Andrew Yang becomes 9th candidate to qualify for September debate

The entrepreneur has never held elective office, but he just beat better-known rivals to the third debate stage.
Image: Andrew Yang
Andrew Yang speaks during the AARP and The Des Moines Register Iowa Presidential Candidate Forum on July 19, 2019, in Sioux City, Iowa.Justin Sullivan / Getty Images file

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By Alex Seitz-Wald

WASHINGTON — Entrepreneur Andrew Yang announced Thursday that he is the ninth candidate to qualify for the next Democratic debate, beating better-known senators, governors and mayors to that benchmark.

A new Monmouth University poll of likely Iowa Democratic caucus-goers out Thursday shows Yang with 2 percent support, giving him the fourth poll he needs to qualify for the Sept. 12-13 debate in Houston.

Nothing is official until the Democratic National Committee announces it, but Yang's campaign says he's already accrued the required number of donors to qualify for the debate, so the political outsider will most likely be on the stage again next month. Yang participated in the first two Democratic debates.

In a statement, Yang said he was excited to be joining the debate in Houston.

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"I said in the last debate that American politics had turned into a reality show that produced a reality-show president," he said. "Solutions don’t come in 30-second sound bites and the American people are tired of leadership condensed into 280 characters. The country heard my message and is ready to talk about real solutions to gun violence, the new realities of the American economy, and how we measure our health and success as a nation."

Yang, who has never held elective office and was almost entirely unknown until recently, is now arguably closer to his party's presidential nomination than people like Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, or New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Yang is running on a signature promise to give every American $1,000 a month if elected president under a program known as Universal Basic Income.

To qualify for the upcoming debates in September and October, candidates need to register at least 2 percent support in at least four polls (from different pollsters or different parts of the country) and get at least 130,000 people to contribute to their campaign.

So far, eight other candidates appear to have qualified: Former Vice President Joe Biden; New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker; Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana; California Sen. Kamala Harris; Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar; former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke; Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders; and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Former Housing Secretary Julián Castro and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard say they have enough donors, but still need to improve their polling, according to an NBC News tally. Castro is just one poll away. Billionaire Tom Steyer also needs one more poll, but he has yet to get the donors he needs.

Everyone else is still waiting to cross both thresholds.

Candidates who miss the September debate will still have a chance to make the one in October, since the DNC clarified this week that candidates can use the month between the two debates to try to demonstrate the necessary support.