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DNC chair defends criteria for Democratic debates

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Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez is defending the strict qualifications for the second round of primary debates in September: meeting the thresholds to qualify is an "opportunity" for candidates to expand their fundraising and name recognition, he told CBS News.

For the first debates on June 26 and 27, candidates could qualify by either obtaining 1% or more in three credible national or state polls, or by attracting 65,000 individual donors to their campaign from 20 states. The qualifications for the second round of debates in September are more stringent: candidates must receive 2% or more in four credible national or state polls, and must receive donations from at least 130,000 unique donors in at least 20 states.

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Some candidates are arguing that the polling and fundraising thresholds are arbitrary, and that there was very little transparency in how the DNC came to decide these criteria. However, Perez told CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett on "The Takeout" podcast this week that upping the ante for the second round of debates was a normal procedure. Twenty candidates have qualified for the first debates, and these new thresholds could help winnow the field.

"If you can't run an effective grassroots campaign in the year 2020, in today's era, you're not going to be able to win the presidency," Perez said. "And what our dual threshold has done is to give additional opportunity to the candidates."

"What we wanted to do was make sure that we had multiple opportunities where they could present their vision to the American people. And then, as it happens in every primary cycle, you've got to demonstrate progress, and that's what September is about," Perez continued. He also noted that an individual donor could donate $1, and that grassroots support is more important than a dollar measure.

Candidates who may have a more difficult time of reaching the thresholds have nonetheless expressed their frustration with the DNC.

2020 presidential candidate John Delaney told CBSN last week that the new requirements are impacting voters who can't afford to donate to a campaign. "Why is their voice not relevant in this debate?" the former Maryland congressman said, without                                                                                                                                 acknowledging that the qualifications are about number of donors and not dollars raised.

Delaney said his criticism isn't about himself, but rather the larger implications of the DNC being a "gatekeeper." He said he wants transparency for what he called "filters" dictating which candidates can reach voters through the debate.  

Another Democratic contender, Michael Bennet, told CBS News that the DNC should not be putting more of an emphasis on "national fundraising and cable television over the early states like New Hampshire."

"I don't think they should be winnowing the field," the Colorado senator added.

For more of Major's conversation with Tom Perez, download "The Takeout" podcast on iTunesGooglePlaySpotify and Stitcher or Spotify. New episodes are available every Friday morning. Also, you can watch "The Takeout" on CBSN Friday at 5pm, 9pm, and 12am ET and Saturday at 1pm, 9pm, and 12am ET. For a full archive of "The Takeout" episodes, visit And you can listen to "The Takeout" on select CBS News Radio affiliates (check your local listings).

Producers: Arden Farhi, Katiana Krawchenko, Jamie Benson and Sara Cook
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