Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is forging ahead with her campaign for president despite missing the cut for the third Democratic primary debate.
Wednesday was the deadline to qualify for the Sept. 12 debate in Houston.
Gabbard plans to spend Labor Day weekend campaigning in the early primary state of Iowa, attending such events as the Latino Heritage Festival in Des Moines and Salute to Labor Chicken Fry Picnic in East Moline, according to a media advisory sent out by her campaign Wednesday.
She’s also continuing to seek campaign donations.
“Will you stand with me to ensure no one — not the biased mainstream media, the DNC or power brokers in Washington — can shut down the voices of the people and the voices of peace?” she wrote in an email Wednesday morning that included links to contribute to her campaign.
Gabbard surpassed the requirement of obtaining 130,000 unique donors and achieved at least 2% in two polls approved by the Democratic National Committee. But she needed to achieve at least 2% in two more polls to be included in next month’s debate.
She can count her donor numbers and polls toward qualifying for the DNC’s October debate, which has the same requirements — perhaps an incentive to stay in the race. But political analysts say not making next month’s debate likely spells the end for her presidential aspirations. She’s not likely to attract much media attention going forward and her political apparatus and funding pales in comparison to the race’s top contenders.
“Tulsi Gabbard is sometimes tough to predict and sometimes she makes moves that are unexpected and turn out to be kind of brilliant. But in this case I would not be surprised if she drops out relatively soon,” said Colin Moore, director of the Public Policy Center at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. “It is just going to be hard to sustain a campaign and convince voters in a crowded field to give money to your campaign when it doesn’t look like there is any path to victory.”
Neal Milner, a former political science professor at the University of Hawaii, said he didn’t see an advantage to Gabbard staying in.
“There is the main group and then there is a bunch of afterthoughts, and she has always been in that group,” said Milner, referring to the national political scene. “So it is not like this stops some dramatic surge and it’s not like this decreases her chances of winning if that is what she is trying to do, because dropping from almost no chance to no chance minus isn’t going to make much difference.”
In not qualifying for the debate, Gabbard found herself in the company of other struggling candidates including Marianne Williamson, an author and self-help guru, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who announced Wednesday that she was dropping out of the race. Tom Seyer, the billionaire former hedge fund investor from California, also missed the debate by just one poll.
Gabbard’s campaign didn’t respond to questions from the Honolulu Star- Advertiser about her intentions for the race or whether she plans to seek reelection to her House seat next year, a question Gabbard has dodged for months. But the longer she remains in the presidential race, the more it will distract from her attention at home where she is already facing a primary challenge from state Sen. Kai Kahele (D-Hilo).
In an interview with CBS News on Wednesday, Gabbard said that her campaign would continue.
“I would have liked to have been on that debate stage, but that’s not everything and we are going to find ways to work around it and really focus on bringing our people-powered campaign directly to the people, connecting directly with voters and continuing to do exactly what we have been doing in building and growing the momentum that we are seeing and interest and support for the kind of leadership I seek to bring,” she said.
Gabbard also said she would seek Gillibrand’s endorsement noting they had worked together on issues relating to veterans and sexual assault.
Campaign cries foul
The DNC kept the criteria for qualifying for the first two debates low, allowing 20 candidates to take the stage over two nights in June and July, mindful of past criticism that they weren’t being fair to lesser-known candidates. The criteria for the third debate, however, cut the number of candidates in half. Ten candidates are now set to take the debate stage next month including top contenders Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
Gabbard and her campaign have leveled a steady stream of criticism against the DNC in recent weeks, arguing that its criteria for debate-qualifying polls appeared “increasingly absurd” and urging the DNC to revise its list of qualifying polls. The DNC has not responded to the Gabbard campaign’s fault-finding.
“Crucial decisions on debate qualifications that impact the right of the American people to have the opportunity to participate fully in the Democratic process should not be made in secret by party bosses,” her campaign wrote in an Aug. 23 email.
June 28 was the start date for meeting qualifications for the third debate. Over the past two months several dozen polls have been conducted, but only some were deemed qualifying polls under criteria set by the DNC months ago. Gabbard scored 2% or more in a number of polls, including several conducted by The Economist, that didn’t count, fueling her campaign’s discontent.
Still, Gabbard’s overall polling average has remained flat at about 1% since she announced her bid for the presidency in January, according to data compiled by RealCearPolitics and Morning Consult, and she has continued to struggle with name recognition.
In a glimmer of hope for her campaign, Gabbard has fared slightly better in polls conducted in early voting states where it’s easier to gain some traction among likely Democratic voters. She has averaged 4% overall in polls conducted in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, according to Morning Consult.
However, Moore said that probably won’t help.
“I don’t see a path to victory. I don’t really see a path to remain competitive in this race,” he said. “Her chance was to really make a splash at the national level. I think her performance at the debates was really quite good. I wouldn’t criticize her for that. It’s just a crowded field and the issues she has run on really aren’t the issues this campaign is really about. So it just didn’t work out.”
Gabbard’s campaign has had its moments. She scored political points when she attacked California Sen. Kamala Harris on her criminal justice record during the second debate, stirring a round of national media coverage. After that debate, she also became the most searched candidate on Google.
However, on Wednesday, the hashtag #TulsiDidnt QualifyParty was trending on Twitter.