Tom Steyer missed the first two rounds of the presidential debates because he entered the race late. Many pundits decreed that Steyer, a California billionaire activist, jumped into the presidential contest too late. But that strategy could pay off if Steyer manages to make the next debates while the forest of candidates is cleared of dead wood.

While 20 candidates were working the hustings searching for votes, Steyer was not engaged as a candidate but remained visible because of his major TV buys to support impeachment of President Trump. 

Many of the lesser-known candidates used the debates to raise their profiles. While Steyer also needs to be introduced to the great mass of voters who often don’t pay attention to politics until an election gets close, he’s done some of that introduction work through his Trump impeachment campaign.

The effort to impeach Trump appears stalled, chiefly because San Francisco’s Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, sees an impeachment effort at this stage of the presidential campaign as a political mistake. She’s probably right.

But that hasn’t stopped Steyer from pursuing impeachment and he can point to his major issue of impeachment catching on with congressional Democrats. More than half of the majority party in the House supports beginning the impeachment process as do half of California’s congressional Democrats.

Undoubtedly, the impeachment effort will fade if the impeachment process doesn’t actually begin and the primary season starts in earnest, Steyer will have to emphasize other issues on his agenda. The point here being it has given him some name ID.

But the idea that he waited too long to jump into the race  actually could work in his favor if he’s up on the stage with the remaining 7 or 8 candidates who survive the shift to higher standards to qualify for the September and October debates. (There is a good chance we will not see two nights of candidate debates anymore, a relief to candidates and audiences alike.)

For the September and October debates, candidates must receive at least 2% support in at least four polls which may be national polls, or polls in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and/or Nevada.

Steyer has reached 4% in a poll done in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.  He also received 2% nationally in Emerson College polling but the Democratic National Committee does not recognize all polls measuring the presidential race.

Still, the polling results indicate he could achieve the necessary polling numbers by the August 28 deadline. In addition, with Steyer’s resources it is possible to send out a network of fundraisers to attempt to secure the necessary number of donors needed to qualify via the number of donors who contribute to his campaign. 

The delayed strategy works if he is on a debate stage with fewer candidates than we have seen so far. It could happen.