Steve Bullock is now the only governor remaining in the crowded field of Democratic presidential candidates, and it’s unclear if he’ll make it on the next primary debate stage.
The path is steepening to the Democratic Party nomination: Candidates must poll at 2% and have at least 130,000 unique donors from at least 20 states in order to qualify for the next debate in September.
Bullock has yet to reach that threshold and has until next Wednesday to do so.
In a campaign press release, Bullock’s campaign described the DNC debate rules as arbitrary and said they “have forced out of the race executives with real governing experience.” Bullock criticized the rules on MSNBC Wednesday evening.
“Maybe we ought to think about, also, are these DNC rules for the debates disadvantaging folks that actually have to get things done, to make these debate stages," Bullock said.
With Washington Gov. Jay Inslee ending his climate-change-focused presidential campaign Wednesday, Bullock is the last standing state executive in the race. Inslee is turning to run for a third term in Washington state. Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who dropped out of the primary earlier this month, has moved to a U.S. Senate race.
Bullock has said he’s ruled out a U.S. Senate run against incumbent Republican Steve Daines, despite encouragement from members of his own party. If Bullock is unsuccessful breaking through the noise of the crowded primary, it’s unclear how he may pivot to other ambitions.
However, Montana State University political science professor Eric Raile said running for the presidency can be a springboard.
“Often times, you’ll run for name recognition," he said.
"You’ll run for opportunities in the future. Sometimes people can take a presidential run and that will turn itself into a cabinet position with whomever does get elected. So there other opportunities here. And oftentimes people do need to run in multiple races to get that name recognition, which Steve Bullock has in Montana, but not in other parts of the country.”
Raile said he couldn’t speculate about what Bullock’s backup plan is if the presidential campaign doesn’t work out, adding you don’t often see people take “gap years" in politics.
Bullock is continuing to deliver a moderate campaign message in Iowa, where this week he made his ninth trip since launching his presidential bid. According to the website fivethirtyeight, Bullock ranks second in time spent in Iowa among major demcoratic primary candidates.
Bullock is scheduled to appear this Sunday on a CNN town hall broadcast live from New York.