WASHINGTON — The game of musical chairs to make the first Democratic presidential debate just ended, and one governor appears to have been left standing.
Monmouth University just released what's expected to be the final poll that could have made a difference for candidates hoping to claw their way onto the debate stage in two weeks, and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock didn’t get what he needed.
Bullock appeared to be the only candidate on the bubble for making the debates, with 20 of his rivals apparently qualifying either by getting the 65,000 donors or reaching 1 percent in at least three national and early-state polls the Democratic National Committee deemed credible. The deadline to make the cut is midnight Wednesday.
A handful of other candidates appear to be on the bubble, but it looks like they’ve qualified: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Reps. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) and Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), and former Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.).
Bullock is the only candidate in the race who’s won a Trump state, and is viewed by many pundits as a more credible dark-horse candidate than a number of other Democrats who will be onstage in Miami on June 26 or 27.
But he got into the race late as he was finishing up the legislative session back home, and he didn’t have time to reach the donor threshold. His team thought he’d be in based on polls, but the DNC’s decision that one ABC-Washington Post poll’s methodology didn’t work for them left him one poll short of qualifying.
That means the other one-percenters don’t have to sweat. The DNC’s debate rules set the maximum number of candidates for the debate double-header at 20, and if he’d qualified with one of the criteria then he and others would have gone to a tiebreaker.
Along with Bullock, Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and small-town Florida mayor Wayne Messam and former Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska), a quasi-candidate, won’t be on the debate stage. All the other candidates appear to have qualified, according to their campaigns.
Bullock’s team responded with a video pointing out that he got into the race late so he could make sure Montana's GOP-controlled state legislature passed medicaid expansion, with a constituent thanking him for sticking around.
“He’s the only Democrat who won a Trump state, but you won’t see Steve Bullock at the first debate — and I’m the reason why. Before he could run for president, Steve had to convince a Republican legislature to save my healthcare, and he did,” said constituent Madison Johnson. “That might not mean much to the DNC in Washington, but it means everything to me.”
Cover: Democratic presidential candidate and Montana governor Steve Bullock speaks at the Iowa Democratic Party's Hall of Fame Dinner on June 9, 2019 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)