RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
The Democrats' race for the White House has been reduced by one. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is dropping out of the race. Here's a bit from the video announcement that came out last night.
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KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND: I know this isn't the result we wanted. We wanted to win this race. But it's important to know when it's not your time and to know how you can best serve your community and country.
MARTIN: The New York senator decided to leave the crowded Democratic field after failing to qualify for September's debate. Ten candidates, total, did make the cut. They had to meet the Democratic National Committee's polling and fundraising threshold. Midnight was the deadline for meeting that threshold. We're expecting a formal announcement from the DNC about that later today. NPR's senior political editor Domenico Montanaro is with us to talk about all the details. Hi, Domenico.
DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey there, Rachel.
MARTIN: Who's in? Who made it?
MONTANARO: Well, 10 people made it. I'll go through them just quickly. Former Vice President Joe Biden, Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar, as well as Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Obama Housing Secretary Julian Castro, former Congressman Beto O'Rourke, who recently rebooted his campaign, and entrepreneur Andrew Yang. So there you go. Just half the candidates in the first round of debates.
MARTIN: So what happens if you didn't make the debate stage? At this point, is your campaign essentially over?
MONTANARO: Well, not necessarily. The candidates will have another chance to make the debate stage in October with the same criteria so we very well may see a larger group, actually, in October than we have now and a return to maybe the candidates being split over two nights. But for some candidates, it certainly has meant the end. I mean, you played the clip of Gillibrand. Others have dropped out already. They've struggled to stand out in this field. I mean, it's almost two dozen candidates who've been seeking to take on President Trump. So these debates have really served as something of a first primary, in a way, you know, with the winnowing that they've done.
MARTIN: Right. Except no one has actually cast a ballot, in terms of voters, which is why some people are miffed. I want to talk about the frontrunners, though. Biden, Warren, Sanders. They are going to be on the same debate stage together for the first time, right?
MONTANARO: Yeah. And that's really the most significant dynamic in this upcoming debate. You know, Sanders' camp continues to say that he won't go after Warren, unless they're the last two standing. You know, he sees her as an ally for changing the country to be something more along the progressive lines of what he wants to see. Biden has been the focus of other candidates in the first two rounds of debates. Given that he continues to lead in the polls, he'll probably be the focus again. So for his part, he told reporters in South Carolina yesterday he welcomes the shrinking field.
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JOE BIDEN: I'm looking forward to getting to the place - assuming I'm still around - that it gets down to a smaller number of people so we can have more of a discussion instead of one-minute assertions.
MONTANARO: Well, I mean, debates are always going to be kind of one-minute assertions. So he kind of knows that. But he really needs to show some crispness in this upcoming debate that he really lacked, especially in that first debate, when Democrats are really looking for someone who can take on Trump. Otherwise, they're going to look elsewhere. And we've seen Elizabeth Warren continue to rise in not just the polls but fundraising and crowd size.
MARTIN: Yeah. So I want to get back to this idea about the DNC and the debates being, like, a first primary sort of speak. They set the qualifying rules. How are those who didn't make the cut for this debate reacting?
MONTANARO: Well, pretty typically, I'd say, for candidates who don't make a debate stage. Some are complaining about the process, like you were noting. So here was Tulsi Gabbard on Fox News.
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TULSI GABBARD: The whole thing gets a little bit confusing, and you've got to jump way down into the weeds of the numbers and the statistics. But I think the bigger problem is that the whole process really lacks transparency.
TUCKER CARLSON: Right.
GABBARD: People deserve having that transparency because ultimately it's the people who will decide who our Democratic nominee will be and ultimately who our next president, commander in chief, will be.
MONTANARO: Yeah. I mean, the Hawaii Congresswoman - you know, they're talking about the rules and the process. You know, the criteria for the debate has been out there for quite some time. She just didn't reach it. So, you know, transparency is certainly one of the things that some candidates like to talk about in these instances. But we've known what they are for a while.
MARTIN: And the fact of the matter is it is just an unprecedentedly large field, right? So we don't...
MARTIN: This is all kind of new territory. I'm going to put you on the spot. We know Kirsten Gillibrand is ending her run. Who do you think is next?
MONTANARO: I have no idea.
MARTIN: Come on.
MONTANARO: I mean, you know, I'm not going to try to predict that. I will say one thing, though. Tom Steyer is somebody who spent $12 million on ads and other things to try to get onto this debate stage. He failed to do so. And, well, we may see him in October. We'll see.
MARTIN: OK. NPR senior political editor Domenico Montanaro. Thank you.
MONTANARO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.