Democratic presidential contender Mike Bloomberg will take the stage alongside his rivals at a primary debate for the first time on Wednesday night after a poll released today allowed him to qualify for the event.
Bloomberg commanded 19% support in the poll conducted by NPR, PBS NewsHour and Marist, second only to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) with 31%. The billionaire media mogul and former New York City mayor entered the Democratic presidential contest in late November and has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on television ads since then.
But Bloomberg had yet to qualify for any of the Democratic primary debates, which weigh the viability of candidates on the basis of support in polls and campaign contributions. Bloomberg to date has self-funded his campaign efforts. The high ranking for Bloomberg in the NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll indicates that his blitz of television advertising is having an impact.
NBC News, MSNBC and Nevada Independent newspaper are hosting Wednesday’s two-hour debate at Las Vegas’s Paris Theater. NBC and MSNBC will carry the session live starting at 9 p.m. ET.
“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 statement Tuesday, according to NBC News. “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 latest poll also indicates growing momentum for Sanders, whose level of support has spiked 9% since the last NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist survey was conducted by in December.
The meeting of Bloomberg and Sanders on the debate stage ought to deliver some sparks. Sanders has stepped up his criticism in recent days of Bloomberg’s tactics and motivation for jumping into the race.
“You’re not going to buy this election,” Sanders said of Bloomberg while campaigning on Monday. Also expected to take part in Wednesday’s debate are former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Ind., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
The Las Vegas debate comes a few days before Nevada voters head into caucus mode 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.
Wednesday’s debate will be moderated by NBC News’ Lester Holt, Chuck Dodd and Hallie Jackson, Telemundo’s Vanessa Hauc and Nevada Independent’s Jon Ralston.