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10 candidates didn’t make the Democratic debate. Here’s what they’re doing instead

Marianne Williamson
Presidential hopeful Marianne Williamson failed to qualify for the Thursday debate in Houston. She will offer commentary after the debate.
(Ben Margot / Associated Press)

Marianne Williamson won’t be on the debate stage when Democratic presidential candidates face off on Thursday. But she’s stepping onto her own stage afterward to tell voters “what she would have said, and what should have been asked.”

The self-help author, one of 10 candidates who failed to qualify for the Houston event, will be “live post-debate” from Beverly Hills, her campaign announced this week. After the debate watch party it is hosting, her campaign will livestream her commentary for fans not in Beverly Hills.

So far, Williamson appears to be the only Democratic hopeful who plans to offer commentary on debate night. Many of the other nine prominent candidates who failed to qualify will campaign and host public events on the day they are missing what many view as a critical steppingstone to winning the nomination.

Candidates needed to receive at least 2% of support in four polls approved by the Democratic National Committee and have 130,000 unique donors. The new standards cut the field in half; instead of 20 candidates over two nights as in the previous debates, Thursday’s event will feature 10 on one night.

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The debate appeared to be a litmus test for many candidates. As the deadline to qualify neared, four candidates bowed out in the course of two weeks. New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee dropped out when it became clear they would not meet the deadline. Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton left the race after struggling to gain traction.

Still, others trudge on, setting their sights on the October debate; they have until Oct. 1 to meet the same qualifications. Several candidates, including Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, former Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak and Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, have events scheduled throughout Thursday in Iowa.

The strategies of several Democratic candidates are being powerfully shaped by the risk of failing to earn a spot in September’s candidate debate and possibly falling out of the race.

California billionaire Tom Steyer, who was the 11th candidate to qualify for the October debate — pushing that event to two nights — will hold a town hall in Davenport, Iowa. Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who is trying to get enough qualifying polls to get on stage in October, will also be campaigning in the state.

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“Rep. Gabbard emphasized her campaign is not focused on the debates, and is instead spending her time on the ground campaigning, talking to the American people directly — without the ridiculous 60-second time constraints of the debate stage,” her campaign said in an email.

The field of Democrats vying to be the party’s nominee in 2020 has narrowed a bit. Here are the 20 candidates competing to face President Trump.

Former Maryland Rep. John Delaney will be in New York for media appearances and interviews, his campaign said. Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan is scheduled to speak at an event hosted by New Hampshire’s American Civil Liberties Union chapter hours before the debate. This week, Ryan released a Spotify playlist of his “New and Better Agenda,” which includes minutes-long segments about education, climate change and immigration.

Miramar, Fla., Mayor Wayne Messam will not be on the campaign trail. Messam has struggled to gain attention but does not appear to have put in as much time in early voting states as many of his rivals. “Mayor Wayne Messam will be performing his mayoral duties” on debate night, his campaign said, presiding over a budget hearing.


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