Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg has qualified for the debate stage for the first time in this primary election cycle, but the biggest challenger he'll face Wednesday night might be himself.
Bloomberg will attend the event thanks to the findings of an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll that was released early Tuesday morning that places his support at 19 percentage points nationally. The results show self-described "democratic socialist" Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) leading the primary pack with 31 percent and former Vice President Joe Biden coming in third at 15 percent. The polling also shows Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) with 12 and 9 percent, respectively, and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg with 8 percent.
In qualifying, Bloomberg also benefits from a rule change for the debates that the Democratic National Committee announced last month, in which the committee eliminated the individual donor requirements that kept other candidates from meeting the threshold for previous events. The decision drew criticism because it appeared to specifically benefit the former mayor, who has been self-funding his own bid and not taking outside campaign donations.
In order to make Wednesday night's debate in Las Vegas, candidates either had to garner one convention delegate from either the Iowa caucuses or New Hampshire primary or clear 10 percent support in four recognized polls or 12 percent support in two recognized single-state polls in South Carolina or Nevada. Tuesday's poll was Bloomberg's fourth with over 10 percent.
Responding to the news, Bloomberg campaign manager Kevin Sheeky said that the campaign was seeing a "groundswell of support across the country."
Bloomberg's first debate appearance will come after days of being plagued by headlines about his controversial past comments. Last week, audio surfaced of 2015 remarks he made in defense of "stop and frisk" policing where he talked about profiling young minorities.
On Saturday, the Washington Post reported an allegation from a high profile 1990s case in which Bloomberg was accused of telling a female employee to "kill" her unborn child when he found out she was pregnant.
The candidate has also come under scrutiny in recent days for his 2016 comments insulting the intelligence of farmers.
Another thing to watch for will be potential fireworks between Bloomberg and Sanders. Following some highly critical comments that the Vermont senator made about Bloomberg's prospects of defeating President Donald Trump in a general election, Bloomberg put out a video ad on Monday going after some of Sanders' more hostile online supporters, pejoratively known as "Bernie bros."