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2020-02-19 18:33:331 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Michael Bloomberg (Image source: Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York via Wikimedia Commons)
Michael Bloomberg has finally qualified for a 2020 Democratic presidential debate. There are many reasons why he's late to the party, but the important note behind his late entry is that it comes on top of a huge surge.
Previously, Bloomberg was the mayor of New York City, succeeding Rudy Giuliani in 2002. He considered running for president three times before and has spent time as a Republican, Independent, and Democrat. He ended his time as mayor in 2013.
Just before the midterm elections in 2018, he switched back to being a Democrat from an Independent and donated money to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). It was known that he was considering a run at the presidency, though he initially decided not to last March, as he thought he could get more done as a private citizen, and he thought former Vice President Joe Biden would be too formidable of an opponent.
He finally entered the race last November, months after the other candidates. He wasn't allowed to participate in the other debates, as he didn't qualify, but after spending over $300 million on ads, he has finally gotten noticed and is number two in the polls, behind only Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
Actually, he and Sanders could be seen as on a similar plane, as the former mayor will be 78 on election day, and Sanders will be 79. For that matter. Biden will be the same age as Bloomberg. Donald Trump will be 74.
After not being involved for much of this election season and not participating in any debates, his advisers have spent the past week drilling him for his first presidential candidate debate. They're giving him comebacks for the attacks that will surely come his way on buying his way into the election and sexual assault accusations.
"Mike is the most deeply steeped student of policy who is going to be on that debate stage," said Bloomberg's senior adviser, Tim O'Brien. "We also really hope voters get to see his humanity and his compassion."
Now that he's no longer just the billionaire trying to by his way into the race, the other Democratic candidates have made it known they intend to fight him. Sanders referred to Bloomberg's campaign as "oligarchy, not democracy," and Biden has been claiming for days that he wants to confront Bloomberg in person because he can't compete with his advertising budget.
"At least now primary voters curious about how each candidate will take on Donald Trump can get a live demonstration of how we each take on an egomaniac billionaire," tweeted Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) about the former mayor.
Bloomberg's aides want this to be seen as a two-candidate race, just him and Sanders, after multiple polls have shown Biden's support dropping and the billionaire's rising past Warren, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Dan Kanninen, Bloomberg's states director, said on Tuesday that Sanders is the only other viable Democrat in the race. He suggests supporters of the other candidates should quickly choose between the two current frontrunners or risk wasting their vote in the primaries. If a candidate gets less than 15 percent of the vote in a state or congressional district, they are awarded zero delegates.
An NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll published on Tuesday showed Sanders with 27 percent and Bloomberg 14, just below Biden with 15. While he fell 11 points this past month, Bloomberg gained five.
"It's very clear Democrats have to urgently consolidate around a candidate," said Kanninen, suggesting that the supporters of other moderates could help Sanders get nominated if they refuse to support Bloomberg. "There really is a prospect of a candidate with maybe only a quarter of the votes getting 80 to 90 percent of the delegates."
But with the newfound rise in the polls comes the negative news coverage. He's still dealing with allegations that he made vulgar and sexist comments and still defending his stop-and-frisk policy policies that targeted black and Latino neighborhoods.
You can bet his opponents will be bringing up those things in the debate, at least if they can work them into their comments. There's also the questions of his former life as a Republican and his refusal to file a financial disclosure or release his tax returns until March 20.
Kevin Sheekey, Bloomberg's campaign manager, tweeted a message showing that they plan on going after Sanders. "The opposition research on @BernieSanders could fill @realDonaldTrump's empty Foxconn facility in Wisconsin," he wrote, referencing a large manufacturing space Trump once claimed. "It is very damaging, perhaps even disqualifying."
"I'm not a prognosticator, so I don't want to comment on who's up and who's down," Bloomberg himself said last week while touring Tennessee. "I believe that I have common-sense policies that are affordable, practical, and politically viable to take this country forward," he added, with what seemed like a preference to discuss himself rather than his opponents.
Bloomberg's campaign spent about $339 million on television and radio ads, more than former President Barack Obama spent during his entire 2012 campaign. Comparatively, Buttigieg and Sanders each spent more than $10 million on Iowa. All the ads Bloomberg purchased through February 10 would run for 171 days if played consecutively, yet he announced his campaign just 86 days prior.
After a change by the Democratic National Committee in how candidates can qualify for a debate, Bloomberg is the first to debate this time around without meeting any fundraising goals. To qualify they need to either win at least one delegate or score 10 percent or higher in four or more qualifying polls. The poll that gave Bloomberg an entrance into the debate was one for NPR-PBS NewsHour-Marist. It showed Sanders with 31 percent and Bloomberg with 19.
"There is nothing Trump can do or say that can hurt me," Bloomberg said last week while campaigning in Chattanooga, Tennessee, showing his focus isn't only on Sanders and himself. "I won't let him bully you either."
The debate will air Wednesday night on MSNBC and NBC at 9 p.m. Eastern. Other than Bloomberg, Biden, Warren, Sanders, Klobuchar, and Buttigieg qualified as well.
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