Bloomberg Qualifies for Democratic Debate; Sanders Leads Poll

Mark Niquette
Bloomberg Qualifies for Democratic Debate; Sanders Leads Poll

(Bloomberg) -- Michael Bloomberg has qualified to join the other Democratic presidential candidates on the debate stage for the first time on Wednesday, according to a NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.

Bloomberg reached 19% support in the poll released Tuesday, his fourth with more than 10% support, meeting the Democratic National Committee’s threshold for qualification.

“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,“ campaign manager Kevin Sheekey said in a statement.

The former New York mayor hadn’t qualified for debates that have occurred since he joined the race Nov. 24 because he’s entirely self-funding his campaign. The DNC had been requiring candidates to have a certain number of individual donors to qualify, however the party announced weeks ago it would cut the fund-raising requirement starting with the February 19 Nevada debate.

In the survey, Bernie Sanders placed first with 31% support nationally, followed by Bloomberg in second. Former Vice President Joe Biden was third with 15%, ahead of Senator Elizabeth Warren with 12%, Senator Amy Klobuchar at 9%, and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 8%. All other candidates were at 2% or below.

(Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg, LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.)

Bloomberg’s appearance on the debate stage would inject a new dynamic into what would be the ninth face off among largely the same group of candidates.

With a battle for crucial African-American votes under way, his rivals and debate moderators are sure to question him about the stop-and-frisk policy he oversaw in New York, as well as other comments that have resurfaced lately, including one in which he suggested that a decline in redlining -- the bank practice of denying loans to minorities -- helped trigger the 2008 financial crisis.

He also is likely to face scrutiny about self-funding his campaign, which several rivals have called “buying the election.” The former New York mayor has said he’s looking forward to joining his rivals, even if it means more scrutiny.

“I’d love to do it. Why would I not want to do it? I think I’d come out a big winner,” Bloomberg said Feb. 3.

Both Warren and Klobuchar had complained that Bloomberg’s absence from the debate stage meant voters only saw him through his own advertising or staged public events.

Sanders said he doesn’t think Bloomberg should be able to participate if other candidates such as Cory Booker and Julian Castro were kept out of previous debates because they didn’t get enough unique contributors to qualify.

“Nobody changed the rules to get them into the debate,” Sanders said on “CBS This Morning” on Friday. “I think that is very, very unfortunate.”

Bloomberg said he didn’t tell the DNC to change the rules and assumes the party did it because it would be strange to not have a candidate the public wants to see on stage.

“If the public wants you, it’ll show in the polls and then they put you in,” he said. “It seems like a fair thing to me.”

(Updates with Bloomberg campaign statement in third paragraph.)

--With assistance from Melissa Cheok and Kathleen Hunter.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Niquette in Columbus at mniquette@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Wendy Benjaminson at wbenjaminson@bloomberg.net, Derek Wallbank

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