DNC Chair Tom Perez: 2020 Debate Rules Are "Inclusive," But Large Field Forces "Difficult Choices"


DNC Chair Tom Perez joined MSNBC's Hallie Jackson Friday morning to discuss how the party decided which candidates are in or out of the first 2020 primary debates, airing at 9 p.m. ET on Wednesday, June 26 and Thursday, June 27 from Miami.

The candidate lineup:

Night 1: Wednesday, June 26

Sen. Cory Booker
Sen. Elizabeth Warren
Rep. Beto O’Rourke
Sen. Amy Klobuchar
Rep. John Delaney
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard
Sec. Julian Castro
Rep. Tim Ryan
Mayor Bill de Blasio
Gov. Jay Inslee

Night 2: Thursday, June 27

Sen. Bernie Sanders
Sen. Kamala Harris
Vice President Joe Biden
Mayor Pete Buttigieg
Sen. Michael Bennet
Ms. Marianne Williamson
Rep. Eric Swalwell
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
Mr. Andrew Yang
Gov. John Hickenlooper

Perez explained:

HALLIE JACKSON, MSNBC: So, we know the 20 candidates who will be on that debate stage later this month, but several candidates who will not be on the debate stage. Steve Bullock, Rep. Seth Moulton, and Wayne Messam. What is your message to those candidates? Should they just drop out now because they didn't make the stage?

DNC CHAIR TOM PEREZ: Absolutely not. We have another debate coming up in a month and we will figure out shortly before that debate who qualifies for that. I worked closely with Governor Bullock when I was labor secretary, and same with Congressman Moulton. I have respect for both of them. I don't know the mayor, I have not met him but I appreciate anyone going into the race and we hope that they'll continue and I know that they will. And they have important visions to offer. At the same time, we set forth these rules, Hallie, many months ago. They are inclusive.

1% is not exactly -- I think that's a fair bar. And we also created a grassroots fund-raising threshold to get in and 14 out of the 20 candidates who qualified did so. I think that's great for the Democratic Party in terms of connecting with the grassroots. So, I think it's great to have a large field. It forces difficult choices. And at the same time, I think managing ten people for our colleagues at NBC in the upcoming debates, that's tough enough. And we had to draw the line and we did so and I think it was the right place to draw the line.

JACKSON: On that note, on the number of candidates that are going to be on the stage, Joe Biden called it an exaggeration to even call it a debate. You have two hours and ten candidates per night and do you worry tht this format incentivizes one liners over substance?

PEREZ: That's why we have good moderators that will facilitate a discussion. Over time as the field narrows, we'll be in a position to have deeper dives on a lot of issues and at the same time, I don't think it's our place right now and certainly not my place at the dnc to say to any one candidate that you shouldn't be in the race or you shouldn't be on the debate stage. I think that's going to be up for the voters to decide. I think what you're going to see happening over the course of time, number one, it takes money to run a national campaign and, number two, you have to demonstrate that your message is penetrating with voters. In september, the threshold will be 2%. And we do so because, again, the campaigns have been going on for a while and we think it's appropriate and it's not at all unprecedented as you move closer and closer to the primaries and a higher threshold. And then I think that will, you know, people will either meet it or they won't and over time we will have the opportunities, I think, to have deeper dives on these issues. But I don't think it's the time or the place now to say to candidates, I'm sorry. You can't join the debate.

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