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Just Under the Wire, a 6th Debate Contender

Tom Steyer will join Biden, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Sanders, and Warren on Tuesday
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 10, 2020 2:00 PM CST
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In this Dec. 19, 2019, file photo, Tom Steyer waves before a Democratic presidential primary debate in Los Angeles.   (AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File)

(Newser) – And then there were six. On Thursday morning, just Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren had met polling and fundraising requirements to participate in Tuesday's Democratic debate in Iowa. By Thursday evening, there was a new entry: businessman Tom Steyer, who Politico notes was able to take advantage of a surge in two early-state polls to qualify. In the first of two Fox News polls released late Thursday, Steyer ties for third with Warren with 12% among Democratic caucusgoers, behind Biden at 23% and Sanders at 17%. In the second poll, out of South Carolina, Steyer jumps to second with 15%, though he's way behind Biden at 36%; Sanders and Warren come in at 14% and 10%, respectively. Buttigieg placed fifth in both polls, with 6% in Nevada and 4% in South Carolina.

Candidates can qualify polling-wise by Friday night's deadline by reaching 5% in four DNC-approved polls, or 7% in two early-state polls. What likely helped push Steyer into debate contender territory in these two polls, per Politico: the $21.5 million he's forked over in both states for direct-mail appeals and TV and radio ads. Steyer has spent $116 million on TV ads overall, reports the Washington Post, which compares his strategy with that of Mike Bloomberg, this campaign season's other big spender. Cory Booker, Tulsi Gabbard, and Andrew Yang are the only other candidates who appear to have a chance to meet all requirements by Friday night's debate deadline, but Politico says it doesn't look likely. At least one more poll—the Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom survey—will be released before the door is shut. (Read more Tom Steyer stories.)

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