By Jennifer Rubin

The Washington Post

Jennifer Rubin

The Washington Post reports: “CNN, the host of the next Democratic presidential primary debate, said Monday that it would conduct a televised ‘live draw’ next week to determine which candidates in the crowded field appear on which night of the two-night event.” It’s not clear what the process for that draw will be, but I have a couple of ideas.

First, the Democratic National Committee should rethink the division between top-tier and barely-registering-tier of candidates. Candidates who don’t even register at 1 percent in polls shouldn’t be taking up time and space, nor preventing the viable contenders from facing off against each other. Looking at the RealClearPolitics averages (that’s not the methodology actually used, but it’s illustrative) there are exactly 10 candidates at 1 percent or higher in national polls: Former Vice President Joe Biden; Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., as well as South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, Julián Castro and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii. Does anyone seriously think someone outside that group is at all viable, let alone reasonably in contention for the nomination?

Put those 10 on stage and let us see how the “real” (sorry to be blunt) candidates do. The rest — including Marianne Williamson, Andrew Yang and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper — can have their own debate. (Perhaps from that group, a standout will emerge to stick around in September when the requirement goes up to 2 percent.)

Alas, I don’t think the DNC will go that route. However, the experiment in random selection should not be repeated. Other than hurt feelings of candidates, it doesn’t make much sense giving someone such as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio the opportunity to face off against Warren but not allowing Warren to face other top candidates.

If the DNC won’t go back to the grownup/kiddie table divide, then at least use the tried and true system that every elementary school student knows: Alternating picks so the “best” goes to the first team, the second best to the opposing team, the third best to the first and so on. This is also how most sports tournaments divide up two sides of the draw, so the top two teams/players aren’t scheduled to meet until the final.

In lieu of rankings or reputation, we’ll use the available polling. Going by the RCP averages, again for illustrative purposes, that would put Biden, Sanders and Buttigieg on the stage together along with Booker and Gabbard plus the lesser-knowns. On the other stage would be Harris, Warren, O’Rourke, Castro and Klobuchar plus the lesser-knowns that didn’t appear on the other night. Doesn’t that seem intuitively a lot more “fair” and interesting?

Frankly, I still think 10 people a night is unmanageable and no one under 1 percent should get the DNC’s indulgence, but if compelled to put 20 people on the stage at least make it more meaningful for voters. It is them, not the candidates’ egos, that should be the top concern.

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