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Speculation swirls around whether Bloomberg will make Las Vegas debate stage
Speculation is increasing over whether Democratic presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg will participate in next week's Las Vegas primary debate after the Democratic National Committee (DNC) opened the stage to the former New York City mayor.
The DNC scrapped a donor threshold requirement that has kept the self-funded candidate out of previous debates.
He needs just one more state or national poll putting him over 10 percent to qualify.
"If Mike qualifies, he will debate," Bloomberg spokeswoman Galia Slayen told The Hill.
But questions are looming about whether it will help Bloomberg to participate in the forum ahead of the Nevada caucuses, which he is not on the ballot for.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) are all slated to be on Wednesday's debate stage.
The forum could allow Bloomberg, whose main strategy has been releasing ads across the country targeting President Trump, the opportunity to look more transparent by facing off against his Democratic rivals even as his focus remains on Super Tuesday states.
"I think the transparency is important because you can't ignore the fact that he's a major player in the race," Democratic strategist Brad Bannon told The Hill. "He is running a race that he completely controls. The Democratic primary voters should have the opportunity to have an unfiltered view of Bloomberg, in person, face to face with the other candidates."
Others, however, say the move would be a waste of time.
"I just don't think it makes sense because politically he will not be getting any mileage out of it," Democratic strategist Antjuan Seawright said.
Whether he is physically on the stage or not, Bloomberg will likely be a presence in Wednesday's debates. He has poured millions into nationwide ad buys, meaning his ads will be on the airwaves in Nevada.
"We can all safely assume there will be Michael Bloomberg ads running in Nevada while the debate is going on," Seawright said. "It's different for the mayor because regardless of whether he's on the debate stage or not, his message and his candidacy will be on display because you're going to have candidates attacking him."
Bloomberg's quick ascendance in state and national polling has opened him up to greater scrutiny.
The former mayor's campaign is on the defensive following the reemergence of controversial comments in support of stop-and-frisk policing as well as reports of a number of sexist remarks.
His rise in the polls, mixed with the unearthed remarks, have combined to provide an opportunity for the other candidates in the race to hit Bloomberg.
"I'm going to get a chance to debate him on everything from redlining to stop and frisk to a whole range of other things," former Vice President Joe Biden told ABC's "The View" this week.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) has also voiced her support for having Bloomberg on the debate stage, telling CNN on Sunday he "shouldn't hide behind airwaves and huge ad buys."
"I am also an advocate for him coming on the debate stage. I know that I'm not going to be able to beat him on the airwaves, but I can beat him on the debate stage," Klobuchar said.
Sanders, on the other hand, told CBS News on Friday that he does not think Bloomberg should participate in the debate, calling the DNC rule change "very unfortunate."
"That is what being a multibillionaire is about. Some very good friends of mine who were competing in the Democratic nomination - people like Cory Booker of New Jersey, Julián Castro - work really, really hard. Nobody changed the rules to get them in the debate," Sanders said.
Regardless of whether Bloomberg debates on Wednesday in Las Vegas, he will have another shot to make the stage in South Carolina, where the qualifying criteria is nearly identical.
Bloomberg will not be on the ballot in South Carolina, but appearing on the debate stage could benefit him with Super Tuesday around the corner.
"He should participate in the South Carolina debate because it's the most consequential state in this nomination process and is the only debate before Super Tuesday," Seawright said. "I think the audience ... will have some expectations for him to address the issues that are very loud and clear in his campaign, areas of concern, particularly for who I would argue are the most consequential group of people in the Democratic Party, African American voters."