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Democrats Can Qualify for the Next Debate by Winning a Single Delegate in Iowa

Democrats Can Qualify for the Next Debate by Winning a Single Delegate in Iowa

There will be two ways for Democratic candidates to qualify for their party’s next presidential debate, scheduled for Feb. 7, the Democratic National Committee announced on Friday. All six candidates who qualified for this past week’s debate have qualified for the next.

The candidates can meet the same thresholds they had to last time: Collecting donations from 225,000 people and earning either 5 percent support in four qualifying polls or 7 percent in two polls of New Hampshire, Nevada or South Carolina voters. Iowa polls will no longer count, because the Iowa caucuses take place on Feb. 3.

But the caucuses will open up the second path: Even if candidates don’t meet the D.N.C.’s polling and donor thresholds, they can qualify for the debate by winning any of the 41 pledged delegates at stake in Iowa. A single delegate will do.

This could provide a window for candidates like

Delegates will be awarded at the congressional district level as well as the state level in Iowa, meaning that candidates who are polling poorly statewide could still win a delegate or two if they perform disproportionately well in a particular district. Candidates need at least 15 percent support in one place — whether that place is a district or a state — to be eligible for delegates.

Since the first debate last June, the D.N.C.’s debate thresholds have drawn periodic criticism as more and more candidates have been excluded.

Only six candidates qualified for the debate this week: former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the former hedge fund executive Tom Steyer and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

All six have met the criteria for the next debate. Other candidates have until Feb. 6 to do so — meaning someone could potentially qualify less than 24 hours before taking the stage.

The criteria announced on Friday are for the coming debate in New Hampshire, which will be hosted by ABC News, WMUR-TV and Apple News on Feb. 7, four days before the New Hampshire primary. The D.N.C. has not released its criteria for the two subsequent debates, which will take place later in February in Nevada and South Carolina.

Reid J. Epstein contributed reporting.


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