The Democratic National Committee announced Thursday that 20 candidates have qualified for the party's first presidential debates later this month. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts were the only major candidates out of the two dozen Democratic hopefuls who failed to meet the polling or grassroots fundraising measures required to get a debate spot. Two lesser-known candidates, former Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska and Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam, also missed the cutoff, the AP reports. Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who had been on the bubble, both made the debate based on polling measures. The campaign's opening debates, June 26-27 in Miami, will offer a prime opportunity for many White House hopefuls to reshape a race defined in recent weeks by former Vice President Joe Biden's domination of polls.
An NBC News drawing Friday will divide the field between the first and second debate night. Party officials have promised to weight the drawing with the intention of ensuring that top-tier and lagging candidates are spread roughly evenly over the two nights. Those assignments will determine the debate strategies for many campaigns. Candidates will have to decide whether to go after front-runners such as Biden, challenge others in the pack or stand out by remaining above the fray. They must also decide how much to focus on President Trump. The polling and fundraising thresholds will remain the same for the July debates over two nights in Detroit. But the polling and fundraising marks will double for the third and fourth debates in September and October: Candidates will have to meet both marks instead of one or the other. (Read more Election 2020 stories.)