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Sen. Cory Booker speaks during the Oct. 15 Democratic Presidential Debate in Westerville, Ohio. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Eight candidates joined 2020 rival Sen. Cory Booker in signing a letter sent to the Democratic National Committee Saturday that calls on the DNC to ease qualification requirements for presidential debates, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: The DNC raised the qualification criteria in September for 2020 debates in a bid to whittle down the crowded field. The letter states the overhaul has "unnecessarily and artificially narrowed what started as the strongest and most diverse Democratic field in history before voters have had a chance to be heard," per NBC News.

The big picture: NBC notes the letter is signed by all seven candidates who've qualified for Thursday's Los Angeles debate: former Vice President Joe Biden; Mayor Pete Buttigieg; Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar; entrepreneur Andrew Yang and billionaire Tom Steyer.

  • Former Housing secretary Julián Castro, who did not qualify for the debate, also signed the letter.

What they're saying: Axios has contacted the DNC for comment. The committee told Politico, "The DNC has led a fair and transparent process and even told campaigns almost a year ago that the qualification criteria would go up later in the year — not one campaign objected."

"The DNC will not change the threshold for any one candidate and will not revert back to two consecutive nights with more than a dozen candidates. Our qualification criteria is extremely low and reflects where we are in the race. Once voting starts in February, our criteria will reflect those contests, which is more than appropriate.
"We’re proud to have given candidates so many opportunities to get their message across, and will continue to have fair criteria that reflects each point in the race."
— DNC statement to Politico

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Dems race to address, preempt stimulus fraud claims

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Biden officials are working to root out the systematic fraud in unemployment and Paycheck Protection Program claims that plagued the Trump administration’s efforts to boost the economy with coronavirus relief money, Gene Sperling told House committee chairmen privately this week.

Why it matters: President Biden just signed another $1.9 trillion of aid into law, with Sperling tapped to oversee its implementation. And the administration is asking Congress to approve another $2.2 trillion for the first phase of an infrastructure package.

7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Biden close to picking Nick Burns as China ambassador

Nicholas Burns. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Nicholas Burns, a career diplomat, is in the final stages of vetting to serve as President Biden’s ambassador to China, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: Across the administration, there's a consensus the U.S. relationship with China will be the most critical — and consequential — of Biden's presidency. From trade to Taiwan, the stakes are high. Burns could be among the first batch of diplomatic nominees announced in the coming weeks.

Biden's Russian sanctions likely to achieve little

President Biden announces new sanctions against Russia. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Despite bold talk from top administration officials, there's little reason to think the Russia sanctions package President Biden announced Thursday will do anything to alter Russian President Vladimir Putin's behavior or calculus.

Why it matters: While it's true some elements of the package — namely, the targeting of Russia's sovereign debt — represent significant punitive measures against Moscow, it leaves plenty of wiggle room for the Russian president.