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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

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York coronavirus restrictions

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled late Wednesday that restrictions previously imposed on New York places of worship by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) during the coronavirus pandemic violated the First Amendment.

Why it matters: The decision in a 5-4 vote heralds the first significant action by the new President Trump-appointed conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who cast the deciding vote in favor of the Catholic Church and Orthodox Jewish synagogues.

USAID chief tests positive for coronavirus

An Air Force cargo jet delivers USAID supplies to Russia earlier this year. Photo: Mikhail Metzel/TASS via Getty Images

The acting administrator of the United States Agency for International Development informed senior staff Wednesday he has tested positive for coronavirus, two sources familiar with the call tell Axios.

Why it matters: John Barsa, who staffers say rarely wears a mask in their office, is the latest in a series of senior administration officials to contract the virus. His positive diagnosis comes amid broader turmoil at the agency following the election.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
11 hours ago - Health

COVID-19 shows a bright future for vaccines

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Promising results from COVID-19 vaccine trials offer hope not just that the pandemic could be ended sooner than expected, but that medicine itself may have a powerful new weapon.

Why it matters: Vaccines are, in the words of one expert, "the single most life-saving innovation ever," but progress had slowed in recent years. New gene-based technology that sped the arrival of the COVID vaccine will boost the overall field, and could even extend to mass killers like cancer.

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