Steyer, who has spent more than $115 million on his campaign so far, hit 12 percent in the network’s poll of Nevada, which holds its caucuses Feb. 22, and 15 percent in South Carolina, which holds its “first in the South” primary one week later.
That was more than enough for Steyer to meet the Democratic National Committee’s standards, which required candidates to poll at 5 percent in any four DNC-approved polls or 7 percent in two polls of the states that vote in February.
It came after Steyer poured more than $20 million into commercials and other advertising in these states as of this week, with $11.2 million worth of expenditures in South Carolina and $10.3 million in Nevada. He has also spent heavily to attract hundreds of thousands of small-dollar donations, which the DNC requires for debate access.
Steyer has spent tens of millions more in Iowa and New Hampshire, which hold the Democrats’ first contests. But while every rival candidate has gone on air in one or both of those states, they have held their fire in Nevada and South Carolina. Only Steyer and former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg have gone on the air there, and while Buttigieg just began his buys, Steyer has been running his spots for months. Steyer had polled in the single digits in both states when they were last polled, in November.
Former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg, who has also run an extensive ad campaign, is not competing for the first four states. He’s also refused to ask for small donations, ensuring that he won’t appear in a televised debate with other candidates until and unless the DNC revisits its rules after voting begins.
Five other Democratic candidates had already qualified for the next debate: Buttigieg, former vice president Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). CNN and the Des Moines Register are hosting the debate at Iowa’s Drake University. While currently scheduled for Jan. 14, the debate could be moved if the schedule of a Senate impeachment trial interferes.