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Tom Steyer qualifies for South Carolina debate

Steyer missed last week's debate in Nevada, but he's been spending a lot of time campaigning in South Carolina.

Billionaire Tom Steyer will be back on the debate stage in South Carolina Tuesday after missing last week's event in Nevada.

Steyer received more than 12% polling in two South Carolina polls approved by the Democratic National Committee. That is one of the three requirements to get on the stage. The others are to get at least 10% in four DNC-approved national polls or at least one national delegate the contests that have already been held.

The others who will appear on stage were in the Nevada debate last Wednesday. 

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Former Vice President Joe Biden, former mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren all hit polling requirements but have also won delegates. Sen. Amy Klobuchar has not reached 10% in any approved polls for this debate but has won delegates. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has yet to win delegates but has hit the national polling threshold. 

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Steyer has invested not only a lot of ad money but also a lot of personal time on the ground in South Carolina. Polling indicates he is poised to potentially get out of the state with delegates, but Biden and Sanders remain the South Carolina front-runners.

A polling average compiled by fivethirtyeight.com gives Biden 26.5% followed by Sanders at 21.9% and Steyer in third at 16.9%.  It's even tighter in the Real Clear Politics polling average, with Biden at 24.5%, Sanders at 21.5% and Steyer at 16.5%.

In an interview with CBS News "Face The Nation" Sunday, Biden said he assumes that Steyer's campaigning and big-money spending are a reason why his support has dwindled.  Biden told NBC News as recently as February 2 that he had a firewall in South Carolina, although he told "Face The Nation" that he never said that.

Tuesday's debate marks not only the last time the top seven candidates will have a chance to make their case to South Carolina, which votes Saturday, but also to the 14 Super Tuesday states that will vote four days later. A week later, six more states will hold their primaries.

The next debate will be on March 15. Unless they insist on going all the way to the convention in Milwaukee, there's a very good chance most of the people on stage Tuesday won't make it to that debate.

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