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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Tom Steyer. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Six candidates have qualified for the seventh Democratic debate, scheduled for Jan. 14, newly including billionaire Tom Steyer as of Thursday.

What's new: Steyer qualified for the debate after an apparent spike in early state polls in South Carolina and Nevada. He tied alongside Sen. Elizabeth Warren for third place in Nevada, with both candidates hitting 12%. In South Carolina, Steyer landed in second place at 15%, but widely trailed behind former Vice President Joe Biden, who led the poll at 36%.

The big picture: The Democratic National Committee raised the bar to qualify for its January debate, requiring candidates to have at least 5% in four qualifying polls or 7% in two early-state polls — as well as 225,000 unique donors.

  • The debate will take place in Des Moines, Iowa, at Drake University — co-hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register. It will air live on CNN at 9 p.m. ET.
  • CNN's Wolf Blitzer and Abby Phillip will moderate, joined by the Des Moines Register's Brianne Pfannenstiel.

The candidates who have qualified:

  1. Joe Biden
  2. Elizabeth Warren
  3. Bernie Sanders
  4. Pete Buttigieg
  5. Amy Klobuchar
  6. Tom Steyer

Between the lines: Sen. Cory Booker and former candidate Julián Castro (who both failed to qualify for the December debate), have criticized the DNC for its decisions to increase the criteria necessary to make the debates.

  • Only seven of the 15 candidates still in the race qualified for the last debate.
  • On the December debate stage in Los Angeles, businessman Andrew Yang lamented that he was the only non-white person there. "Fewer than 5% of Americans donate to political campaigns. You know what you need to donate to political campaigns? Disposable income," he said.

Worth noting: The unique donor requirement means that Michael Bloomberg won't make it to the January debate stage even if he manages to hit the polling requirements, as he has chosen to entirely self-fund his campaign.

What's next: Candidates have through Friday to qualify.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

J&J and Merck to partner for COVID vaccine production to boost supply

Empty vials that contained a dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine against the COVID-19. Photo: Phill Magakoe/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden will announce Tuesday that pharmaceutical giant Merck will help Johnson & Johnson manufacture its newly authorized coronavirus vaccine to boost supply, a senior administration official tells Axios.

The big picture: The development has the potential to vastly increase supply, possibly doubling what the J&J could make on its own, the official said. The company has run into challenges while trying to expand its vaccine production to a global scale.

Casinos throw cash at sports betting media

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Casinos are investing millions on sports betting content to lure bettors to their online and in-person sportsbooks.

Why it matters: It’s a mini gold rush for some sports media companies that were struggling in the pandemic.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
21 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Global carbon emissions rebound to pre-COVID levels

Newly released data show that global CO2 emissions had returned to pre-pandemic levels by the end of last year and surpassed them in some major economies.

Why it matters: The International Energy Agency warned that clean energy efforts are falling short.

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