The following editorial originated with a sister newspaper, The Mankato (Minnesota) Free Press.
It was one of those picky debates that pop up in a newsroom: How many Democrats are running for president?
Ballotpedia says almost 250 people had filed to run as Democrats as of May 20. Most of them, obviously, are random “candidates” who filed for the thrill of seeing their name on a presidential primary ballot.
So how many “major” Democrats are in the race? That depends on who’s counting and what their criteria are for deeming someone a serious candidate.
Ballotpedia says there are 24 current or past officeholders or public figures in the race. The Associated Press says 23. FiveThirtyEight noted last week that 20 Democrats have qualified for the first two debates, which begin next month.
Twenty-four, 23, 20 — no matter the specific number, it’s a lot of names, many of them unfamiliar to even people who consider themselves politically savvy.
But most of us won’t need to delve that deeply into the field. By the time Minnesota holds its new presidential primary March 3, that field will be sharply winnowed.
Consider the generous criteria set up by the the Democratic National Committee for the initial debates. A candidate qualifies by either:
-- Receiving at least 1% in at least three qualifying polls or
-- Having 65,000 people donate to their campaign, with at least 200 donors in 20 different states.
FiveThirtyEight noted last week that if the DNC required candidates to meet both criteria and bumped the polling number to 2%, only eight Democrats would qualify.
The difference between 1% and 2% is immaterial. It’s not only within the margin of error, but no candidate is going to survive either the Iowa caucuses or the New Hampshire primary with either figure.
So there aren’t two-dozen viable Democratic hopefuls, or 20, or even a dozen. It’s a much smaller group, and it will be quickly reduced, as it was in 2008, when only Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton survived the Iowa caucuses.
Which is not to deride those who are running and not finding much traction. The Democratic field includes senators, governors, mayors, representatives, former cabinet officers, a former CEO, a venture capitalist. They all presumably are running for more than an ego trip. They believe they have something to contribute to the debate. They make their pitches, and they advance or fade away.
This large and diverse field gives the party’s rank and file, already united in opposition to the incumbent president, a variety of choices from which to chose what they want.