Some Democratic presidential candidates are knocking the party for excluding them from debates later this month. The events pose a prime opportunity for lesser-known contenders to build a national profile, standing on the same stage as candidates currently leading in the polls.
Twenty candidates cleared the Democratic National Committee's debate requirements, getting 1 percent in three approved polls ahead of the event, or 65,000 unique donors and a minimum of 200 donors across 20 states.
“Literally last week, the DNC after saying, here are the recognized entities that they’d accept polls from, turned around and said that, no we’re not going to count this one. So that impacted one person in this field and that’s me. And I was definitely disappointed in the decision,” Bullock said.
But speaking with reporters this week, he said getting on the stage is not the only way to appeal to caucus-goers.
“I mean, look you are 238 days from the first voter expressing a preference here. And that’s what actually matters. I mean it’s the voters that matter a lot more than any DNC rules," Bullock said.
Bullock is hoping to fundraise on the situation, producing an ad criticizing the DNC's requirements and urging more supporters to donate. The two-term governor prides himself as being the only candidate in the field to win a statewide election in a Trump state; the president won Montana by 20 points in 2016.
Three-term Massachusetts Representative Seth Moulton is also pledging the missed opportunity of the debate won't put an end to his campaign. Spokesman Matt Corridoni says the field will likely change dramatically as the cycle continues.
"The DNC debates will not determine who the nominee is. At this point in 2016 Trump wasn't even in the race. In 2008, Hillary Clinton was the presumed nominee, and in 2004 we were preparing for President Howard Dean," Corridoni said in a written statement. "History shows it's better to be where we're positioned now than anyone else. Seth has been receiving a great response on the ground and he'll continue to take his message directly to voters."
Miramar, Florida Mayor Wayne Messam also said the situation won't deter his efforts to reach voters.
"Great ideas and policies will always endure. Despite the steeper hill to climb, our message must be heard," Messam tweeted.
The 20 qualifying Democrats will debate over two nights in Miami, on June 26-27. Each of the rounds will feature leading competitors and lesser-known candidates. Party officials ensured the top polling candidates were split across the two nights, and the lineups were determined by a random drawing.
To qualify for the second round of debates scheduled for July 30 and 31 in Detroit, candidates will have to meet the same metrics, clearing the required hurdles in up-to-date polling.
The requirements for the DNC debates scheduled for this September will be more strict; candidates must double their performances, garnering at least 2 percent in three approved polls, and gaining 130,000 unique donors, and 400 across 20 states.