Sen. Klobuchar is on the presidential debate bubble

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, unable to get a boost from last week's Democratic debates, is among several candidates who are now on the bubble to qualify for future ones.

In the first round of polling after the June 26-27 debates, Klobuchar got 1 percent in a national Quinnipiac University Poll and 2 percent in a Suffolk University/USA Today poll in Iowa. Both polls surveyed likely Democratic primary voters.

Klobuchar and about 15 other candidates below the top tier will face higher hurdles imposed by the Democratic National Committee to gain entrance into debates starting in September. For some, it may be getting late early in the race.

"If they're not in the debates, they have no campaign," said Larry Jacobs, a University of Minnesota political science professor. "Klobuchar's strategy has always been, we'll win -- or do well -- in Iowa. The question now is, will she make it to Iowa?"

Klobuchar had a buzzed-about line in last week's debate, after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee promoted his work on abortion policy. Otherwise, the Suffolk/USA Today poll suggests her performance was not particularly memorable: few Iowa Democrats named her when asked which candidates fared better or worse than expected.

Klobuchar is already qualified for the second debate, to be held July 30-31 in Detroit, because it has the same criteria as the first contest. 

But the DNC has created a higher bar for the third debate, scheduled for mid-September. Candidates will need 2 percent support in four separate polls released after June 28, and at least 130,000 donors. 

Klobuchar has already reached 2 percent in three polls since June 28, meaning she's likely to hit the polling requirement. But a campaign spokeswoman did not answer Wednesday when asked how close Klobuchar was to the 130,000 donor threshold.

All candidates are required to report their second-quarter fundraising numbers by July 15, revealing their standing. Some of the lower-tier candidates, including former Maryland U.S. Rep. John Delaney, have criticized the tougher criteria.

Klobuchar has campaigned in Iowa the past three days. She is scheduled to be in New Hampshire on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, with an appearance in Texas on Friday.

"Iowa is a place that listens to people and picks winners and understands that people aren't as famous at the beginning," she told people in Oskaloosa on Tuesday.

The first debate showed how critical the national TV airtime will be: former Vice President Joe Biden stumbled in the polls after a performance widely perceived as weak, though he remains the frontrunner. U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California surged in polls after going on offense against Biden.

U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders round out the top four, though Sanders' numbers have also sagged since the debate. 

"What we're seeing are tremendous opportunities for Democrats to set themselves apart on the night of the debates, but that narrative on who's winning or losing, it's now got legs and it's lasting for weeks until the next debate," Jacobs said.