One Democratic debate or two?

The next round of debating among Democratic presidential candidates is set for the second week of September. It’s not clear, though, how many debates there will be.

The number depends on how many candidates qualify. As of last night (Monday), ten had done so. If that remains the number through Wednesday, there will be only one debate.

But, as I understand things, if just one more candidate qualifies, the group will be split and, once again, there will be two debates.

Splitting the field would likely give certain front-running candidates, determined by luck of the draw, an easy ride compared to his or her rivals. Elizabeth Warren was the main beneficiary of this dynamic in the first two debates.

Splitting the field would also ensure substantial air time to every candidate. No one would be frozen out, as happened to Andrew Yang in the first debate.

Despite his lack of air time, Yang has qualified for the next round. The other qualifiers are Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Cory Booker, Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klobuchar, and Julian Castro.

If there’s a surprise here, it’s probably Yang. He seems to have parlayed a strange brew of tech savvy futurism and free stuff ($1,000 per month for everyone) into popularity with young voters.

Given her performance in the first two debates, it might also be fair to consider Klobuchar’s presence in the upcoming round a surprise. Leo Durocher used to say that nice guys finish last. Apparently, nice gals (or gals who come across as nice) finish a bit higher.

Which other candidates might crash the party? Tom Steyer is probably the likeliest. He’s determined to buy his way in, and will succeed if he garners just one more DNC approved poll showing him with 2 percent support nationally.

Tulsi Gabbard needs two more such polls. She says that numerous national polls show her at 2 percent or better, but the pollsters in question aren’t DNC approved. She may be getting the shaft from her party.

It’s interesting, though, that neither Gabbard nor Marianne Williamson has qualified yet. Reportedly, they were the most searched names on social media during the previous debates.

Either folks didn’t like what the searches revealed or social media buzz isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I’m betting on the latter.

If there’s a surprise among the (as yet) non-qualified, it might be Kirsten Gillibrand. She is two polls short of qualifying, with time running out.

I’m not certain why Gillibrand has failed to gain even the modest amount of traction needed to qualify. She’s a prominent Senator and a committed feminist. She’s reasonably attractive and no one has campaigned harder.

Sure, she’s a phony, but so is Cory Booker. He too seems to be underperforming, but at least he qualified pretty handily for the next round of debates, ranking sixth in the number of qualifying polls.

In any case, Gillibrand won’t be missed if she fails to make it to the upcoming debate[s]. Williamson and Gabbard would be missed — at least by me and, in Gabbard’s case, by Joe Biden (but not by Kamala Harris).

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