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The winnowing of the 2020 Dem field will begin in 3 months

Image: 2020 Democratic presidential candidates in a combination of 21 file
The 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. Copyright Reuters file
Copyright Reuters file
By Chuck Todd and Mark Murray and Carrie Dann with NBC News Politics
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First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.


WASHINGTON — The Democrats' presidential field is guaranteed to become smaller three months from now — at least when it comes to who qualifies to make the debate stage.

The Democratic National Committee announced this morning that ABC-Univision is slated to host the third set of debates on Sept. 12 and Sept. 13 (if enough candidates make the threshold to require two nights of debates).

But here's the hitch: To qualify for the third round of debates, candidates must hit 2 percent in four qualifying polls released between June 28 and Aug. 28.

That's up from the current polling threshold of 1 percent.

And they will need to raise money from 130,000 unique individual donors — up from 65,000.

To understand how that new polling requirement will winnow the field, only nine Democratic candidates have hit 2 percent or above in just one of the last three qualifying national polls (Fox, Quinnipiac, Monmouth).

Those nine: Biden, Sanders, Warren, Harris, Buttigieg, O'Rourke, Klobuchar, Booker and Castro.

That's it.

And it's quite likely the 130,000 donor threshold reduces that number even further.

Bottom line: This means performance at the first two sets of debates in June and July — where a total of 20 candidates get to participate — will really matter.

You snooze, you lose. You thrive, you survive.

In addition, this will force some candidates on the fence to spend early money — either nationally or in the early states — to boost their poll numbers.

One way to think about this winnowing: It used to be that the August straw poll in Ames, Iowa served as a way to reduce the size of the Republican presidential field.

But this coming August — before the September debate(s) — Democrats will have their own straw poll of sorts in whether or not they hit/surpass 2 percent.

On Justin Amash's town hall last night

Few Democrats have articulated beginning impeachment proceedings against President Trump as clearly as Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich.


In his first town hall since coming out in support of impeachment, Amash last night fielded nearly 30 questions from a mix of Democrats, Republicans, Amash supporters and Trump supporters, per NBC's Alex Moe and Leigh Ann Caldwell.

And this might have been the highlight of the night, as CNN flagged:

"If you have a society where all we care about is that the other side is bad, and therefore we don't have to do the right thing, that society will break down, and you will have no liberty."

2020 Vision: Biden says America is less divided today than in the 1970s

At a fundraiser in Houston last night, Joe Biden said:


"America's less divided today on issues than when I got to the Senate as a 29-year-old kid. Then we were divided on everything from war, to the women's movement, to civil rights, across the board."

On the one hand, Biden's right — when you think about the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement, women's rights.

On the other hand, that observation is about as relevant to our current politics as a Baby Boomer talking about the 1960s and 1970s: "Hey, America was more divided during the Civil War than today."

On the campaign trail today

Kamala Harris remains in South Carolina… Seth Moulton also stumps in the Palmetto State… Joe Biden attends a community event in Dallas… And Bernie Sanders holds a rally in Reno, N.V.


Tweet(s) of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 62 percent

Sixty-two percent.

That's the share of Americans who say they're concerned that a U.S. trade war with China will hurt the local economy in their area, according to a new poll from Monmouth University.

About a third — 34 percent — say they're very concerned, while an additional 28 percent say they're "somewhat" concerned.

The same share — 62 percent — say that American consumers are most likely to bear more of the costs of the tariffs, while just 23 percent say that Chinese producers will absorb the costs.


The Lid: Kentucky fried

Don't miss the pod from yesterday, when we got you caught up on the Kentucky governors' election.

ICYMI: News clips you shouldn't miss

Here's NBC's Garrett Haake on Beto O'Rourke's big new immigration proposal.

And here's Mike Memoli on Joe Biden's new education plan.

Vaughn Hillyard has the latest on Roy Moore's look at another Senate run.


Kamala Harrissays that Trump's tweets overseas run "contrary to the best interests of our country."

Mitch McConnell now says that he would fill a Supreme Court vacancy if it came open next year.

Trump agenda: Disaster

The House still hasn't passed the disaster aid package after another GOP member single-handedly blocked it.

Trump's medical deferment from service in Vietnam is popping up again as a 2020 issue.


A teenager snuck past Secret Service at Mar-a-Lago "to see how far I could get."

Congressional Republicans are still trying to figure out their messaging on abortion in the wake of the Alabama ban's passage.

2020: Lindsey Graham's Dem challenger

Seth Moulton is disclosing that he sought treatment for PTSD.

The Washington Post profiles Abigail Spanberger as she fights for reelection in a swing district.


Lindsey Graham's Democratic challenger is kicking off his campaign.

Here's how Justin Amash's impeachment talk is being received in his Michigan district.

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