Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s anti-war tirades and spiritual advisor Marianne Williamson’s magical monologues will both be noticeably absent at the September 12 democratic debate in Houston.
The reason? Polling.
The qualifications for the third and fourth democratic debates held by the Democratic National Committee are much more stringent than those held over the summer. To qualify for the past two debates, candidates needed to either register at 1% in three qualifying polls or raise money from 65,000 individual donors. For the upcoming debates in Houston and Ohio, however, presidential hopefuls must secure both 130,000 individual donors and 2% in four qualifying polls.
Notice the word “qualifying.” The DNC hand picks which pollsters qualify towards debate inclusion and which do not. This has led to notable pollsters rated B or higher on FiveThirtyEight, such as Emerson College and YouGov, to be left out of the qualification conversation.
There are only 16 approved pollsters that may hold polls that count towards debate qualification. That small group has only produced four qualifying polls since the second debate in July, down from the 14 that were released following the first debate in June.
If the group of qualified pollsters were expanded to all organizations and firms with a B- or better on FiveThirtyEight, then an additional two candidates: Gabbard and billionaire Tom Steyer would have made the cut.
Numerous lower polling candidates have scrutinized the DNC for the lack of consistency and logic in its parameters for debate qualification, namely Gabbard, Williamson, Steyer, and Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet.
To date, the DNC has not provided information on how or why its unprecedented debate qualification requirements were set nor what the criteria will be for the eight future debates.
-Craig Hughes, advisor to the Bennet campaign
The DNC’s response? That the criticisms of its qualification parameters are “not rooted in anything.”
Unfortunately for the DNC, the problems with its qualifications for inclusion are rooted deeply in basic political science.
In a recent podcast, Director Lee Miringoff of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion and journalist Jay DeDapper expressed concerns about the polling qualifications as well. Citing a recent qualifying Monmouth poll, the pair explained how its wide margin of error and the small number of voters polled could lead to discrepancies large enough to jeopardize lower-tier candidates.
The DNC has not established, unlike FiveThirtyEight, a clear guide to what makes a poll trustworthy. They have instead selected an arbitrary list of 16 pollsters to have near-complete control on that early fate of the Democratic Presidential Primary. The DNC has ignored legitimate concerns from candidates and experts and has instead chosen to continue down the path of artificially winnowing the primary field.
Such decisions and actions prompt serious questions about where the DNC’s motives lie with regards to the presidential primary, especially after how it handled the 2016 nomination process.
A democratic Democratic Party is the key to ensuring that America ends up with a competent challenger to Donald Trump in 2020.
Note: This story originally appeared in my weekly column, “The Geiger Counter” on The Post. Read it here.
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