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Bloomberg to make debut on 2020 debate stage

Credit: Reuters Studio
Published on February 19, 2020 - Duration: 03:12s

Bloomberg to make debut on 2020 debate stage

Michael Bloomberg will make a high-risk debut on the Democratic debate stage in Nevada on Wednesday, joining five presidential rivals who have been eagerly awaiting their chance to confront the free-spending and fast-rising billionaire.

This report produced by Chris Dignam.

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Bloomberg to make debut on 2020 debate stage

The stage is set for the ninth Democratic presidential debate in the 2020 race - the first for billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who this week has come under heavy fire from his opponents in the fight for the party's nomination.

On the eve of Wednesday's debate, frontrunner Bernie Sanders - whose support surged nationally in a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll - slammed Bloomberg - who has risen to second place in that same poll - accusing the former New York City mayor of trying to buy the election with hundreds of millions of dollars already spent on television ads.

(SOUND BITE) (English) U.S. DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE BERNIE SANDERS, SAYING: "Anybody here worth $60 billion?

You can run for president and you can buy the airwaves." The Sanders-Bloomberg rivalry reached new heights this week after the Vermont senator, who in October had a heart attack, said Tuesday night he would not disclose more information about his health.

On Wednesday morning, a spokeswoman for Sanders called questions about his health unfair, and claimed Bloomberg - who is the same age as Sanders - had also suffered heart attacks.

The Bloomberg campaign quickly accused her of spreading lies.

The Sanders spokeswoman then walked back that remark in a tweet, saying she misspoke and that Bloomberg only "underwent the same stent procedure." (SOUND BITE) (English) U.S. DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE AMY KLOBUCHAR, SAYING: "I don't think people look at the guy in the White House and think to themselves, 'we need someone richer.'" Meanwhile, the other Democratic contenders also took aim at Bloomberg on the night before the debate, including Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar.

(SOUND BITE) (English) U.S. DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE AMY KLOBUCHAR, SAYING: "I think it's really important that someone not just be out there on the TV ads because I'm not going to be able to compete with that... with the billions that he has." Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg echoed that sentiment.

(SOUND BITE) (English) U.S. DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE PETE BUTTIGIEG, SAYING: "...thinks you can just buy your way onto television and win that way." And Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren said, in a tweet, "Itโ€™s a shame Mike Bloomberg can buy his way into the debate.

But 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." Even fellow billionaire Tom Steyer, who will not be participating in Wednesday's debate, sounded off on Bloomberg as well.

(SOUND BITE) (English) U.S. DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE TOM STEYER, SAYING: "The DNC changed the rules to get Mr. Bloomberg into the debate.

He's not even on the ballot in Nevada." Bloomberg is skipping the first four nominating contests, focusing instead on the primaries March 3 - known as Super Tuesday - when 14 states vote.

Wednesday's nationally televised debate will give many voters their first look at Bloomberg unscripted, and how he measures up to the one-time top moderate candidate Joe Biden, whose poll numbers have crumbled.

Biden and Warren, in particular, face the do-or-die task of reigniting their campaigns after poor showings in Iowa and New Hampshire earlier this month.

Nevada holds its nominating contest on Saturday.

Bloomberg's rivals are likely to challenge him over his record, including his past support in New York of โ€œstop-and-friskโ€ police policies during his time as mayor that disproportionately targeted African Americans.

Bloomberg has not participated in a political debate since his time as mayor.

How he performs on the stage in Las Vegas could help determine the fate of his campaign.

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