Michael Bloomberg will make his Democratic debate debut in Las Vegas on Wednesday night, where he’s expected to field a litany of attacks from both progressive and moderate rivals over controversial past remarks that have resurfaced in recent weeks.
But according to Doug Schoen, a longtime pollster for Bloomberg and a Democratic strategist, the three-time New York City mayor will likely provide a “spirited defense” of his policies -- and could go on to become the party’s nominee to face off against President Trump in the November general election.
“He’s a unique candidate, business, political experience, and he’s a great philanthropist,” Schoen said Wednesday. “This is a man of extraordinary breadth and depth.”
The 78-year-old billionaire’s free-spending campaign secured him a spot on the Las Vegas debate stage and elevated him to third place nationally, according to an aggregate of polls by RealClearPolitics. Although Trump has repeatedly attacked Bloomberg for being a “weak” debater, Schoen pointed out that he “did enough to win three elections in one of the most diverse cities in America.”
“He certainly did not fail to perform adequately to win those elections,” Schoen said.
Bloomberg entered the race in November and has already poured close to $400 million of his own fortune in advertising and millions more on staffing. Because he was not accepting individual donations, he was precluded from participating in earlier debates. But last month, the Democratic National Committee changed its qualifying rules to drop the requirement that a candidate must ascertain a certain number of unique donors, prompting complaints from his 2020 rivals.
He will likely be a target of other contenders in Nevada, after several unflattering audio clips of past comments he’s made resurfaced this week. In one, he defended “stop and frisk,” the controversial policing strategy he embraced as mayor that disproportionately targets men of color, and in a separate one, he blamed the end of redlining, a discriminatory housing policy that cut off largely minority neighborhoods from mortgage lending opportunities, for triggering the financial crisis.
In a call with reporters on Tuesday, Bloomberg’s campaign said the eventual Democratic nominee either boils down to him or Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who currently commands a double-digit lead in the RealClearPolitics average.
Bloomberg’s unorthodox strategy is to concentrate on the 14 states that will cast their ballots on Super Tuesday, March 3. Already, he’s spent an unprecedented $124 million in advertising across those delegate-rich states, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Candidates need 1,991 delegates to become the Democratic nominee; a combined 1,344, or about one-third of the total, will be allotted on Super Tuesday alone.
“I think he’s a very, very competitive candidate,” Schoen said. “Right now, I think he’s got a really good shot at it.”