WASHINGTON — On Thursday, 20 Democrats qualified for the first presidential debates.
That means three major candidates missed the cut.
Candidates could either qualify for the debates by reaching at least 1% in three qualified polls, or by receiving donations from at least 65,000 individual donors and a minimum of 200 individual donors in at least 20 states.
Former Gov. Steve Bullock, U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass, and Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam all failed to meet the qualifying criteria.
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Here’s how they have reacted to the situation:
In an interview on MSNBC, Bullock said he knew “getting in at the time that I did would give me fewer opportunities to get on shows” to make the debate threshold.
Bullock, however, said that Democrats need to talk about why they haven’t broken through in urban and rural areas and “give people a reason to vote for us and not just against” President Donald Trump.
“What I’ll be doing, and the way that I’ve always won in Montana — three times in Montana — is putting people ahead of the sort of politics or the food fights, and I think that that’s how I’ve been successful, and I think it’s what folks want out of the next candidate for president,” he concluded.
Bullock has argued he is being penalized for entering the race late to maintain his responsibilities as governor.
In a press release Wednesday, the Montana governor slammed the Democratic National Committee, saying “If I had to choose between chasing 100,000 donors or getting healthcare for 100,000 Montanans – well, that’s the easiest decision I’ll ever have to make.”
“While 20 candidates are on the debate stage in Miami, I will be talking directly to voters about my record of passing progressive priorities in a state Trump won, the importance of winning the places we lost, and how we are going to beat Donald Trump once and for all,” he continued.
Moulton’s campaign isn’t worried about not making the first primary debate.
In a statement to USA TODAY, Press Secretary Matt Corridoni said the debates will not determine the Democratic nominee.
“At this point in 2016 Trump wasn’t even in the race. In 2008, Hillary Clinton was the presumed nominee, and in 2004 we were preparing for President Howard Dean,” he said. “History shows it’s better to be where we’re positioned now than anyone else. Seth has been receiving a great response on the ground and he’ll continue to take his message directly to voters.”
Moultonhas previously acknowledged that he wouldn’t make the debate stage.
Last week, he told radio host Hugh Hewitt, “No, I’m not going to make the first debate, but I knew that getting in so late. But I think that’s OK … This first debate’s going to have 20 people. Folks are barely going to get a chance to speak. This is a long campaign. And it’s not going to be decided by the Democratic National Committee in their debates. It’s going to get decided by the American people.”
Messam has struggled to break into the crowded Democratic field since he first entered the race. FEC filings show he has only raised $43.5K and spent a little over $1,700 in the first quarter of 2019 — and almost all on fundraising costs. It is unclear if he has any full-time campaign staff.
On Wednesday, Messam criticized CNN for not giving him a town hall, writing on Twitter, “When candidates are given nationally televised town halls, they qualify for the debate. I’ve yet to be granted a CNN or Fox town, yet, I’m held to the same requirements.”
Contributing: Rebecca Morin, USA TODAY
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