Tulsi Gabbard likely to miss next debate, White House chances dim

Tulsi Gabbard, the lone Hindu in the Democratic race for the White House, is unlikely to make it to the third presidential debate scheduled for later this month after she failed Wednesday to fulfill the two qualifying criteria and that could further jeopardize her long-shot candidacy.

The four-term congresswoman from Hawaii has met one of the two qualifying measures with more than 130,000 individual donors and at least 400 in 20 states; but missed the second, of reaching at least 2% in four national polls or in early voting states such as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Two new polls were released Wednesday ahead of a midnight deadline and Gabbard had failed to make the cut and with no more polls expected, she will most likely miss the third debate, along with nine others, including California billionaire Tom Steyer and New York City mayor Bill de Blasio.

Though this is not the end of the road for any of them technically and they could stay in the race with the hope of making it to the next debates, their chances dim considerably deprived, as they will be, of prime time exposure and the opportunity to impress relative to the others.

Gabbard is staying, for now. “Whether we have the opportunity to be on the debate stage again or not, we will remain focused on getting our message out to the American people,” she wrote in a message to donors and supporters Wednesday, adding her campaign was poised at a “critical moment” now.

Others who left out of the upcoming debate such as self-help author Marianne Williamson, former Congressman John Delaney and Senator Michael Bennet have also vowed to carry on, ostensibly undeterred by the Democratic party’s efforts to winnow the field, which is still 20-strong.

The congresswoman is the first Hindu ever elected to US congress and to run for the White House and has been close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Her run for the White House has generated a lot of excitement in the Indian American community, specially among Hindus.

Though Gabbard made it to the first two debates and did reasonably well in both, she struggled to find traction and never did break into the top league that has been dominated thus far by former vice-president Joe Biden, Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris.

Partly of Indian descent, Harris is the other candidate Indians and Indian-Americans have followed closely, even as she has sough to pitch herself more as an African American, drawing upon her heritage from her Jamaican-origin father. She has fared better and has been in the Top 5 or thereabouts.

The first-time senator from California had a breakout moment in the second debate when she savaged Biden, the frontrunner, on his position on busing, used to break down racial barriers. Videos of the takedown went viral, propelling Harris up in polls, but she has been unable to keep up the momentum.