At the beginning of this month, there were two Colorado-based candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for President. By the time the calendar turns to September, there might be zero.
Former Gov. John Hickenlooper formally ended his Presidential campaign on August 15, and Sen. Michael Bennet may not be far behind. Candidates seeking the Democratic Presidential nomination have until the end of the day today to hit two benchmarks to qualify for the September debate in Houston: 1) Demonstrate contributions from at least 130,000 individual donors, and 2) Reach 2% in at least four DNC-approved polls. Bennet has not met either threshold, and he’s not particularly close (Bennet’s polling average is in the neighborhood of 0.4%).
As Dan Merica writes for CNN, failing to qualify for next month’s debate will be a tough blow to overcome:
Publicly, many of these candidates — like Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and former Rep. John Delaney — are pledging to forge ahead and downplaying the impact of missing the media moment. But privately, nearly every campaign that has missed the debate stage is worried about staying relevant with both voters and donors while not being part of the contest.
And the lack of an invite has already contributed to the thinning of the field. Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee both dropped out — in part — because they weren’t going to qualify for the debate, according to people close to the two Democrats…
…According to Matt Corridoni, Moulton’s spokesman, it’s likely that all the campaigns will underestimate the negative impact missing the debate stage will have on them…
“At a certain point you have to weigh viability and, like it or not, polls follow media coverage, media coverage follows polls and voters are using these debates to help them figure out and pare down candidates,” said Corridoni. “So if you are not on that stage, you have to really be able to penetrate the media cycle. It is a near impossible task.”
An Inslee aide echoed Corridoni.
“It was clear that he wasn’t going to make the debate and it is very difficult to stay in the race if you aren’t going to make the debate stage,” the aide said.
It appears that 10 Democratic candidates have met both requirements for the Houston debate: former Vice President Joe Biden, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, California Sen. Kamala Harris, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and businessman Andrew Yang. Three other candidates have met the fundraising threshold but not the polling requirements (Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, businessman Tom Steyer, and author/mystic Marianne Williamson).
Steyer didn’t enter the race until July; because of his personal wealth and the fact that he’s collected a significant number of individual donors, he can probably hang around for awhile. Staying in the race will be a tougher call for Gabbard. It probably doesn’t really matter either way what Williamson decides to do going forward.
The writing is on the wall for Bennet, though he may have already accomplished his true goal of raising his profile enough to get a top job in the next Democratic Presidential administration as Secretary of…something. Bennet might even been an attractive option for Vice President, depending on who wins the Democratic nomination (it makes less sense for Biden or Sanders to choose Bennet as a running mate).
Bennet isn’t going to be the next President of the United States, but if he plays his cards right — and if Donald Trump isn’t re-elected in 2020 — then he could have a prominent role in American politics in the next 4-8 years. In that context, tomorrow could be both the beginning of the end and the end of the beginning for Michael Bennet.