Democratic Party debate lineup set at 20 candidates; de Blasio and Bennet in

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has made the cut for the Democratic Party debates. (Reuters)
Updated 14 June 2019

Democratic Party debate lineup set at 20 candidates; de Blasio and Bennet in

  • US Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who recently had been on the bubble, both made the debate based on polling measures
  • The opening debates, June 26-27 in Miami, will offer an opportunity for many White House hopefuls to reshape a race defined in recent weeks by Joe Biden’s domination of early polls

WASHINGTON, D.C.: The Democratic National Committee has announced that 20 candidates have qualified for the party’s first presidential debates later this month.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and US Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts were the only major candidates out of the two dozen Democratic hopefuls who failed to meet the polling or grassroots fundraising measures required to get a debate spot. Two lesser-known candidates, former Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska and Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam, also missed the cutoff, announced Thursday.
US Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who recently had been on the bubble, both made the debate based on polling measures.
The campaign’s opening debates, set for June 26-27 in Miami, will offer a prime opportunity for many White House hopefuls to reshape a race defined in recent weeks by former Vice President Joe Biden’s domination of national and many early state polls.
An NBC News drawing Friday will divide the large field between the first and second debate night. Party officials have promised to weight the drawing with the intention of ensuring that top tier and lagging candidates are spread roughly evenly over the two nights.
Those assignments will determine the debate strategies for many campaigns. Candidates will have to decide whether to go after front-runners such as Biden, challenge others in the pack or stand out by remaining above the fray. They must also decide how much to focus on President Donald Trump.
Some candidates have criticized the debate-qualifying rules that the party chairman, Tom Perez, set this year. The polling and fundraising thresholds will remain the same for the July debates over two nights in Detroit .
Bullock’s campaign insists he has reached a party benchmark of a minimum 1 percent in at least three polls by approved organizations. But party officials say Bullock is wrongly counting a Washington Post-ABC poll from February.
He said Thursday that he was “certainly disappointed” by the DNC’s decision.
“But the greater point really is also that I’m the only one in the field that’s actually won in a Trump state, and we need to win back some of the places we’ve lost,” he said on MSNBC.
The polling and fundraising marks will double for the third and fourth debates in September and October. Candidates will have to meet both marks instead of one or the other. That means 2 percent in the approved polls and a donor list of at least 130,000 unique contributors.
Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who will appear in the first debate, questioned some of the rules during a campaign stop Thursday before the DNC announcement, but said candidates have little choice other than to meet them.
“Fighting with the DNC is a little like fighting with the weather,” he said. “You can rage against the storm, but you will not have great effect. I think the rules are the rules.”


Johnson the Brexit ‘Hulk’ finally meets EU’s Juncker

Updated 16 September 2019

Johnson the Brexit ‘Hulk’ finally meets EU’s Juncker

  • Downing Street has confidently billed the Luxembourg visit as part of efforts to negotiate an orderly divorce from the union

LUXEMBOURG: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker for talks Monday insisting a Brexit deal is possible, despite deep skepticism from European capitals with just six weeks to go before departure day.
After a weekend in which he compared himself to comic book super-smasher Hulk, the British leader will enjoy a genteel working lunch of snails and salmon in Luxembourg with the EU Commission president.
Downing Street has confidently billed the Luxembourg visit as part of efforts to negotiate an orderly divorce from the union before an October 17 EU summit.
A UK spokesman said Johnson would tell Juncker that “progress has been made, given that before the summer recess many said reopening talks would not be possible.
“The UK needs to enact the referendum result and avoid another delay; the UK wants to deliver Brexit and move on to other priorities, and EU member states’ leaders want to renegotiate an orderly Brexit.”
But Brussels has played down talk of a breakthrough, insisting Johnson has yet to suggest any “legally operable” proposal to revise a previous withdrawal accord.
As he shook hands with Johnson, Juncker declared himself “cautiously optimistic” and insisted that “Europe never loses patience” despite the tortuous Brexit saga dragging on over three years.
Finland’s European affairs minister, Tytti Tuppurainen, who was chairing an EU ministerial meeting in Brussels, gave a more downbeat assessment, repeating the bloc’s long-standing complaint that London has simply not come up with detailed ideas for replacing the so-called “Irish backstop” section of the divorce deal.
“The European Union is always ready to negotiate when a proper proposal from the UK side is presented,” Tuppurainen said.
“So far I haven’t seen any proposal that would compensate the backstop.”
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, who joined the leaders for their talks in Juncker’s native Grand Duchy, said last week he has “no reason to be optimistic.”
The European Parliament will this week vote on a resolution rejecting Johnson’s demand that the backstop clause be stripped from the deal.
Johnson insists this measure, which temporarily keeps the UK in the EU customs union, has to go if he is to bring the agreement back to the House of Commons.
But the accord will also have to win the support of the other 27 EU leaders and the European Parliament if Britain is not to crash out with no deal on October 31 — a scenario that businesses warn would bring economic chaos.
Johnson, in turn, boasts that he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than ask his European counterparts to postpone Brexit for a third time.
“Be in no doubt that if we cannot get a deal — the right deal for both sides — then the UK will come out anyway,” Johnson said, writing in the Daily Telegraph on Monday.
A UK spokesman said that Britain would refuse an extension even if one were offered.
It is difficult, then, to see what might come from the lunch. There is no plan for a joint statement, but Barnier will meet Britain’s Brexit minister Stephen Barclay for separate discussions.
Speaking to the BBC on Sunday, Barclay indicated that any post-Brexit transition period could be extended past 2020 in order to resolve issues with the border.
Johnson, meanwhile, compared himself to Marvel comics hero Hulk, the rampaging mutant alter-ego of a mild-mannered nuclear scientist.
“The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets and he always escaped, no matter how tightly bound in he seemed to be,” Johnson told the Mail on Sunday.
Johnson’s strategy faces resistance at home, where rebel and opposition MPs have passed a law aimed at forcing him to seek a Brexit delay.
Britain’s Supreme Court will rule this week on a bid to overturn Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament and limit time to debate the crisis.
Barnier will address the European Parliament session in Strasbourg on Wednesday as MEPs vote to reaffirm and reinforce the EU Brexit stance — and insist that the backstop must stay.
After his lunch with Juncker, Johnson is due to meet Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel. The pair will hold a joint news conference.