Tom Steyer qualifies for October debate

By Zach Montellaro

Billionaire Tom Steyer has qualified for the October Democratic primary debate, becoming the 11th candidate to do so.

Steyer crossed the threshold after receiving 2 percent in a CBS News/YouGov poll conducted in Nevada and released Sunday. To qualify for the debate, candidates need to get at least 2 percent in four polls approved by the Democratic National Committee and donations from 130,000 unique donors. Steyer had already gotten 2 percent in three polls and has already hit the donor mark.

Despite the new poll, Steyer won’t be in the September debate, which will take place this Thursday in Houston. However, Steyer will make his debut on either Oct. 15 or 16, when the next debate will be held. Steyer's qualification could expand the debate to two nights; the DNC has previously said it will not have more than 10 candidates onstage on one night for previous debates. When asked about the October debate, a DNC spokesperson said the committee has "the option of two nights" but declined to comment when asked if each night would be limited to 10 candidates.

Ten candidates will debate this Thursday: Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Julián Castro, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang. All 10 automatically qualify for the October debate as well — unless they drop out.

The Nevada poll was released as part of a series of surveys from CBS News in early battleground states. CBS News also released polls in Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire. However, no candidate who has yet to qualify for the October debate received at least 2 percent in any of the early voting state polls.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is the next most likely candidate to qualify for the October debate, needing 2 additional qualifying polls. Gabbard did not break 2 percent in any of the new CBS/YouGov polls.

ABC News and The Washington Post jointly released a national poll early Sunday morning, but the two news outlets don't appear to agree on what their top line numbers are for the new poll, which the DNC uses to determine qualification. ABC News uses a sample of all adults in its story on the poll, while The Washington Post uses a more restrictive sample of registered voters in its story.

Shortly after publication, the DNC told POLITICO that the sample with all adults will count toward qualification. In previous ABC/Washington Post polls, both outlets highlighted a sample of adults in their stories, and POLITICO treated the adults sample as the top line number that counted toward qualification.

Qualification for the September debate closed Aug. 28, leaving Steyer out. This led to Steyer, Gabbard and other candidates who did not qualify to complain that the rules for debate qualification were unfair.

But thanks to a quirk in the debate rules, the October debate stage will likely end up larger than that of the September debate. Those who missed out on September — like Steyer — had more time to qualify for October. Qualification for the October debate closes Oct. 1.

Author Marianne Williamson has previously crossed the donor threshold and has received 2 percent in one DNC-approved poll for the September and October debates, the only other candidate in the race to do so. However, she did not hit 2 percent in any of the four CBS polls released Sunday, nor in the ABC News/Washington Post national poll.