Democratic Field For 2020 Nomination Is About To Get A Lot Smaller

Drew AngererGetty Images

The field of 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls could shrink by as much as half in the coming days and weeks, as tougher debate rules and lack of funding could drastically cut back on outlier candidates without strong backing.

As Yahoo News reports, no fewer than 20 people are currently angling for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president in 2020, making it one of the largest fields of presidential contenders in history. So crowded is the field of potential nominees that NBC News was forced to conduct two debates over two nights, with 10 candidates appearing on each night.

In fact, it’s the debate process that could be the undoing of quite a few contenders. One of the reasons the NBC News debates were so wide open was because it was open to any and all candidates polling at as little as 1 percent. For the September-October round of debates, contenders will have to poll with at least 2 percent in order to appear on stage, as well as have at least 130,000 individual donors.

That could cut off outliers with little name recognition and less money, like businessman Andrew Yang and Washington Governor Jay Inslee. Failing to qualify for the September-October debates could spell the end of any candidacy.

In fact, as of this writing, only five current candidates have already met the requirements to appear in the next round of debates: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Pete Buttigieg. Beto O’Rourke may yet qualify by then as well.

Those candidates who aren’t likely to survive the first round of cuts may leave behind a field that is older and less racially-diverse than what many Democratic voters are hoping for. For example, three men who are unlikely to make the cut include an African American, Cory Booker; an Asian, Andrew Yang; and a Latino, Julian Castro.

Meanwhile, even as the Democratic Party’s tough debate rules are likely to make the party’s 2020 field less diverse, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez refuses to loosen up the debate requirements.

“We put our rules out for debate participation months earlier because we wanted to give people time. We want to be fair to everyone,” he said.

One of the candidates who is unlikely to make the cut, Andrew Yang, says that a lot of his colleagues are “in something of a Hail Mary mode.”

There’s a glimmer of hope for some of the outlier candidates. Another round of debates, scheduled for late July, is still wide open and struggling candidates could still try to get a jolt in name recognition and donations if they perform well at those debates.