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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Billionaire Tom Steyer qualified Thursday for next week's Democratic presidential debate, putting him on stage in Iowa alongside five other candidates.
“This campaign has a fair bit of momentum right now,” he said while campaigning in New Hampshire after learning he'd qualified.
He'll join former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Bernie Sanders and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg on Tuesday in Des Moines.
The debate comes just weeks before the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses, the first voting contest of the primary campaign.
Steyer qualified by hitting polling and donor thresholds set by the Democratic National Committee.
A new Fox News poll conducted in South Carolina put Steyer at 15%, and another Fox News poll in Nevada put him at 12%. A candidate can meet the polling qualifications for the debate based on having received 7% support or higher in at least two qualifying early state polls released between Nov. 14, 2019, and Jan. 10, 2020. He's been running television ads in both South Carolina and Nevada.
In previous early state and national polls, Steyer has mostly been in the low to mid-single digits.
“I think he's shown a lot of durability and is growing incrementally, and he's going to continue to be well financed,” said Bill Carrick, a longtime California and Democratic presidential strategist.
Steyer hit the requirement of getting 225,000 unique donations with at least 1,000 each coming from 20 states.
Asked if he was surprised to have earned a spot in the debate, Steyer said he knew the interest in his campaign was there.
“Look, I've said repeatedly, these are the numbers that we thought existed," Steyer said.
"I just didn't know if it would be revealed in time” to qualify for the debate, he added.
Steyer has tapped his personal fortune to finance his campaign. The billionaire, who was a hedge-fund manager before committing his money to charity and political causes, argues that his record as a successful businessman makes him a strong contender against Trump, whom he brands as a “fraud and failure” in his television advertisements.
He's invested heavily in California and national political causes in recent elections, including through his “Need to Impeach” campaign that called for Trump's impeachment long before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was able to move ahead. He's also spent millions arguing for political action to fight climate change.
Businessman Andrew Yang is the only remaining candidate who was on the December debate stage but has not yet qualified for next week's debate. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has hit the polling threshold but is not accepting donations, so he is unable to qualify for the debate stage.
Associated Press journalists Emily Swanson in Washington and Hunter Woodall in Concord, N.H., contributed to this report.
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