Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will appear on the Democratic debate stage for the first time this week after a new poll helped him meet the qualifying requirements.
Candidates this cycle previously had to have a certain percentage in multiple polls as well as a certain number of donors, but the Democratic National Committee axed the donor requirement last month, paving the way for Bloomberg, an ascending candidate, to make the stage.
Bloomberg hit 19 percent in a new poll released on Feb. 18, the fourth poll showing the 77-year-old at 10 percent or above. The new poll, conducted by Marist, NPR, and PBS NewsHour, was released on the same day as the deadline to qualify for the next debate, which is in Las Vegas on Feb. 19.
Bloomberg has been notably absent from debates in recent months. The billionaire is self-financing his campaign and has spent hundreds of millions since announcing his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in late November 2019.
Bloomberg has chosen an atypical route to the nomination, ignoring the four early voting states and focusing on states that will vote on Super Tuesday, or March 3, including California, Colorado, Texas, and Virginia.
With former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) struggling to earn delegates in the two contests that are over, Bloomberg is viewed by some as a serious force that could swoop in and earn the nomination to challenge Republican President Donald Trump.
Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) both did well in Iowa and New Hampshire and lead the field in delegates. Buttigieg has 23 and Sanders has 21. Warren has eight, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) has seven, and Biden has six.
Bloomberg has been attacked by some rivals in recent weeks.
“The simple truth is that Mayor Bloomberg, with all his money, will not create the kind of excitement and energy we need to have the voter turnout we must have to defeat Donald Trump,” Sanders told a Democratic Party gala over the weekend. Rivals often focus on the amount of money Bloomberg is pouring into the race.
The rule change made on Jan. 31 appeared to only benefit Bloomberg, who donated to the committee before announcing his candidacy. The change prompted criticism from nearly the entire field.
Warren said in a statement: “The DNC didn’t change the rules to ensure good, diverse candidates could remain on the debate stage. They shouldn’t change the rules to let a billionaire on. Billionaires shouldn’t be allowed to play by different rules—on the debate stage, in our democracy, or in our government.”
Bloomberg spent the night of the last debate, held in mid-January, on Twitter. The next day, he said he watched the debate but didn’t learn anything from it, saying it was full of “‘he said, she said'” moments.
“I suppose it’s good theater, but it didn’t address the issues of the country and what they would do. They’re not really debates, it’s pre-canned soundbites: everybody wants to say something that doesn’t get them in trouble, or does start a controversy that’s been pre-scripted and they think is good,” Bloomberg said during an appearance on ABC’s “The View.”
When a host said she wanted to see Bloomberg at the debate, Bloomberg said he wished he could have qualified.
The Feb. 19 debate will feature Bloomberg, Warren, Sanders, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, and Biden. Businessman Andrew Yang, who made the last debate, ended his presidential bid on Feb. 11, while businessman Tom Steyer is still in the race but didn’t qualify.