Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) is leading the charge to convince the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to change its debate requirements for January and February. The New Jersey senator, along with former Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julian Castro, failed to meet the threshold for the Dec.19th debate. In order to be on stage, each candidate must have at least 200,000 unique donors and garner at least four-percent support in four qualifying polls or at least six-percent support in two approved early voting state polls in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada or South Carolina.
Booker floated a letter amongst his colleagues, asking the DNC to make the debate thresholds less stringent. One of the arguments he made is that the rules make the debate stage less diverse, especially since Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) dropped out of the race. Both Booker and Castro also failed to qualify for November's debate.
“While we know this was an unintended consequence of the DNC’s actions, many of the candidates excluded due to these thresholds are the ones who have helped make this year’s primary field historically diverse,” the letter reads. “Frankly, that unintended result does not live up to the values of our Democratic Party and it does not serve the best interest of Democratic voters, who deserve to hear from and be able to choose among the best our party has to offer.”
Specifically, the candidates want the threshold to go back to what it was before, where candidates could qualify for the debate stage by either donations or polling, The Hill reported. If that were to happen, that could widen the debate stage once again and include Booker, Castro and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
"Adopting the aforementioned criteria will produce a debate stage that better reflects our party and our country; will recognize a broader definition of what constitutes a viable candidacy, particularly in the early primary and caucus states where strong organization can outweigh media persuasion efforts; and will reflect the practical reality that the polling threshold has proven to be an unreliable metric, with only four national debate qualifying polls released since the last debate," the candidates wrote.
"With the holiday season upon us, and a brief qualification window for the January debate, it’s vital to make modifications to qualification criteria now," the letter said. "If we are to beat Donald Trump next November, this must be our way forward."
The DNC defended their debate qualifications as "extremely low."
“The DNC has led a fair and transparent process and even told campaigns almost a year ago that the qualification criteria would go up later in the year — not one campaign objected," DNC communications director Xochitl Hinojosa told BuzzFeed News. "The DNC will not change the threshold for any one candidate and will not revert back to two consecutive nights with more than a dozen candidates.”
According to Hinojosa, once voters begin to turn out in February, “our criteria will reflect those contests, which is more than appropriate. We’re proud to have given candidates so many opportunities to get their message across, and will continue to have fair criteria that reflects each point in the race.”