A new set of rules for the next 2020 Democratic presidential debate may end up putting billionaire presidential Michael Bloomberg against his primary opponents for the first time, and that's ticking some people off.
According to Politico, the new DNC requirements for the Feb. 19 debate focus specifically on polling and do away with the individual donor requirements that were in place for the last few debates.
Candidates will need to earn at least 10 percent in four polls released between Jan. 15 and Feb. 18, or 12 percent in two polls conducted in Nevada or South Carolina, in order to participate in the Feb. 19 debate in Las Vegas. Any candidate who earns at least one delegate to the national convention in either the Iowa caucuses or New Hampshire primary will also qualify for the Nevada debate.
According to the DNC, individual donor thresholds are no longer needed to gauge candidates' viability because people are actually going to be voting in primaries soon.
"The donor threshold was appropriate for the opening stages of the race, when candidates were building their organizations, and there were no metrics available outside of polling to distinguish those making progress from those who weren't," Adrienne Watson, a DNC spokesperson told the outlet.
She added, "Now that the grassroots support is actually captured in real voting, the criteria will no longer require a donor threshold."
The move clearly benefits Bloomberg in particular, because he is not taking outside campaign donations and therefore has not cleared the individual donor threshold for the previous debates — a strategy that has drawn criticism from some Democrats. In fact, during the last debate, his social media team created a sideshow in the form of a bizarre tweet storm involving Pitbull songs, meatballs, and the ability to mentally communicate with underwater mammals.
In response to the new rules, Bloomberg's campaign stated that they were "thrilled that voters could soon have the chance to see Mike Bloomberg on the debate stage, hear his vision for the country, and see why he is the strongest candidate to defeat Donald Trump and bring our country together."
But not everyone on the campaign trail is happy about this change. Faiz Shakir, campaign manager for Democratic 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), accused the DNC of "changing the rules to benefit a billionaire."
"To now change the rules in the middle of the game to accommodate Mike Bloomberg, who is trying to buy his way into the Democratic nomination, is wrong," Sanders senior adviser Jeff Weaver said. "That's the definition of a rigged system."
Eric Ming, the digital director for Andrew Yang's 2020 campaign, said that the DNC "sent candidates on a wild goose chase draining funds and resources to reach donor thresholds, then just drop them to benefit a billionaire."
"The DNC is making these rules up as they go," Shannon Beckham, national press secretary for Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet's campaign, tweeted "An arbitrary donor threshold never should have been a requirement to begin with and has resulted in qualified candidates, like Booker and Gillibrand, leaving the race."
At least seven presidential candidates have met the polling and donor thresholds for the debate on Feb. 7, in Manchester, New Hampshire.