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5 things to watch in tonight's Nevada debate

Six Democratic presidential hopefuls will face off on the debate stage in Las Vegas on Wednesday night, just days before the Silver State holds its caucuses. 

Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s qualification for the event is set to shake up the field as he continues to gain traction in polls. The billionaire, who is not contesting Nevada, is sure to face attacks from the other candidates looking to halt his momentum. 

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Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersAmazon workers have spoken — are progressives listening? What's really behind Joe Biden's far-left swing? It's time to declare a national climate emergency MORE (I-Vt.) and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden meets with bipartisan lawmakers for infrastructure negotiations Senate Republicans label Biden infrastructure plan a 'slush fund' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - Congress returns; infrastructure takes center stage MORE will look to build on their momentum coming out of Iowa and New Hampshire, while Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: Biden nominates former NSA deputy director to serve as cyber czar | Apple to send witness to Senate hearing after all | Biden pressed on semiconductor production amid shortage Apple to send witness to Senate hearing after pushback from Klobuchar, Lee Lobbying world MORE (D-Minn.) is coming off a stronger-than-expected performance in the Granite State. 

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump: McConnell 'helpless' to stop Biden from packing court Biden, first lady send 'warmest greetings' to Muslims for Ramadan The business case for child care reform MORE, who has fallen from his front-runner status in the polls, will likely be aiming for a comeback moment on the stage in Nevada, a more diverse state that should be friendlier territory for him, while Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOn The Money: Biden .5T budget proposes major hike in social programs | GOP bashes border, policing provisions Overnight Defense: Biden proposes 3B defense budget | Criticism comes in from left and right | Pentagon moves toward new screening for extremists POW/MIA flag moved back atop White House MORE (D-Mass.) is also looking to rebound after a poor start to the race.

Here are five things to watch: 

 

How will Bloomberg combat attacks? 

Bloomberg will walk onto Wednesday night’s debate stage with a target on his back as a result of his ascendance in the polls. 

The forum will give voters a new view of Bloomberg, who has not yet been on a debate stage this cycle and has given only a few sit-down interviews since announcing his candidacy. The self-funded candidate is set to make the stage in Nevada after the Democratic National Committee dropped a previous donor threshold. 

The biggest attacks Bloomberg has received from the Democratic field this cycle have been from Sanders. The senator has repeatedly accused Bloomberg of looking to buy his way into the Democratic nomination after spending hundreds of millions of dollars on ads. 

The war of words escalated further on Monday when Bloomberg accused Sanders of not doing enough to call out the behavior and rhetoric of a segment of his supporters. 

Biden and Klobuchar have both also signaled their eagerness to hit Bloomberg on the debate stage, including over comments the former New York City mayor made about stop-and-frisk policing and housing policy for low-income buyers.

“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. 

 

How will Sanders fend off attacks on ‘Medicare for All’? 

Sanders’s Medicare for All proposal, a hallmark of his campaign, came under fire in Nevada last week after the state’s powerful Culinary Union warned that the plan would “end culinary health care” by replacing private plans with government-run insurance.

Klobuchar, Buttigieg and Biden have all questioned how Sanders would pay for his Medicare for All plan. Warren faced similar questions earlier in the race. 

The recent developments regarding the Culinary Union, which ended up not endorsing a candidate, have put a newfound scrutiny on Sanders’s proposed plan. 

“It is striking that there’s been no explanation of how this is supposed to work when it could be one of the biggest things done to the American economy in a generation,” Buttigieg said, referring to Sanders’s plan, in January. 

Sanders has argued that health care costs will be more expensive over the next decade without a Medicare for All system.

Sanders also came under pressure after the Culinary Union denounced the candidate’s supporters for “viciously” attacking union members online. Sanders urged supporters of all campaigns to stop online attacks, saying “harassment of all forms is unacceptable to me.”

 

Can Biden and Warren have their debate moment? 

Biden and Warren were both seen as front-runners earlier in the race but have both seen a decline in support in the polls after less-than-stellar performances in Iowa and New Hampshire. 

Critics say Biden’s debate performances have been weak, which could be an impediment to him on Wednesday as he looks to revamp his campaign. Biden is banking on the support of Latinos and African Americans in Nevada and could use Wednesday’s debate stage as an opportunity to tout his ties with those communities across the country. 

Warren, who has had a number of strong debate performances, will also be looking for a breakout moment as she looks to hit the reset button on her campaign. The senator will likely be looking to reclaim her spot as the race’s top progressive from Sanders, while also looking for opportunities to hit Bloomberg. 

Klobuchar showed this month that strong debate performances matter after a good showing by the Minnesota senator ahead of the New Hampshire primary was widely seen as having contributed to her better-than-expected third-place finish in the Granite State.

 

How will Buttigieg, Klobuchar pitch to a more diverse electorate? 

Buttigieg and Klobuchar have emerged from contests in Iowa and New Hampshire with momentum, but they will be addressing a vastly different audience in Nevada. 

The two Midwesterners have struggled throughout the campaign to appeal to voters of color, which threatens to hurt them in Nevada. The two have also not spent as much time in Nevada compared to Iowa and New Hampshire, so Wednesday could be critical in terms of making their case to voters. 

Buttigieg and Klobuchar will likely have to answer questions about their past careers as a mayor and prosecutor, respectively, and how they affected minority communities in their roles. 

Buttigieg has come under scrutiny for his handling of the aftermath of a police-involved shooting of a black man, as well as questions about the disproportionate arrests of black people for marijuana possession during his mayoral tenure and the firing of a black police chief.

Klobuchar has come under fire for prosecuting a black teenager who was found guilty of murder in 2002 despite a number of flaws in the case uncovered by an Associated Press story. The senator has called for all evidence in the case to be reviewed.

 

Which candidates besides Bloomberg are most likely to clash or take fire? 

Aside from Bloomberg, there are a number of other candidate clashes that could take place on Wednesday night.

Buttigieg and Sanders have gone head-to-head over their differences in policies, often showcasing the division between moderates and progressives within the party. Biden also attacked Buttigieg over his experience as the former mayor narrowly won more delegates in the Iowa caucuses, effectively replacing Biden as the standard-bearer for the moderate wing of the party. 

Klobuchar could see dividends in attacking Sanders, billing herself as the more pragmatic candidate. However, she could also look to go after the moderates on stage in an effort to break further out of the crowded centrist lane. 

Warren, whose attacks on Sanders have fallen flat in the past, could also set her sights on the moderates in the race in an effort to contrast her more progressive ideas.