing in the Democratic presidential primary.

Ten candidates have qualified for the third Democratic presidential debate, to be held in two weeks’ time, putting pressure on the low-polling candidates to drop out.

New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who failed to qualify, ended her campaign on Wednesday, joining John Hickenlooper, Jay Inslee, Seth Moulton and Eric Swalwell.

Michael Bennet, Bill de Blasio, Steve Bullock, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Tim Ryan, Tom Steyer and Marianne Williamson remain in the race, although they have little support.

The ten candidates who qualified are: Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Julián Castro, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang.

Of those, Biden is the clear frontrunner while Sanders and Warren share second place in the polls.


Candidates who didn’t qualify for the debate argue the selection was unfair, but Jonathan Bernstein writes for Bloomberg Opinion that fairness is not the Democratic Party’s priority.

The method the party chose, limiting debate invitations to those polling well and drawing a minimum number of donors, was fairly arbitrary. But it got the job done of winnowing the field of candidates.

“What does a party want from the nomination process?” Bernstein asks.

Well, first, it wants to actually produce a nominee. No one wants a repeat of the 1924 Democratic convention when it took more than 100 ballots to nominate a non-entity because the rules in place at the time gave every substantial faction within the party a veto. It also wants to choose someone who is at least minimally acceptable to the entire party, since otherwise the losing groups may simply walk out. And it wants the process to settle internal arguments over public policy and tie the eventual nominee as closely as possible to the party’s positions and priorities.

Stable race

The polls have been fairly stable for months.

  • Biden’s support surged to 40 percent after he formally announced his candidacy in April and has since fallen back to around 30 percent.
  • Sanders and Warren have shared second place since the end of June, with just north of 15 percent support each.
  • Harris got a bump in the polls after an impressive debate performance in July, but now her support is back in the single digits.

Warren looks strong

Of the second-tier candidates, Warren may be the most likely to surge.

Nathaniel Rakich of FiveThirtyEight points out that while Biden leads in national polls, early-state polls look good for Warren.

  • She has led some polls in Iowa and is not far behind Biden in others. Warren has the highest favorability rating among Iowa Democrats. Biden only has the fifth-best rating.
  • As a candidate from next-door Massachusetts, Warren has a home-field advantage in New Hampshire. If she does win in Iowa, that would give her a boost heading into New Hampshire.
  • If she does well in both states, Warren will definitely have a boost going into Nevada. Nevada also has many union voters, which seems like a good fit for Warren.