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On Politics: Bloomberg’s in the Debate

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On Politics: Bloomberg’s in the Debate



Good morning and welcome to On Politics, a daily political analysis of the 2020 elections based on reporting by New York Times journalists.

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  • Michael Bloomberg has qualified — at the very last minute — to appear in Wednesday’s debate in Las Vegas. An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist College poll released this morning showed him at 19 percent nationwide — higher than the 10 percent threshold needed to qualify. (He had reached double digits in three other national polls that met the Democratic National Committee’s standards; candidates must hit the threshold in four to qualify.) Bloomberg will be the first debate participant this election cycle without grass-roots funding, after the committee changed its qualification criteria last month. Five others have qualified: Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden.

  • Bloomberg has surged since the NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist College poll in December, when he received only 4 percent support. The new poll places him behind only Sanders, who had 31 percent among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. The latest national polling average calculated by The New York Times, which was released late last week, put Bloomberg at 10 percent nationally, behind Sanders, Biden and Warren.

  • Our colleagues at DealBook have exclusive details of Bloomberg’s proposals for changing how the financial industry is regulated, which he’s planning to announce this morning. Among his ideas: instituting a financial transactions tax of 0.1 percent and toughening banking regulations like the Volcker Rule.

  • Like many of the Democrats running for president, Bloomberg is doing his best to turn Sanders’s enthusiastic — and often strident — supporters into a liability. On Monday, Bloomberg released a web video featuring a highlight reel of online attacks that Sanders’s supporters have flung at his political opponents. At the end of the video, Sanders is shown saying, “It is vitally important for those of us who hold different views to be able to engage in a civil discourse.” Then one word flashes across the screen: “REALLY?”

  • Bloomberg is far from the first Democratic candidate to criticize Sanders for the aggressive comments of some of his online supporters. But the attack is notable because it’s the first time Bloomberg has mounted a frontal assault on one of his Democratic rivals. His campaign followed up on the video by putting out a statement comparing Sanders’s tactics with those of President Trump. Sanders hit back at Bloomberg at a campaign rally, saying that both he and Trump were using their personal fortunes to rig the system.

  • Bloomberg’s video drew some criticism for including at least one message that was not created by a Sanders supporter, but instead by the nonprofit group New York Communities for Change, which has not endorsed a candidate. That organization shot back on Twitter, saying its message was “now being used in a disinformation campaign by Mike Bloomberg.”

  • Monmouth University released a poll of Virginia this morning showing Bloomberg and Sanders tied at 22 percent each, and Biden with 18 percent. Buttigieg (11 percent) and Klobuchar (9 percent) were in a statistical tie for fourth place, and Warren was at 5 percent. With 99 delegates at stake, Virginia is the fourth-largest prize on the Super Tuesday calendar. Monmouth’s is the first poll to have been taken there since the summer. Bloomberg’s strong showing — this is one of the first polls of any state in which he has broken 20 percent — reflects the intense focus that he has put on the states that vote March 3, both in terms of advertising and in-person appearances.


Warren speaking to Colden Aldrich, 6, and his sister Avery, 8, in the selfie line after an event in Reno, Nev., on Sunday.


Bloomberg is finding his reintroduction to national politics a bit bumpy after spending most of the last decade out of office. His long record of advancing policies and making remarks that angered many liberals is colliding with a newly emboldened activist culture in the Democratic Party that views people like him — centrist, compromising and often controversial — as the past.

The success of his presidential campaign rests in no small part on the hope that these people are not only wrong but are also such a small enough minority within the party that their opposition can be overcome. This is especially the case with the fraught issues of racial discrimination that Mr. Bloomberg has had to confront in recent days. Cornell Belcher, a strategist who worked for President Barack Obama and is now advising Bloomberg on African-American outreach, said that liberal skeptics of the former New York mayor would be wise not to assume his candidacy is a nonstarter with Democratic voters.

What is accepted as fact on social media and among political pundits, Belcher said, has proved to be wrong before.

“What happened in Virginia with the governor?” Belcher asked me in a recent interview, referring to Ralph Northam, whose medical school yearbook page was discovered with a picture showing one man in blackface and another in a Klansman’s robe.

“The punditry class said, ‘Oh my God, he’s dead.’ But you had a majority of African-Americans in Virginia saying, ‘Nah.’ It is the context of racism in America that is important here. African-American voters don’t expect any white politician to be pure on matters of race, especially if you’re a white politician over 50.”


It’s hard to be a Trump administration official in a Democratic town like Washington.

White House officials like Kirstjen Nielsen, the former secretary of homeland security, and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the president’s former press secretary, have learned that lesson the hard way: Both were famously harangued or denied service when out at social engagements in the city.

When you’re an architect of the administration’s hard-line immigration policies and you’re trying to plan yourself a Washington wedding, things can clearly get a bit complicated.

That architect is Stephen Miller, and his bride, Katie Waldman, is a special assistant to the president. Miller has been known to have a rough go of it when he’s out in public; he once threw $80 worth of sushi in the trash after a protester loudly confronted him at a Washington eatery.

So their wedding — which took place at (where else?) President Trump’s hotel on Sunday — was an airtight affair. Invitations included a card with privacy requests, and the wedding registry was created under a fake name. Some invitees’ guests were screened.

Our White House reporter Katie Rogers was not on the invite list. But she did some good, old-fashioned reporting (and some combing of Instagram) and came away with a pretty clear picture of how the revelry went down.

The couple do go out, but they have been accosted in public before. So they’ve since learned to keep a low profile by tucking themselves into discreet restaurant corners and whatnot. The wedding was similarly low-profile — but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a party. Miller is one of the president’s longest-serving aides, so it was not surprising that Trump swung by, fresh off taking a lap at the Daytona 500, to wish the new couple well. The reception looked a bit like a who’s who of characters in Trump World, from Sarah Sanders to Steven Mnuchin — with an Elvis Presley impersonator thrown in.

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