Bennet Remains Defiant As He Misses The Deadline To Make September Debate Stage

Election 2020 Debate
Paul Sancya/AP
Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., speaks during the second of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN Wednesday, July 31, 2019, in the Fox Theatre in Detroit.

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet’s presidential campaign said he’s still moving full steam ahead even though he won’t qualify for the party's next televised debate. 

The window to meet the fundraising and polling criteria ends at midnight Wednesday.

The next debate is September 12 in Houston. To qualify, candidates needed to reach both 2 percent support in four polls and 130,000 unique donors. Bennet didn't reach either, but could still qualify for a debate in October.

One of Bennet’s top advisers has sent a letter to the Democratic National Committee questioning those criteria and the process for determining which Democratic presidential candidates can participate in the party's televised debates.

"It is not the DNC’s job to winnow the field," Bennet adviser Craig Hughes said. "It is the job of voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada. The Des Moines Register recently stated that ‘Iowa caucusgoers...would be well-served to give Bennet more attention.’ Why does Tom Perez believe he should have a greater say than Iowans? If he wants to narrow the field, he can move to Iowa."

Hughes posed a series of questions in the letter that he said will "provide clarity for Democratic voters," including asking when the DNC will finalize the rules for future debates, how qualifying polls are selected and who is advising them. The letter also implies the DNC may be working improperly with the front runners in the race.

"Was anyone who is now on the staff of a presidential campaign consulted about the debate qualification rules?" Hughes asks of Perez in the letter. "What campaigns will you consult moving forward, and if not all of them, why not? Why is the DNC in an unprecedented rush to eliminate candidates from a volatile field five months before the first vote is cast?"

Bennet has previously said the rules are squashing debate when it’s needed most and won’t help Democrats defeat President Donald Trump. Bennet's campaign said he's not dropping out.

"Despite the DNC’s opaque and arbitrary rules, Bennet for America is moving full steam ahead," Hughes said. "The Bennet family will be in Iowa this weekend campaigning across the state and opening a new office. We have budgeted for the long haul and are prepared to run an insurgent campaign."

Ten Democratic candidates have qualified for the September debate so far.

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper was not expected to qualify. He recently ended his presidential bid and entered the crowded Democratic field for U.S. Senate in 2020.