Inslee has enough donors to qualify for fall debates but his poll numbers still fall short


Washington Gov. Jay Inslee celebrated this week as his presidential campaign reached 130,000 individual donors.

That number is key because it is one of two benchmarks needed to qualify for the fall Democratic presidential debates.

“We did it,” Inslee tweeted Tuesday. “130,000 donors rallying behind our #ClimateMission. This is an historic moment. I am honored by your support.”

Despite reaching that threshold, however, Inslee faces a more daunting task in reaching the second benchmark.

He must show at least 2 percent support in four approved national polls. And he must do so by next Thursday.

Thus far, he has struggled to crack 1 percent in any poll.

The most recent party-approved polls were not encouraging.

In a Fox News poll last week he still hadn’t cracked 1 percent and in a CNN poll released this week he was listed at 0 percent.

Thus far, 10 Democratic candidates have qualified for the fall debates. Former Obama administration official Julian Castro became the 10th Tuesday by reaching 2 percent support.

Earlier debates did not help him in the polls

Inslee appeared in two earlier debates but failed to distinguish himself enough to get a bump in the polls. Those debates only required individual donor numbers and not support in polls.

The Washington governor’s campaign has been laser focused on climate change issues.

This week, he released his sixth comprehensive climate change proposal, this one focused on farmers and rural communities.

Early in campaign, Inslee unsuccessfully pushed the Democratic National Committee to hold a debate focused solely on climate change.

Since then, however, CNN has scheduled a climate change-only debate for Sept. 4. But that debate also requires polling support Inslee hasn’t reached, so, ironically, he will not be participating.

Governor has spent substantial time campaigning

Inslee has been an active campaigner in several early battleground states.

The Seattle Times earlier this month did an analysis of his travels and reported he was out of the state part or all of the day 90 of 153 days between March 1 and Aug. 1.

The Washington State Patrol provides security for those trips and beefed up the governor’s detail for the presidential campaign.

Currently, he has 14 troopers, two sergeants and one lieutenant assigned to his detail.

Though the WSP is still tallying the total cost of that security, and overtime, to Washington taxpayers, it easily exceeds $300,000.

That cost to taxpayers has generated criticism from Washington Republicans and others.

How long Inslee will remain in the race if his poll numbers do not improve is unclear.

When asked Sunday on MSNBC what he will do if he doesn’t qualify for the fall debates, Inslee said “We just plan on success.”

Caucuses and primaries are still months away

The first of the Democratic caucuses and primaries isn’t until Feb. 3 in Iowa.

Inslee has campaigned in that state numerous times but doesn’t seem to have garnered wide support.

On Tuesday, Iowa held its unofficial “Cast Your Kernel” poll, where voters are given a kernel of corn they use it to support a candidate.

Inslee received 120 kernels out of 66,000 cast.

His inability to gain momentum hasn’t been limited to states out of his home region, either.

A Zogby poll earlier this month showed him finishing fifth back home in Washington state.