Bloomberg to Join Democratic Presidential Contenders at Wednesday’s Debate

February 18, 2020 by Dan McCue
Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks during his campaign launch of "Mike for Black America," at the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has qualified for Wednesday night’s presidential candidate debate, the first time the billionaire will appear onstage with his Democratic rivals.

A national poll from NPR, PBS NewsHour and Marist released on Tuesday morning showed Bloomberg with 19% support among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, putting him in second place behind Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who had 31%.

That is a substantial surge since the group’s poll in December, showing Bloomberg with only 4% support.

Joe Biden came in third at 15%, a drop from 24% in December, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, was fourth, at 12% down from 17% in December, and Pete Buttigieg, was sixth, at 8%, down from 13% in December.

Aside from Bloomberg and Sanders, the only other candidate to rise significantly in the poll was Sen. Amy Klobuchar, of Minnesota, who has moved up to fifth place, ahead of Buttigieg, garnering the support of 9% of poll respondents, up from 4% in December.

The survey was the fourth national qualifying poll since mid-January that showed Bloomberg with at least 10 % support, enough to earn him an invitation to the debate stage before the deadline of 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday.

“Our campaign is seeing a groundswell of support across the country, and qualifying for the February 19 debate is the latest sign that Mike’s plan and ability to defeat Donald Trump is resonating with more and more Americans,” Bloomberg campaign manager Kevin Sheekey said in a written statement. “Mike is looking forward to joining the other Democratic candidates on stage and making the case for why he’s the best candidate to defeat Donald Trump and unite the country.”

The two-hour debate at Las Vegas’s Paris Theater, airs on Wednesday at 9 p.m. Eastern time, and will be hosted by NBC News, MSNBC and The Nevada Independent.

The debate will be moderated by NBC News’ Lester Holt, Chuck Dodd and Hallie Jackson, Telemundo’s Vanessa Hauc and Nevada Independent’s Jon Ralston.

Bloomberg formally entered the race in November, nearly a year after most of the other candidates. He failed to make the cut for the past several debates in part because he is not accepting outside contributions for his campaign.

However, new rules announced by the Democratic National Committee opened the door to his participation, as they enabled candidates to qualify for the Las Vegas debate, as well as the one that will take place on Feb. 25 in Charleston, S.C., without meeting a donor threshold.

These changes, along with Bloomberg’s surging popularity, have prompted Sanders to step up his criticism in recent days of Bloomberg’s tactics and motivation for jumping into the race.

“Mr. Bloomberg, like anybody else, has a right to run for president,” Sanders said at a San Francisco Bay Area rally on Monday. “He does not have a right to buy the presidency.”

The Las Vegas debate comes a few days before Nevada voters gather for their caucuses on Feb. 22. Bloomberg is not on the ballot in Nevada, opting to stake much of his hopes on a solid showing in Super Tuesday contests on March 3.

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