The Democratic National Committee (DNC) changed the qualifying criteria for presidential debates again, shutting out Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii).
The DNC said March 6 that participants in the next debate must have at least 20 percent of the pledged delegates by March 15. Gabbard, 38, has earned two delegates so far.
As a result, the debate in Phoenix that night will feature Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), 78, and former Vice President Joe Biden, 77. Only Biden, Sanders, and Gabbard remain in the Democratic race.
Gabbard would have qualified under the previous threshold, which only required each candidate to have won a single delegate. She hasn’t qualified for the past five debates.
She took to Twitter on March 6 after the new rules were announced, writing: “To keep me off the stage, the DNC again arbitrarily changed the debate qualifications. Previously, they changed the qualifications in the OPPOSITE direction so Bloomberg could debate.”
The DNC previously enabled former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, 78, to participate in debates by removing a donor requirement; he had self-funded his campaign.
Bloomberg and four other candidates who participated in the most recent debate, in Charleston, South Carolina, on Feb. 25 have exited the race since then.
“I’m sure you would agree that our Democratic nominee should be a person who will stand up for what is right,” Gabbard said, in a direct appeal to Biden and Sanders. “So I ask that you have the courage to do that now in the face of the DNC’s effort to keep me from participating in the debates.”
DNC spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa had said March 3 that the thresholds to qualify for future debates would go up.
“By the time we have the March debate, almost 2,000 delegates will be allocated. The threshold will reflect where we are in the race, as it always has,” she said in a statement.
The previous criteria have centered around poll results and unique donors.
Hinojosa also retweeted a post about Bloomberg appearing on the debate stage that asserted the move “was misinterpreted as somehow helping Bloomberg, as opposed to leveling the playing field for his rivals in terms of the [money].”
Bloomberg, one of the richest men in America, spent more than $500 million on his campaign before announcing his withdrawal and endorsing Biden.
Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, 38, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), 59, also withdrew in recent days before endorsing Biden.