Steyer Close to Qualifying for Debate as Gabbard Gets Crucial Polls

August 14, 2019 Updated: August 14, 2019

Billionaire Tom Steyer is closing in on a spot in the next Democratic debates as Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) got a crucial poll, moving her closer to qualification as well.

Steyer, 62, a longtime liberal donor and activist, entered the race in early July and has not participated in a debate as of yet. The last debates were held by CNN in late July.

Steyer announced this week that his campaign cracked one of the thresholds for the next round of debates, 130,000 unique donors.

Candidates also need four different polls with support of 2 percent or higher under rules set by the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

“Just one more qualifying poll stands between us and that stage!” Steyer told supporters.

Steyer said he’d spend $100 million of his fortune in the race and spent $2.9 million from July 13 to Aug. 11, according to Facebook data, on Facebook advertisements asking people to donate $1 to his campaign in a clear effort to meet the donor threshold.

According to Federal Communications Commission filings, Steyer has poured more than $7 million into television advertisements, including more than $3.7 million across the first four primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina.

Steyer’s force has met with opposition from other contenders. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said on Twitter after Steyer announced the threshold had been met: “Tom Steyer spent nearly $10 million to buy his way onto the debate stage. But no matter what the @DNC says, money doesn’t vote. People do.”

And Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said after Steyer entered the race that, “The Democratic primary should not be decided by billionaires, whether they’re funding Super PACs or funding themselves.”

Two candidates, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) and former Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska), have dropped out of the race recently.

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is reportedly mulling ending his bid for president and enter a race for a U.S. Senate seat, and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke is being urged to do the same.

Gabbard, meanwhile, who is on active duty, hit the donor threshold in early August but has struggled to get the polls necessary for qualification.

She has recently shot up from 1 percent support, though, garnering 2 percent in a CBS News/YouGov poll (pdf) conducted in mid-July, getting 3 percent in a Boston Globe/Suffolk poll released on Aug. 6, and getting 5 percent, her best showing yet, in a New Hampshire voter poll (pdf) released this week. That included 12 percent from the 30-49 age bracket and 50.6 percent of people who marked races other than Caucasian, African American, Asian, and Hispanic.

Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) speaks during a forum on gun safety at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, Iowa, on Aug. 10, 2019. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

If the polls qualify under the DNC’s criteria, she’d be one poll away from qualifying. Candidates have until Aug. 28 to meet both parts of the criteria.

Gabbard saw increased support after the CNN debates.

Three percent of respondents to a Quinnipiac poll released Aug. 6, a week after the debate, said Gabbard did the best job at the debates, an increase of two points from July. Eight percent said Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), who Gabbard repeatedly attacked, did the best job, a drop from 47 percent in July.

An Economist/YouGov poll (pdf) conducted Aug. 3 through Aug. 6 also saw 10 percent of respondents, including 14 percent of male respondents, saying Gabbard won the Wednesday night debate, versus 8 percent who said Harris won. Twenty-two percent said none of the candidates won, or did the best job, while 21 percent said they weren’t sure.

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber