DNC Announces Qualification Criteria For South Carolina Democratic Presidential Primary Debate

The DNC today released the qualification criteria for participation in the tenth Democratic presidential primary debate, which will be hosted by CBS News on February 25. The debate is co-hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus Institute.

To qualify for the South Carolina debate stage, candidates may qualify either by (1) meeting a delegate threshold, or (2) meeting a polling threshold. Qualifying polls for the debate will include national polling and polling in South Carolina. A candidate’s support in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada will be reflected through the results of those contests. The qualifying window for polls begins on February 4, 2020 and ends at 11:59pm Eastern Time on February 24, 2020.

The official threshold rules are below:


To qualify for the February 25, 2020 Democratic presidential primary debate in South Carolina (“South Carolina Debate”), candidates must meet the “Delegate Threshold” or the “Polling Threshold,” as detailed below.

  1. Delegate Threshold

To meet the Delegate Threshold for the South Carolina Debate, candidates must have been allocated at least one pledged delegate to the Democratic National Convention (“National Convention Delegate”) from either:

  • the state of Iowa, based on the results of the February 3rd, 2020 Iowa caucuses, as calculated and reported by the Iowa Democratic Party; or

  • the state of New Hampshire, based on the results of the February 11, 2020 primary election, as calculated and reported by the Associated Press; or

  • the state of Nevada, based on the results of the February 22, 2020 caucuses, as calculated and reported by the Nevada Democratic Party or the Associated Press.

  1. Polling Threshold

To meet the Polling Threshold for the South Carolina Debate, candidates must meet either the “Four-Poll Threshold” or the “Early State Polling Threshold” as described below:

  • Four-Poll Threshold. Receive 10% or more support in at least four polls (which may be national polls, or single-state polls of South Carolina) meeting the Qualifying Poll Criteria described below. To meet the Four-Poll Threshold, each one of a candidate’s four qualifying polls must be sponsored by different Qualifying Poll Sponsors, or if by the same Qualifying Poll Sponsor, must be in different geographical areas.

  • Early State Polling Threshold. Receive 12% or more support in two single-state polls in South Carolina that meet the Qualifying Poll Criteria described below.  To meet the Early State Polling Threshold, any candidate’s two qualifying polls may be from the same or different Qualifying Poll Sponsors.

For a poll to be counted towards the Four-Poll Threshold or Early State Polling Threshold, it must meet each of the four requirements described below (“Qualifying Poll Criteria”):

  • Each poll must be sponsored by one of the following 13 entities or pairs of entities (“Qualifying Poll Sponsors”): Associated Press; ABC News/Washington Post; CBS News/YouGov; CNN; Fox News; Monmouth University; National Public Radio; NBC News/Wall Street Journal; NBC News/Marist; New York Times; Quinnipiac University; USA Today/Suffolk University; Winthrop University. For individual entities that are included only in Qualifying Poll Sponsor pairs but are not listed individually, independent polling by such individual entities or polling conducted in new partnerships with such individual entities shall not meet the Qualifying Poll Criteria.  The DNC reserves the right to add a South Carolina-specific poll sponsor to this list in the near future.

  • Each poll must be publicly released between February 4, 2020 and 11:59 P.M. on February 24, 2020.

  • Each poll’s candidate support question must have been conducted by reading or presenting a list of Democratic presidential primary candidates to respondents. Poll questions using an open-ended or un-aided question to gauge presidential primary support will not count.

  • Each polling result must be the top-line number listed in the original public release from the approved Qualifying Poll Sponsor, whether or not it is a rounded or weighted number.