It’s Official: September Democratic Debate Will Be One Night Only

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After two rounds of back-to-back debate nights over the summer, the next Democratic presidential debate will be a one-night affair.

Candidates had until 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday to meet the Democratic National Committee’s qualification requirements: amassing 130,000 individual donors and receiving 2 percent support in at least four qualifying polls.

Even after two new polls were released Wednesday morning, only 10 candidates made the cut, meaning they can all fit on one stage under rules set by the D.N.C. Those candidates are:

  • Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

  • Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey

  • Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind.

  • Julián Castro, the former housing secretary

  • Senator Kamala Harris of California

  • Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota

  • Former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas

  • Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont

  • Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts

  • Andrew Yang, a tech entrepreneur

The requirements to make this debate, which will be held Sept. 12, were about twice as high as those for the first two sets of debates, and exactly half as many candidates qualified.

The one-night format means the leading candidates will all share the stage for the first time. Because of the size of the previous debate fields, two of the highest-polling candidates, Mr. Biden and Ms. Warren, have yet to face each other directly.

But the format also means that, once again, 10 candidates will be jostling for speaking time — a situation that can lend itself more to sound bites than to in-depth, well, debate. For that reason, some observers had been hoping for two debate nights with five or six candidates apiece.

Several candidates who didn’t make the cut criticized the D.N.C.’s requirements, saying the committee was unnecessarily narrowing the field with five months still to go before the Iowa caucuses.

Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana, in an interview on MSNBC on Wednesday, said the debate would be “missing something” by not including him. Mr. Bullock, who often emphasizes that he is the only Democratic presidential candidate who has won a statewide race in a state that voted for President Trump, said there would be no “rural voice” onstage.

In a letter sent Wednesday to Tom Perez, the D.N.C. chairman, an adviser to Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado complained that the committee had “not provided information on how or why its unprecedented debate qualification requirements were set nor what the criteria will be for the eight future debates.”

The D.N.C. is accepting polls from 16 organizations for the debate qualifications, and some highly regarded pollsters are not on the list. Several more candidates, including the billionaire investor Tom Steyer and Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, might have qualified for the debate if more polls had been counted. But a larger list would not have helped Mr. Bennet or Mr. Bullock, because neither has met the donor requirement.

Some lesser-known candidates have criticized the donor requirement, too, arguing that it creates an incentive to focus on fund-raising rather than voter outreach. It seems, though, that 130,000 donors was actually an easier bar to clear than 2 percent support in four polls.

Four candidates — Ms. Gabbard, Mr. Steyer, the self-help author Marianne Williamson and Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, who ended his campaign last week — met the donor threshold but not the polling threshold. Nobody, by contrast, met the polling threshold without meeting the donor threshold.

Mr. Steyer got three of the four polls he needed, but failed to reach 2 percent support in either of the polls released Wednesday morning. Ms. Gabbard hit that mark in two polls, and Ms. Williamson in one.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who ended her campaign on Wednesday, and former Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado, who also dropped out recently and is now running for Senate, were the only other candidates to reach 2 percent in a qualifying poll.

Mr. Steyer, Ms. Gabbard and others who didn’t make the cut for September could still qualify for the fourth debate, which will be held in October. They have until two weeks before that debate — whose date hasn’t been announced yet — to meet the current criteria. (After that, the D.N.C. may raise the qualifications bar yet again.)

So don’t get too excited about the one-night format. The second night will probably be back a month later.

Reid J. Epstein contributed reporting.

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