The Democratic National Committee is facing the same issues in 2019-20 as Republicans in 2015-16 when the GOP's primary field numbered in double digits. Foremost is how to structure debates to give each candidate adequate opportunity to speak.
The GOP approach was to create a two-debate approach, with those leading in the polls on the main stage and other contenders on another stage. In other words, those trailing in the polls never got to face those in the lead.
The Democrats say they'll not take that approach in a series of 12 debates that is to begin with two in June and July 2019.
DNC Chair Tom Perez has announced that his goals for the Democratic presidential primary debates are to:
• Give the grassroots a bigger voice than ever before.
• Showcase candidates on an array of media platforms.
• Present an opportunity for vigorous discussion about issues, ideas and solutions.
• Reach as many potential voters as possible.
Toward achieving the goals while accommodating the large primary field, at least the first two debates will have the option of occurring over consecutive nights in prime time to make room for as many as 20 candidates, with the lineups for each night determined at random.
The approach will provide each candidate with a fair opportunity to make his or her case to a large, national audience, according to Perez.
As to which candidates can qualify, the DNC will have a two-path system that uses polling and fundraising thresholds, and uses the two measures in combination in the event that more than 20 candidates qualify.
Democratic candidates may qualify for the first and second debates by meeting one of two sets of criteria:
• Polling: Register 1 percent or more support in three polls (which may be national polls, or polls in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and/or Nevada) publicly released between Jan. 1, 2019, and 14 days prior to the date of the debate.
• Fundraising: Demonstrate that the campaign has received donations from at least 65,000 unique donors and a minimum of 200 unique donors per state in at least 20 U.S. states.
If more than 20 candidates qualify for the debate, the top 20 candidates will be selected using a methodology that gives primacy to candidates meeting both thresholds, followed by the highest polling average, followed by the most unique donors.
It appears the Democrats have their act together. But there is the adage about best-laid plans.
The GOP found considerable controversy in its debates in the 2016 campaign. Don't be surprised if the Democrats get their wish on a "vigorous discussion about issues" -- with the debates themselves being among the issues.