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John Delaney: New DNC debate criteria "probably excludes a large part of our country"

2020 candidate Delaney on new DNC debate rules

2020 presidential candidate John Delaney said the Democratic National Committee's new requirements to appear on the debate stage in the fall 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 told CBSN's "Red & Blue" on Thursday.

The DNC announced Wednesday candidates will need a minimum of 2 percent support in four party-approved polls to be eligible for those third and fourth rounds. Campaigns also must have at least 130,000 unique donors in at least 20 different states, by the end of the summer. 

To qualify for the debates in June and July, candidates need 65,000 unique donors in at least 20 states. In each state, candidates must find at least 200 donors. Or, a candidate must earn at least a 1 percent polling average in three separate surveys. 

So far, at least 18 Democratic candidates have qualified for the June and July debates, including Delaney, according to a CBS News tally. 

"Right now we live in a country where half the people can't afford their basic necessities, like their rent, their food, their utilities," Delaney said.  "I just don't understand why one of the criteria is this kind of money donor standard. The half of the American people that are having a hard time affording their basic necessities, it doesn't seem like they're probably contributing a lot of money to political campaigns."

Delaney's campaign is largely self-funded, but he said he "feels comfortable" meeting the new criteria. The former congressman said he has no plans to change his ground game, which has focused largely on early voting states.

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.  

In a letter to DNC chair Tom Perez, Delaney formally requested answers to his questions.

"I'm just curious to what they're thinking around coming up with a criteria, that in my judgement, probably excludes a large part of our country," he added.

Only four candidates have publicly said they have met 130,000 donors: Senators Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, according to The New York Times. Two others, former Vice President Joe Biden and former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, appear to have already hit that number or are on track to based on previously reported numbers.   

Delaney isn't the only critic: Another Democratic contender Michael Bennet told CBS News on Wednesday 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.

The new rules effectively double the criteria Democrats had to meet to qualify for the first two debates. It also makes both the donor and polling thresholds mandatory. A candidate only had to satisfy one of the requirements for the summer debates. 

Bennet has yet to qualify for the first round, which will be held next month in Miami. Delaney said he's preparing by staying on the campaign trail talking to voters about his policy plans.

One of those proposals is his $2 trillion infrastructure plan he unveiled Wednesday. Delaney said the steep price tag will be "fully paid for" by adjusting the gas and corporate tax rates.

He noted bipartisan support for finding a solution to improving the nation's infrastructure. This idea of prioritizing compromise is an aspect he's hoping to have the chance to highlight on the debate stage in June, and potentially, into the fall.  

"So much of my campaign is about this notion that we have to stop the noise and focus on finding common ground," he added. "I want to have a debate of ideas and I want to point out why I think my approach is better."