A look at how the 10 Democratic candidates made it to the third debate

NOW: A look at how the 10 Democratic candidates made it to the third debate

HOUSTON—Only the top polling Democratic candidates are taking the stage on Thursday night for the third round of the primary debates in Houston.

With the field now cut in half, the hope is for candidates to get deeper into policy stances and to really stand out against so many heavy hitters.

“I think for the candidates that have gotten this far, they’ve beaten out a whole lot of people and a whole lot of expectations to get there,” said ABC News Political Director Rick Klein.

From 25 Democratic candidates on the debate stage to just 10, now, arguably, the most talked about candidates will go head-to-head.

“That hasn’t happened before. Just to cite a few examples, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren have not been on the same stage; neither have Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris,” Klein said.

Each candidate had to poll at two percent in at least four polls and grab donations from 130,000 unique donors, which is a much tougher threshold to meet than the earlier debates.

“They have beaten down more than half of their rivals for qualifications. Getting two percent in a series of state and national polls, getting 130,000 donations, it is not easy,” Klein said.

South Bend’s own Mayor Pete Buttigieg reached that threshold.

“I don’t know that anyone would have thought that the top ten candidates out of the 25 or so names in the beginning that that would include Mayor Pete Buttigieg. So it has been a major achievement, of course, that’s not enough. He’s going to have to get to another level with this and the challenge now for Pete Buttigieg is to show that he can mix it up with the higher ranking candidates,” Klein said.

On Thursday morning, Buttigieg was polling about five percent of the vote, just behind bigger names like Biden, Warren, Harris and Sanders.

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