Ten Democratic presidential candidates were expected to qualify for next Wednesday's debate in Georgia, giving voters a smaller lineup on stage to consider even as the party's overall field expands.
Those poised to meet the Democratic National Committee's polling and grassroots fundraising thresholds were: former Vice President Joe Biden; New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker; Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana; Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard; California Sen. Kamala Harris; Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar; Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders; billionaire activist Tom Steyer of California; Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren; and entrepreneur Andrew Yang of New York.
DNC officials planned to finalize the lineup later Thursday after reviewing qualifying polls and grassroots donor lists submitted by the campaigns.
Former Obama administration housing chief Julian Castro is the most high-profile remaining candidate seen as falling short of the benchmarks. Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke of Texas ended his campaign last month. Those two created headlines with their earlier debate performances, including some spirited exchanges with each other.
Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and author Marianne Williamson already have missed debates as the party chairman, Tom Perez, continues to raise qualification requirements.
This month, candidates were required to have reached 3% in at least four qualifying national polls since Sept. 13 or 5% in two early nominating state polls since that date, while also having collected contributions from at least 165,000 unique donors, with at least 600 each in a minimum of 20 states.
Some candidates have criticized Perez for the requirements. Some argue that the donor emphasis has forced them to spend disproportionately for online fundraising efforts that drain resources they could be using to reach voters other ways. Perez counters that candidates have had ample time to demonstrate their supporter, both in polls and through small-dollar contributors, and that any Democrat falling short this far into the campaign almost certainly isn't positioned to win the nomination or defeat President Donald Trump.
Perez already has announced even stiffer requirements for a Dec. 19 debate. The polling marks: 4% in four national polls or 6% in two early state polls taken after Oct. 16. The donor threshold: 200,000 unique donors with at least 800 each from 20 states.
Biden, Warren, Sanders and Buttigieg — the four who top most national and early state polls — are not threatened by those goals. Harris and Klobuchar already have met them, as well. But the higher targets put pressure on several other candidates to broaden their support or risk falling out of any reasonable contention with less than three months to go before the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses.
Two new candidates also could be vying for December spots.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick launched his campaign Thursday and filed to appear on New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary ballot, and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is considering a bid as well, while already having filed paperwork for some Super Tuesday primaries.
Patrick has strong ties to Wall Street and deep-pocketed Democratic donors. Bloomberg is among the world's wealthiest men. Both may be able to afford television advertising and other campaign operations relatively quickly. But, just as Perez has said throughout the process, debate slots intended not as rewards for the amount a campaign raises or spends, but as a recognition of how much support a candidate has attracted.
Next week's debate will be broadcast on MSNBC from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. EST.