Opinion: 20 Out of 20: Those who didn’t make the Democratic debate should drop out

The top ten Democratic presidential hopefuls are set, and all other campaigns should be all but finished.



From left, Democratic presidential candidates New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), former housing secretary Julian Castro, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, and former Maryland congressman John Delaney take part in the first night of the Democratic presidential debate on Wednesday, June 26, 2019, in Miami, Fla. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images/TNS)

Elijah Helton, Opinions Editor


The third official Democratic debate for the presidential nomination will take place on Thursday. Ten candidates will be on stage, and those who won’t be there are probably out of the race.

Of course, candidates aren’t automatically disqualified if they haven’t reached the required donor and polling numbers. However, these eight Democrats are all but certain to not be their party’s challenger to President Trump.

So, who are these stragglers, and where do they do now?

Let’s start with Montana Gov. Steve Bullock. He’s a pragmatic governor of a red state who has still managed progressive accomplishments, but he’s just not connecting with voters. His path looks similar to former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who also ran for president briefly and is now running for his state’s Republican-held Senate seat. Whether Bullock follows suit is up to him, but he doesn’t have a calling strong enough to be in the race for the White House.

Speaking of Colorado, Sen. Michael Bennet is another candidate still campaigning. He even opened up a new campaign office in Iowa City on Sept. 3. He’s another perfectly nice guy who can get things done, but he’s not getting anywhere in terms of fundraising or polling. In fact, out of the seven candidates who failed to qualify for the third debate, Bennet is third in the number of people who have contributed to his campaign. And he’s not even halfway to the required 130,000 individual donors.

Someone who has received plenty of donations is author Marianne Williamson. Her bizarre appearances in previous debates have given the spiritual guru a unique flash of notoriety. But she remains no one’s first choice, as she has yet to reach 2 percent in any poll accepted by the Democratic National Committee. Maybe she has a bit more magic left, but her smoke-and-mirrors act looks finished.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is something of Williamson’s opposite; instead of being entertaining and unnecessarily notable, he’s boring and less important than he should be. He runs the most populous city in the country, and he’s being outdone by the mayor of the fourth-largest city in Indiana, Pete Buttigieg. To say de Blasio hasn’t been able to foster any positive feelings within the party would be an understatement; he’s the only nomination hopeful with a negative net-approval rating among his fellow Democrats. He’s out.

On the other coast, California billionaire Tom Steyer is doing considerably better. Unlike any of his above competitors, he’s actually reached the 2 percent mark in four polls, meaning he’s qualified for the next debate in October. A longtime donor to the Democratic Party, Steyer is committed to progressive causes such as climate action and constitutional reform, including congressional term limits.  His money would probably be more effective elsewhere, but with this new sliver of success, he’s stuck in the race for now.

The only other candidate on this list to have any polls counted is Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. Another thing that has set her apart is a strong ideological message. Her focus on ending American military involvement overseas has been praised by many. Like Steyer, there’s a real probability Gabbard will make the next debate, so she’s most likely to stick around. Unlike Steyer, she has a House seat to defend eventually, so we’ll see just how long she sticks around.

Perhaps I should mention Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan and former Maryland Rep. John Delaney too. But if you’ve read this far, you probably know what I think: The leader of the free world should inspire more than a few thousand people. 

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.

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