The 10 candidates for next month’s debate include all the best-known names in the field ― those polling above 2 percent and former Housing Secretary Julián Castro and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
Several of the candidates who have not qualified for the debate have complained bitterly about the Democratic National Committee’s rules, arguing that the party is artificially culling the field and squelching debate.
“They’re kind of like Thanos, snapping their finger and trying to get rid of half the field,” former Maryland Rep. John Delaney, referring to the Marvel supervillain, said on MSNBC Wednesday. “I mean we have sitting Democratic governors who are not in the debate. We have sitting members of Congress who are not in the debate. And we need a debate.”
But many Democratic voters seem to disagree with that sentiment.
Three-quarters of likely Iowa caucuses said in a Des Moines Register survey that they wished some or most of the candidates would drop out. Only 18 percent saying they “like considering all the possibilities.”
The DNC has said the rules were intended to make candidates demonstrate the high levels of support they would need to take on President Donald Trump in the general election next year.
“The September threshold is inclusive, transparent and low,” said DNC spokesperson Adrienne Watson. “Candidates were given more time and more opportunities to hit the polling threshold than they have had in previous cycles. They had 21 chances to hit just 2 percent support in 4 polls.”
To qualify for the September debate, candidates needed to show they had received at least 2 percent support in four polls and received donations from at least 130,000 people. That was big jump from the 1 percent in three polls and 65,000 donors needed to make the June and July debates.
Candidates who entered the race late seemed to have an especially difficult time building the large online fundraising lists and name recognition necessary to make the stage.
Aside from Biden, all nine other candidates who entered the 2020 race in April or later did not make September stage, including Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet and Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan.
Candidates who entered the race earlier in the year fared better, with nine out of 16 earning a spot in Houston.
Still, many low-polling candidates say they’ll stick it out, at least for a while, since they’ll have another chance to make the debate stage in October, giving one final sliver of hope.
But insiders say the race might move beyond them either way.
Alex Seitz-Wald is a political reporter for NBC News.