The DNC announces the next four debates

First up today, the DNC has announced the basic info on the four debates that come in the first two months of 2020. As a reminder, the DNC has said it will hold 12 primary debates in all, half of which are in 2019 and the other half in 2020. Now, they could certainly add to that list, but that’s the current plan. Next week’s debate is the 6th so far. The list they released today brings us to 10, so that means after all of these there are still at least two more debates in the primary season alone.

Okay, so here is the list of dates, broadcasters, and locations for the first FOUR debates in 2020.

Debate number 7: January 14th. It will air on CNN, and take place at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

Debate number 8: February 7th. It will air on ABC, and take place at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Debate number 9: February 19th. It will air on NBC, and take place somewhere in Las Vegas, Nevada.

And Debate number 10: February 25th. It will air on CBS, and take place at The Gaillard [“gil-YARD”] Center in Charleston, South Carolina.

So, with THREE debates in February, um, we’re gonna be busy. Also, you can imagine that the qualification rules for those February debates could be weirdly complicated given how close they are to one another. It might make sense for the DNC to simplify the polling rules given that the last two debates are only six days apart. We don’t have any official word on what those qualifying rules are yet, but I’m watching for that one, and we may get some more info as soon as tomorrow.

One other note: The DNC acknowledged the possibility of an impeachment trial and the fact that there are multiple Senators likely to appear on the debate stage, while also having to attend that trial late into the evening. They said they’d try to figure out how to make that work if it happens.

Who has and hasn’t qualified for the debate

While we’re on the topic of debates, we have a likely final list of candidates for the stage next week. While it is technically possible that Gabbard could get a qualifying poll late today, it seems unlikely—and she has already pledged not to appear anyway, so…we might as well assume this is the list of candidates who will appear one week from today:

Biden, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Sanders, Steyer, Warren, and Yang.

That’s seven, down from 10 in November. And that’s actually the first substantial reduction since we’ve had in months.

While we’re talking about qualifying polls, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg actually has TWO qualifying polls right now for December. He would need four of them, but still—for a late entrant, that’s a lot. He got 5% in each of the national polls released on Tuesday. And before those, he had several 3% results that just barely missed the cut. So it seems that Bloomberg really could get the polls he needs, though that donor thing is still an issue.

And to close out this segment, let’s hear from former HUD Secretary Julián Castro on the debate qualification rules. His comments came after Tom Steyer, who did make the debate, called for the DNC to change its rules so the debates would include more diverse candidates. When asked about this, Castro suggested a much deeper structural change to the primary process. Listen in:


The polling deadline closes tonight for next week’s debate…and why it was so hard to qualify this time

And in our final debate story for today, let’s examine why qualifying for the December debate was so much harder than qualifying for November. Yes, the DNC ramped up the rules yet again for the percentage each candidate had to get in polls, and the number of donors they needed. But in the past, lots of candidates have been able to reach these increasing requirements pretty easily. So what was different this time?

Reading from an article by Geoffrey Skelley for FiveThirtyEight:

“There is one real challenge these candidates have faced, though. And that’s that far fewer qualifying polls have been released in the last two weeks than in the previous five debates. Only two polls have been released in the last two weeks compared to nine in the lead up to the last debate. In fact, the two national polls from Monmouth University and Quinnipiac University released on Tuesday marked the first surveys since a CNN poll came out on Nov[ember] 27[th], the day before Thanksgiving.
Most debates have seen anywhere from five to nine polls released in the last two weeks, but for the upcoming debate, it seems as if there will be less than five. So what’s behind the dearth in polling? One obvious culprit is Thanksgiving. Pollsters try to avoid polling around the holidays because of concerns about response rates — people are often traveling or visiting family and friends. In that sense then, it’s not surprising that there weren’t any polls released right after the holiday weekend when few pollsters would’ve been in the field anyway. However, pollsters could have conducted surveys last week and then released them this past weekend — yet none did.”

Skelley goes on to note that even with this lack of polling, one remaining factor is which organizations the DNC chooses as approved pollsters. They have a list, and not every pollster or sponsoring organization is on it. And there were polls released after Thanksgiving, but they weren’t on that list, so they don’t count for the debates. If the DNC’s rules were more permissive, that may have given more opportunities for candidates to get qualifying results.

But, as always, the DNC sets the rules for the DNC’s debates. And there is an open question about what those rules might be for the January and February debates. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the big word here is Bloomberg. He will have good polling, but he won’t have donors. We’ll have to see whether the DNC makes room for him on the stage by dropping the donor requirements, or sticks with its existing pattern of relying on both donors and polls. Either way, get ready, it’s gonna be a busy winter.

The impeachment update

And now the impeachment news in four minutes or less.

Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee began its markup process on the articles of impeachment. Just before the hearing began, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff sent some new classified evidence // over to the Judiciary Committee. We don’t know what that evidence is, but it may be a way to make sure the final bits of the investigation are technically on the record before any voting happens. In his opening statement, Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler described how he thought the debate should go. Here’s a clip.


The hearings did not stick to those questions. What followed was an immensely long hearing, which went late into the night. Nadler allowed every member a five-minute statement, and given that are 41 members on that committee, this took a long time. There were many notable speeches that emphasized the personal biographies of the House members on that committee, and how they viewed the proceedings through the lens of their biographies.

But the most explosive moment was when Representative Louie Gohmert of Texas named the person he thinks is the whistleblower as part of a list of people he called on to testify. Now, Schiff had previously warned members, repeatedly, not to do this, as the whistleblower statute allows whistleblowers to remain anonymous, and there have already been threats of violence against this unnamed person. Schiff had also noted that any attempt by a House member to release that name could be an ethics violation.

Meanwhile, in an odd twist of the calendar, this hearing began precisely 21 years, to the day, after the same committee approved articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton. After the hearings wrapped up late last night, they started right up again this morning.

As the hearings continued, they were, yet again, beset by procedural motions designed to stretch things out. At one point, Republican Jim Jordan introduced a resolution that would strike the entire first article of impeachment. That kicked off an hours-long debate, because, again, all members of the committee get time to comment on that kind of resolution. And as I say these words, there’s every reason to assume it will happen again with the second article. So, I presume a vote will happen at some point tonight, and, if so, I’ll tell you about it tomorrow. But honestly, at this rate, who knows.

One more procedural note. As we get closer to a vote on the House floor, some Democrats from districts that went for Trump in 2016 are reportedly planning not to vote for impeachment. Here’s how the math works. Assuming the vote goes along party lines, and Independent Justin Amash votes with Democrats, Democrats can afford to lose the votes of up to 17 members. The reports I’ve seen have as many as six considering that action, and we are likely to see a vote sometime next week.

Hawaii cancels its Republican primary

And here’s a quick one. After I reported on Tuesday that that seven states now have either no Republican Presidential primary at all, or one with just President Trump on the ballot, Hawaii has joined that list. So make it eight. The Hawaii GOP has announced that all of its delegates are going for Trump, and there will be no presidential preference poll.

Now, you may ask, what’s a presidential preference poll? Well, to oversimplify wildly, it’s kind of halfway between a caucus and a primary. But the point here is that it’s the mechanism by which the party would allocate its delegates, and it’s not happening, so that’s that for now.

A judge dismisses the lawsuit about the South Carolina Republican primary

And another quick one. A judge in South Carolina has dismissed a case against the state GOP that could have reinstated its presidential primary.

It’s a somewhat complex decision in terms of the legal argument, but the ruling is in the show notes in you’re curious. Overall, this very likely means there will be no South Carolina Republican Presidential primary. Sorry, its “presidential preference primary.” ANYWAY, reading from an article by Jamie Lovegrove in The Post and Courier:

“[Richland County Circuit Judge Jocelyn] Newman ruled that the South Carolina GOP did not count as a state government actor at the time of the executive committee’s decision and would only become one in the eyes of the law if they had decided to hold a primary.
She also determined that some of the statutes the plaintiffs sought to apply to presidential preference primaries only apply to other types of primaries. Presidential primaries are unique in that they do not determine the party’s nominee but only bind delegates to vote for a certain candidate at the party’s national convention.”

So, like I said, there’s some complexity in the legal stuff, and feel free to dig in using those show notes if you’re curious.

A comparison of TV spending by the Democratic candidates

And last up today, CNN reporter David Wright did a roundup of how much Democratic primary candidates have spent on TV ads so far in this primary cycle. While I don’t want to just read a giant list of numbers, I’m going to pick out a few of them here.

At the top of list are Bloomberg at more than $100 million dollars, and Steyer at more than $82 million dollars. Then there’s huge drop-off to the next candidate down the list. That’s Senator Bernie Sanders at more than $8 million dollars. In others, about a tenth of what Steyer has already spent.

If you’re curious about who’s spending money on TV in this campaign, well, that’s the broad answer—it’s the two billionaires currently spending WAY, WAY more than everybody else combined.

A few more interesting notes here, though. First, Biden has only spent about $2 million dollars on TV so far. That’s a bit surprising, given his standing in the polls. For comparison, Yang has spent more than twice that much. Now, having said that, there is a Super PAC running ads on Biden’s behalf. But still, they’re not spending a ton.

And one other fun fact that jumped out at me is that author Marianne Williamson has spent just $972 dollars on TV ads. Now, wherever she got that deal, I want to go and run an ad. So if you have a TV station and you run can my ad on the air for $972 dollars, get in touch.