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After Steyer surges in two polls, Democratic debate likely to feature six candidates

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — After two early state polls propelled Tom Steyer from the sidelines to the stage, six Democratic candidates — all of whom are white — are likely to face off in Monday’s primary debate in Des Moines, Iowa. By getting 12% support among Democratic caucus-goers in a Fox News Nevada poll and 15% support among Democratic primary voters in a Fox News South Carolina poll, the California billionaire businessman hit the early state polling threshold with just a day to spare, according to ABC News’ analysis. “These polls actually don’t surprise me,” Steyer said in New Hampshire Thursday night. “This is what I thought was going on. We have seen very positive reaction and real momentum as a result of what I’m saying.”Steyer’s campaign had previously announced that he hit the grassroots fundraising threshold — at least 225,000 individual donors with a minimum of 1,000 unique donors per state in at least 20 U.S. states, U.S. territories or the District of Columbia. Candidates must meet both this threshold, and a polling threshold to qualify. According to an ABC News analysis, in addition to Steyer, the first debate of the year, which is being hosted by CNN and The Des Moines Register at Drake University, will feature: former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.Steyer has spent nearly $80 million on television advertising since entering the race in July, second only to the other billionaire in the race, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, according to ad data analysis from CMAG. In Nevada alone, between the Las Vegas and Reno markets, he’s spent $8.7 million on TV ads. In South Carolina, across four markets, he’s spent $8.4 million. By comparison, Sanders, the Democratic candidate who has spent the third most on TV advertising during the campaign, has spent nearly $6.5 million on TV ads in total, according to CMAG’s data. Unless at least two more polls drop in the hours ahead of the deadline to qualify — 11:59 p.m. Friday — no other candidates have much of a shot at qualifying for the debate, meaning every qualifying candidate will be white. Businessman Andrew Yang, who is Asian American, was the lone candidate of color on stage for December’s debate. He hit the polling threshold just two days before the qualifying deadline, but his chances look much slimmer this time around. While he’s hit the individual donor threshold, according to his campaign, he remains three polls shy of hitting the four-poll threshold, according to ABC News’ analysis. On Sunday, Yang said he was “confident” that he would qualify for the next debate. “We’re growing all the time here on the ground in Iowa. You can see it with this crowd, the crowds we’ve been drawing this entire trip. The electricity — energy is higher than it’s ever been,” he told reporters after a town hall in Iowa. “We’re going to make history on Feb. 3 regardless of whether I’m on that debate stage or not, but the plan right now is to make the debate stage.” It’s possible Yang surprises like Steyer did and qualifies in the 11th hour. While he’s made progress on the four-poll threshold, which requires candidates to get at least 5% support in four national or early state polls out of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and/or South Carolina, if he’s able to secure 7% support in two early state polls, he’d achieve the polling threshold the way Steyer did, thanks to the Democratic National Committee’s decision to offer two paths to hit the polling threshold.The Des Moines Register and CNN is publishing an Iowa poll at 6 p.m. Another early state poll would have to drop Friday, too, for Yang to still have a chance at qualifying. He’d have to get 7% support in both polls — something he’s never achieved in a DNC-approved qualifying poll. Yang has one poll towards the four-poll threshold, and no polls towards the early state threshold, according to an ABC News analysis. Several candidates — both current and former — have taken issue with this year’s primary process, including the debate qualifications set by the DNC, arguing that a historically diverse primary field has been unnecessarily dwindled down. “The DNC’s debate thresholds have systematically paved the way for a billionaire to buy his way onto the stage while pushing out candidates of color from participating,” read a fundraising email from New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker’s campaign Friday. The email continued, “It’s a disservice to communities like (Booker’s) and many across the nation that someone who understands the pain, the struggle, and the hardships that get swept under the rug during these debates won’t be heard yet again.” Like Yang, Booker, who is African American, is unlikely to qualify before the deadline. He has hit the grassroots fundraising threshold, according to his campaign, but has no qualifying polls towards either polling threshold, according to ABC News’ analysis. The other two non-white candidates in the race, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who is of Southeast Asian, Polynesian and Caucasian descent, and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who is African American, also have no qualifying polls. Neither campaign has announced hitting the donor threshold. Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.