DNC announces debate qualification threshold for South Carolina

Alex Seitz-Wald

WASHINGTON -- To qualify for an upcoming presidential debate in South Carolina, candidates will need to have won at least one delegate in earlier primary contests or cross a polling threshold of 10 percent nationally or 12 percent in the Palmetto State, the Democratic National Committee announced Saturday.

The rules are barely changed from the qualification threshold the party set for next week's debate in Las Vegas, hosted by NBC News and MSNBC, which could be former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's first appearance on the stage if he qualifies in time.

The party's debates are now coming quickly as the pace of contests picks up, following the Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire primary earlier this month.

Candidates who won at least one delegate to the Democratic National Convention in either of those two contests, or next Saturday's Caucuses in Nevada, will automatically qualify for the Feb. 25 debate in Charleston, which is hosted by CBS News and comes just before the state's Feb. 29 primary.

Candidates can also qualify by hitting a polling threshold of 10 percent in at least four national or South Carolina polls, or 12 percent in two South Carolina polls.

Bloomberg skipped the first four early states and so is not expected to receive a delegate from any of them, but has been polling above 10 percent in some recent surveys. He still needs one qualifying poll to make the Las Vegas debate stage.

The window to qualify next week's Feb. 19 debate closes the night before the event, while the window to qualify for the South Carolina debate runs from Feb. 4, the day after the Iowa Caucuses, to Feb. 24, the day before the debate.