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It all comes down to the cash

September 21, 2007 |  4:37 pm

If you tuned into PBS last night to see the Democratic debate on healthcare and financial security from Davenport, Iowa, you might have noticed the field of candidates was a little narrower than in the other zillion of debates that have been held so far.

Barack Obama was missing, otherwise engaged trying to raise even more money, though the campaign also has sworn off attending forums not endorsed by the Democratic National Committee. But Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel were missing too. That's because they weren't invited. The reason? Neither low-financed campaign has a paid staffer in Iowa, a rule that sponsor AARP insisted on. And both candidates had something to say about it.

The next debate, for Republican candidates, takes place Oct. 25 in Sioux City. It's unclear how many candidates will miss the cut there, but John McCain and Mike Huckabee have both committed, the AARP says. The AARP website says all of the GOP candidates have been invited; but AARP Iowa spokeswoman Ann Black said if they didn't have a paid staffer in the state, the invitation wouldn't be honored. She also said she couldn't confirm late Friday whether any of the Republican candidates would be excluded.

- Scott Martelle