Tom Steyer has beaten some other top Democrats to the December debate stage

Kathryn Krawczyk

Tom Steyer has spent his way onto the Democratic debate stage once again.

The billionaire philanthropist has hit the 200,000 individual donor threshold to qualify for the December primary debate, his campaign announced Tuesday. But considering how much of his own money he's put into his own campaign, it cost a lot to get those donors in the first place.

As of the last Federal Election Commission deadline of Sept. 30, Steyer has funneled $47,597,697 of his own money into his campaign. That number has surely grown in the two months since, but even based on the previous total, that means Steyer spent about $238 on each one of his 200,000 donors to draw them in. And seeing as many of Steyer's social media ads — including the $14 million in ads he's so far run on Facebook — encouraged viewers to give him just $1, it's unlikely he made that money back.

Still, this lucrative strategy has boosted Steyer to the debate stage even before some of his more well-known competitors. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), for instance, still hasn't hit the polling threshold even though he has the donor minimum on lock. He's made every previous debate, but this could be the one that forces him out of the race altogether. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro also hasn't made the December stage and wasn't seen in November, but he hasn't left the race yet. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), who appeared in November, has yet to make December's debate, and Steyer's fellow billionaire Michael Bloomberg is looking for his first appearance.

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