Hickenlooper And Bennet Officially Make The Cut For The First Presidential Debates

Photo: Bennet-Hickenlooper Debate Infographic FINAL 06-13-2018

Published 3:52 p.m. | Updated 5:04 p.m.

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet have both qualified for the first Democratic presidential primary debates. The Democratic National Committee announced the names of the candidates that made the cut on Thursday.

Hickenlooper and Bennet will appear either June 26 or 27 in Miami. Each night will feature 10 candidates, chosen at random, making their case why they should be the nominee to take on President Donald Trump.

An NBC News drawing Friday will divide the large field between the first and second night. Party officials have promised to weight the drawing with the intention of ensuring that top tier and lagging candidates are spread roughly evenly over the two nights.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock was the most high-profile candidate left off the list. He failed to reach the party's polling or grassroots fundraising thresholds.

Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, former Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska and Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam were among the others who missed the threshold for the debate.

Both Colorado candidates met the debate requirements by earning support of 1 percent or better in three separate public polls between Jan. 1 and June 12.​ Hickenlooper qualified on May 9. Bennet joined the former governor on June 4 (albeit in an interesting twist).

Candidate could also qualify through fundraising by having 65,000 unique donors and a minimum of 200 unique donors in at least 20 states. But both hometown candidates were far from meeting the fundraising goal post.

Hickenlooper and Bennet were two of just six candidates out of 20 to only qualify via polling.

The senator’s debate-affirming polls were the March 9 Des Moines Register/Mediacom/CNN, May 15 Reuters/Ipsos and the June 4 CNN. Colorado's former governor qualified with the March 19 CNN, March 28 Quinnipiac, April 24 Ipsos/Reuters and May 9 Monmouth polls.

After June and July debates, the path forward for all Democratic candidates becomes even harder. The DNC has tightened the qualifications to qualify for the debate scheduled in September in hopes of winnowing the field.

Hickenlooper questioned some of the debate qualification rules during a campaign stop Thursday before the DNC announcement, but said candidates have little choice other than to meet them.

"Fighting with the DNC is a little like fighting with the weather," he said. "You can rage against the storm, but you will not have great effect. I think the rules are the rules."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.