- - Wednesday, August 28, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Liberal Democrats have long vilified the so-called “1 percenters,” but now some of them are coming to their defense, after a fashion.

In this case, however, the “1 percenters” aren’t left-wing billionaires, such as George Soros and Michael Bloomberg, who pre-emptively inoculated themselves against the class-warfare criticism of the Democratic Party’s left-wing base by spending — well — liberally in support of myriad leftist causes and candidates.

The “1 percenters” in question here are the Democrats’ would-be presidential candidates who are polling at 1 percent (or less), and as a result are now at risk of being excluded from the third round of debates on Sept. 12 and 13 in Houston, to be televised on ABC.

The polling 1 percenters — among them Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana — are complaining loudly about the prospect of being kicked to the curb after Wednesday’s [Aug. 28] deadline to meet the qualifications to continue participating, based on their standing in a series of polls and the number of donors their campaigns have attracted.

The Democratic National Committee stipulated that to advance to that next round of debates, the hopefuls would have to be registering at least 2 percent in the polls and show they have at least 130,000 donors across 20 states. That’s up from the benchmarks of 1 percent in the polls and 65,000 donors used to qualify for the first two rounds of debates.



The 1 percenters’ supporters — few though they may be — are livid that their candidates may not get the life support the debates could provide their campaigns. But three ex-wannabes — former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts — who all exited stage left in the past two weeks have shown that even the national exposure of two previous debates is no guarantee of growing their base of support.

Some who haven’t met the benchmarks aren’t going so quietly into that good night, however, complaining that the rules for qualifying are too strict.

Ms. Gabbard is the only candidate with a billboard (“Tulsi 2020”) on the main highway between Portsmouth and Manchester in New Hampshire, but she may not make it to that state’s first-in-the-nation primary on Feb. 11.

She took issue with the DNC’s choice of which polls to heed. “Rep. Gabbard has exceeded 2% support in 26 national and early-state polls,” her campaign said, “but only two of them are on the DNC’s ‘certified list.’”

Mr. Bennet insisted he “won’t be stopped by the DNC’s unprecedented and counterproductive process that rewards celebrities, billionaires who can buy their way in.”

That was a dig at hedge-fund billionaire Tom Steyer, who has spent lavishly on a quixotic campaign calling for President Trump’s impeachment to raise his party profile. Mr. Steyer, a 1 percenter in both senses of the term, is reportedly on the bubble for making the cut.

Others are vowing to remain in the race even if they’re excluded from the next round of debates.

“We’re going to keep going. We’re getting momentum,” Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio said, albeit without citing any evidence. Former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland likewise vowed: “I’m going to stick around, period.”

It’s clear that the unstated intent of the Democratic National Committee here is to clear the field of those with near-zero chance of being nominated, much less elected, so as to give those who remain more minutes of face time during the televised tete-a-tetes.

The favoritism has the faint stench of how the DNC stacked the deck in the 2016 nominating process against Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont in favor of former Sen. Hillary Clinton, whose “turn” it was to run.

The 10 candidates who have made the cutoff in polling numbers and cash contributions to qualify thus far, besides Mr. Sanders, are former Vice President Joseph Biden; Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; former Rep. Robert “Beto” O’Rourke of Texas (the son-in-law of that other kind of 1 percenter, a billionaire); Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana.; Julian Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio; and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

Mr. Yang has met the threshold largely by making the redistributionist wing of the party swoon with his promise of $1,000-a-month federal giveaways for every adult American.

Where that leaves the rest of the sad-sack band of hapless Democrats — Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York (who’s now openly auditioning for vice president); New York Mayor Bill de Blasio; former Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania; Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam; and New Age guru Marianne Williamson — is anyone’s guess.

Our guess is out of the running, but the allure of the presidential-wannabe spotlight may be too strong for some of the also-rans to recognize reality.

“The ones who should get out are the least likely to get out, because they’re the ones running simply to have their microphone turned on and voice listened to,” one Democratic consultant, who understandably asked not to be identified, told Fox News, “not because they think they’re going to be the nominee.”

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