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Tulsi Gabbard won't go to December debate even if she qualifies, will hold campaign events instead


She hadn't yet qualified

Mario Tama/Getty Images

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) tweeted Monday that she would not participate in this month's Democratic presidential debate, even if she qualifies for it.

Gabbard participated in the August debate, but failed to qualify in September. In October, she qualified and floated the idea of sitting out in protest of the Democratic National Committee before ultimately participating then and in November.

"For a number of reasons, I have decided not to attend the December 19th 'debate'—regardless of whether or not there are qualifying polls," Gabbard wrote on Twitter. "I instead choose to spend that precious time directly meeting with and hearing from the people of New Hampshire and South Carolina."

With just a few days left before the Thursday qualifying deadline, Gabbard needs to reach at least 4 percent in one more state or national poll to qualify for the Dec. 19 debate, making it unclear whether this is a legitimate protest of the Democratic primary process or a preemptive move to shape the narrative around her potential failure to qualify.

Gabbard has met the party requirement that a candidate have at least 200,000 individual donors. She is between 0-2 percent in most national polls over the past few months, and has hit 3 percent in a few.

The Hawaii Democrat has accused the DNC of rigging the 2016 primary against Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and of "trying to hijack the entire election process" with arbitrary qualification requirements.

"In this 2020 election, the DNC and corporate media are rigging the election again, but this time against the American people in the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada," Gabbard said while she considered whether to participate in the October debate.

Gabbard was also critical of the debate format, which she described as "commercialized reality television meant to entertain." She was the DNC's vice chair until she resigned in February 2016 to endorse Sanders against Hillary Clinton.

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