BREAKING NEWS: Yang's fourth qualifying poll DOES NOT COUNT per DNC. This broke after recording; more on that tomorrow.

Yang makes September (and October)

Late on Monday, entrepreneur Andrew Yang announced that he had reached the DNC’s polling threshold for the third and fourth debates, in September in October. He had already reached the fundraising threshold, so that means he’s in. In the tweet announcing the milestone, he wrote:

“That’s 2% in our 4th qualifying national poll [link to Quinnipiac poll]. Fall debates here we come!! Thank you #YangGang for making it happen! [Smiley emoji] [Thumbs up emoji] [Boxing glove emoji]”

That means our current list of candidates for the debates after tonight and tomorrow are:

Biden, Booker (more on that in a moment), Buttigieg, Harris, O’Rourke, Sanders, Warren, and Yang.

That’s eight. It also makes Yang eligible for that CNN climate change forum I mentioned yesterday. If you’re following along at home, you might note that Yang is the first and, so far, ONLY candidate who has never held a political office to make it to this milestone. Everybody else on the list I just read is either a former or sitting Senator, House Representative, Mayor, or Vice President.

I’ve seen some people on Twitter asking why it’s important that Yang got 2 percent in four polls, plus the donors he needed. The simple answer is, because you’ve got a pile of people in this race, including sitting Senators, House Representatives, Governors, a millionaire, and a billionaire, all of whom haven’t gotten it done. But Yang just did. Yang is a businessman and author who started his campaign 631 days ago, and has steadily grown support since then. He is both more popular and has a bigger donor base than more than half of this field, many of whom are seasoned politicians. That is a big deal.

Here’s part of a video clip he retweeted, from an appearance last night on CNN’s Out Front with Erin Burnett. Listen in:

[YANG CLIP]

And that’s it right there—as I mentioned at the end of Monday’s show, you have a bunch of campaigns who see tonight and tomorrow as possibly the end of the line. So the Hail Mary factor is there for them, and it may be their only option.

Yang has the relative security of at least three more debate appearances locked in, so he can afford to choose how he wants to play this. He can attack, he can talk policy, he can do a lot of stuff. Burnett is right that he does still have work to do in getting his overall polls up, but simply getting to September and October is a massive achievement that may help him in the polling department, and it’s particularly impressive for a first-time candidate.

Booker makes it too

And next up, oh, by the way, Senator Cory Booker just made those same debates too. He actually made it BEFORE Yang did.

Booker made the announcement on Monday morning in a statement to CNN, followed up by a tweet. In Booker’s case he already had the polling, but just brought in the necessary donors. We definitely saw this one coming, because Booker announced on Thursday last week that he needed just 5,000 more donors. Here’s the brief audio from his tweet about that, listen in:

[BOOKER CLIP]

So, he did get those donors over the weekend and presumably waited for Monday to make the news cycle. That’s what I’d do, anyway.

For what it’s worth, neither Booker nor Yang will appear in tonight’s debate—CNN’s The Claw—I mean, The Draw—selected them for Wednesday, so it’ll be hard for anybody tonight to celebrate those milestones on stage. Plus, it’s debatable whether it’s even worth mentioning onstage anyway.

At the moment, my guess for the next candidate to qualify would be Senator Amy Klobuchar, who has met the polling requirement but does not yet have the donors. She WILL be on stage tonight, so if she does well, she might see those donors rolling in tomorrow.

A few specifics about tonight’s debate

Okay, as you may have heard, tonight is the first night of CNN’s July debate. I just want to give you a few points to watch for, and reiterate the best ways to actually view the show. First up, who is onstage? Well, from left to right, it is: Williamson, Ryan, Klobuchar, Buttigieg, Sanders, Warren, O’Rourke, Hickenlooper, Delaney, and Bullock.

If you hadn’t noticed, there are no candidates of color on tonight’s bill—that’s just how CNN’s The Draw happened to work, and it does mean that tomorrow’s debate will feature a dramatically more diverse crowd.

Okay, so I had a detailed segment yesterday on how to WATCH the debate. Long story short, you HAVE to watch it on actual CNN—whether that’s on cable or some other service you have—OR through the CNN apps or CNN website, which turn free tonight and tomorrow just for this occasion. I tested that just now, in the hopes that those streams became free early, and they have not, but…we have faith in you, CNN. Sort of.

As for what will happen, well, there is a very nice article in New York Magazine today by Gabriel Debenedetti—link to that in the show notes—titled, “9 New Dynamics Campaigns Are Expecting in the Second Democratic Debates.”

Reading from the article, QUOTE:

“This week’s debates are almost certainly the last chance for about half the field to not just make waves but to remain viable at all in the fall. The challenge isn’t just that attention is increasingly centered on five top-tier candidates but that the nominating process’s structure makes breaking through almost impossible after Wednesday: The next debate, in September, will be significantly harder for candidates to reach thanks to the Democratic National Committee’s rules. And that means candidates will be desperate to do something — anything — to be taken seriously by enough voters and donors to stay afloat both financially and politically. That applies particularly to Steve Bullock, who’ll be onstage for the first time, and John Hickenlooper, who replaced much of his senior campaign team after the last debate and who’ll be eager to show off a new side of himself. And everyone from Tulsi Gabbard to Marianne Williamson to John Delaney will be clamoring for scraps of attention, too, between the expected headliner clashes.”

While some of the conflict might be relegated to the second night, when a certain candidate named Biden will actually be onstage, this article posits a series of ideas that make total sense. The core theme relevant to tonight can be summed up as: EXPECT CONFLICT. Expect to see fire and fury and all manner of mixing it up. The one major exception to that may be Sanders and Warren, who will stand together in the middle, and have remained mostly friendly throughout this campaign. But, I would expect the moderate candidates to go right after those two as the, sort of, Bidens of tonight.

To me, a huge question FOR TONIGHT is whether the candidates will figure out a way to go after the people who are NOT onstage, mainly Biden and Harris. For instance, in an email last night, Sanders went after the Harris’s Medicare for All plan, and I wonder whether he will bring that up tonight, given that she is not there to respond. Sanders is also pretty ticked at Biden on the healthcare front too, so we’ll see how that plays out.

Steyer buys an ad for tonight’s debate

Although he won’t be present at the debates tonight or tomorrow, billionaire candidate Tom Steyer will do the next best thing: he’s running ads. According to a Florida Politics report, Steyer has spent HALF A MILLION DOLLARS to run a 30-second ad during the debates.

In the ad, Steyer compares his record to that of President Trump in business, and suggests that Steyer would make a superior president. I’m not playing a clip here, because, well, it’s an ad, and also, you’ll see the ad tonight anyway, so go look at that if you want.

But that’s not all. In addition to his candidate ad, Steyer has a group called Need to Impeach, which, you know, is in favor of impeachment proceedings against the president. That group has ALSO bought an ad that will air both before and after the debates. That ad cuts together testimony from Robert Mueller’s testimony last week and also runs 30 seconds. It will appear on both CNN and MSNBC, and Politico estimates its cost in the, “mid-six figures,” which I take to mean, I guess, yet another half a million bucks?

So does that mean that Tom Steyer is spending a million dollars tonight and tomorrow on TV ads? Probably. And I’m willing to bet that’s more than anybody else in this race is willing to spend on any two-night ad buy, certainly at this early stage of the race.

So this whole Steyer thing is interesting in part because it gets at the question: Can a billionaire buy his way into the Democratic race? So far the answer seems to be…probably yes. Although Steyer announced SUPER-late, he already has 2 percent support in two polls, plus one percent in two more, and he’s blanketing the universe with his ads. He’s got deep pockets, and seems totally willing to open them.

There is a certain irony in a billionaire needing to get 130,000 people to give him one dollar so that he may go on stage in the next set of debates, but to frank, if anybody in this primary field has the financial resources to do that, it’s Tom Steyer.

In my anecdotal experience, I’ve seen a ton of Steyer ads on Facebook directed at me. Now, I also see essentially everybody else who’s running, because I’m sure my browsing history has me pegged as, you know, somebody who is interested in the primary.

But it has been notable to see Steyer go from nonexistent on my political radar prior to July 8th when he announced, to being all up in my ads on July 30th. That’s intense, and he’s going at it. We shall see whether his debate ads move the needle any further.

Gizmodo cancels its climate summit

Yesterday evening, Gizmodo canceled the climate summit I first reported on back on July 16th. That’s the event where co-sponsor The New Republic ran an article about Mayor Pete Buttigieg, then pulled the article after accusations of homophobia, then pulled out of the event, while most of the other co-sponsors ran for the hills and never came back.

Well, after spending a few weeks seeking more co-sponsors, Gizmodo has called it quits. In an article posted late on Monday, the event’s original organizer, Eric Kahn, wrote:

“Throughout the whole process of planning our event, there was one overarching intention: To get Democratic candidates on stage talking about climate change and their plans to address it. On Friday, MSNBC and CNN announced they would host separate climate events with the Democratic presidential candidates, each broadcast on their respective networks prior to the date we intended to hold our summit. And so with that in mind, we’re no longer moving forward with our climate summit.”

So that’s that, and I will keep you posted on the other two climate forums that appear to indeed be happening, and will be televised as well.

Democrats in the House are doing great on fundraising

Here’s a quick one, and yes, we are expanding out just a touch from presidential politics here as we slowly ease into a season of elections that include Congress.

In an AP News story by Alan Fram, we learn that Democrats in the House are fundraising in a way that makes their odds in the upcoming election look pretty great. There was much concern after the 2018 midterms about whether that wave could be sustained. Well, reading from the article:

“Each of the 62 freshmen House Democrats has raised more money than their top opponent. The same is true for all 31 Democrats from districts President Donald Trump had won in 2016 and for all 39 Democrats who snatched Republican-held seats last November.
In nearly all cases it’s not even close. While there’s overlap among the categories, most of these Democrats’ war chests are multiples of what their leading challengers have garnered. That’s testament to the historic ability of both parties’ incumbents to attract contributions and Democrats’ strategy of aggressively collecting money quickly to seize on the anti-Trump enthusiasm that fueled their House takeover last year.”

There is MUCH more to this article, and there’s a link to it in the show notes as always, but the take-away here is: The House is looking good for Democrats in 2020, but the Senate…well, that’s a real problem. That’s likely going to be just as hotly contested as the Presidency, if not more so.

But on the bright side, we’ve still got a real long time before anybody actually votes, so we’ve got time to dig into specific races that will really matter.

There’s a staff shake-up at the DCCC

This next one is short as well, because it’s fairly deep in the weeds of how the Democratic Party works. But you need to know this just in case it comes up either in the debates or around the water cooler at work.

Long story short, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, or D-triple-C, has lost a bunch of key staff. They have resigned in protest over a lack of diversity within the committee. Among those who left were the communications director, political director, diversity director, executive director, and top communications aide.

Now, those positions are being temporarily back-filled until permanent replacements can be found, but there is a ton of pressure on current DCCC chair Cheri Bustos of Illinois. Reading from an article in The Hill by Al Weaver and Julia Manchester:

“More than anything, Democrats believe the party’s campaign apparatus needs an infusion of know-how at the highest levels. As one external source put it: “They need some adults in there.””

Yikes. Well, we will get more into what the DCCC actually DOES in the coming months, but for now, just be aware that it’s not all one big happy family within the party.

Last call for Debate Bingo

And last up today, you’ve heard me talk about Debate Bingo, this is your last chance—go to ridehome.info/bingo and grab those PDFs, print them out, and get your Bingo on.

Tonight I will be tweeting on both the @chrishiggins account for my personal thoughts, and the @ElectionPodcast account for official rulings, just like in the June debates. By “official rulings,” I mean, if somebody says something that’s CLOSE to what’s on the card, that is the account to watch for what HQ—meaning me—thinks about whether it counts toward the bingo square. One other thing that came out of June is that I highly encourage house rules—meaning if within your household you come up with a decision or a new set of rules, just go for it. And feel free to share them with everybody else, if you think it’s helpful.

Now, how do you do that? Well, the hashtag #ERHbingo is the place to be on Twitter, if you’d like to follow along. You can search for that hash tag and it will keep updating as new stuff comes in.

I do love seeing photos of people’s game boards, especially when you get really high point totals. So, no pressure, but I’d love to chat with y’all tonight and see how it goes. On my end, I’m also glad to be joined by my wife Rochelle, who was out of town last time and playing Bingo in a hotel room on a work trip. Tonight she will be part of Debate HQ, which should help me catch some of the stuff I miss when debate squares are filled in.

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