Upcoming polls give Steyer shot at Democratic debate, could push it to two nights

The deadline for September's Democratic faceoff in Houston closes Wednesday.
Image: US-POLITICS-DEMOCRATS-DNC
2020 Democratic presidential hopeful and billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer speaks during the Democratic National Committee's summer meeting in San Francisco on Aug. 23, 2019.Josh Edelson / AFP - Getty Images

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By Alex Seitz-Wald

WASHINGTON - Liberal billionaire Tom Steyer will have at least once more chance to qualify for the next Democratic presidential debate before the deadline, thanks to two new polls expected to be released Wednesday morning.

Steyer is just one qualifying poll away from joining the 10 other candidates who have already qualified for the mid-September debate. If he makes it, organizers have said they'll spread the debate over two nights, like the June and July debates, instead of one.

Two pollsters — Quinnipiac University and USA Today/Suffolk University — have said they will release polls of the 2020 Democratic presidential race Wednesday, just under the wire before the Democratic National Committee's deadline closes.

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Both pollsters have been approved by the DNC as counting toward the debate qualification.

No other candidate is as close to qualifying as Steyer, who has been spending heavily on television advertisements to boost his name recognition after entering the race late.

Those closest to qualifying behind Steyer are Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, followed by author Marianne Williamson and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

Candidates who likely won't be making it onto the stage this time around include Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, former Maryland Rep. John Delaney and Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan.

To qualify for the ABC News-sponsored debate in Houston, candidates need to show by Wednesday that they have four polls registering 2 percent or more support, along with at least 130,000 individual donors to their campaigns, according to rules set by the DNC.

If candidates miss their chance next month, they’ll still have a chance to make the October debate, when they’ll have more time to hit both the polls and the donors threshold, which will remain the same as they are now.

The 10 candidates who have qualified already are: former Vice President Joe Biden; Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren; Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders; New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker; Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana; former Housing Secretary Julián Castro; California Sen. Kamala Harris; Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar; former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke; and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.