Michael Bloomberg qualifies for Democratic presidential debate
Michael Bloomberg is set to face his party rivals for the first time on the same stage after securing enough support to qualify for the next Democratic presidential debate.
The former New York mayor qualified for Wednesday’s debate in Nevada – the ninth in the contest so far – after securing 19% of support in a recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.
This put him in second place behind Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who led the pack with 31%.
Mr Bloomberg is a late addition to the US primary race for the nomination to take on Donald Trump, but has seen a steady rise in the polls after appearing in TV ads funded by his estimated $60bn (£46bn) fortune.
According to his campaign, the recent poll was the fourth recognised by the party in which the multi-billionaire had received more than 10% of the vote, which qualifies him for the debate.
The 78-year-old will now face at least five other candidates in Nevada – Mr Sanders, former vice president Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg – on stage for the first time.
But Mr Bloomberg, who has already spent hundreds of millions of dollars on television ads alone, is expected to face criticism on his campaigning from rivals – some of whom claim he is trying to buy the election.
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He will likely be questioned further on controversial policies he oversaw while he was mayor, including a “stop and frisk” policing policy that disproportionately targeted black and Latino residents.
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The debate will also be a far cry from his tightly choreographed strategy of late.
In his campaigning across dozens of states so far, Mr Bloomberg has stuck to a policy of not answering voters’ questions and delivering brief speeches from a teleprompter.
He has also missed the first four voting contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina – having instead looked ahead to Super Tuesday in March, when 14 states will vote.
Rarely mentioning his rivals in the primary race by name, Mr Bloomberg often chooses to focus on simply beating Mr Trump.
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This approach is used in his response to comments about buying the election, where he maintains he would want to fund the Democratic nominee, whether he wins or not.
Wednesday’s debate in Nevada comes ahead of the state caucus – a round of voting for the Democrat nomination – on 22 February.