Bloomberg qualifies for Democratic debate

Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg speaks at a campaign event in Raleigh, North Carolina, in this Feb. 13, 2020 file photo. — AFP

WASHINGTON — Michael Bloomberg has qualified for Wednesday's Democratic presidential debate and will square off for the first time with his rivals seeking the party nomination.

The former New York mayor has surged to 19 percent support nationally, second to Bernie Sanders at 31 percent, in an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist survey.

That meant he cleared a polling threshold set by the Democratic National Committee.

"Mike is looking forward to joining the other Democratic candidates on stage and making the case for why he's the best candidate to defeat Donald Trump and unite the country," the Bloomberg campaign said in a statement.

"The opportunity to discuss his workable and achievable plans for the challenges facing this country is an important part of the campaign process," it added.

Bloomberg, seen as a centrist, jumped into the fray a year later than other hopefuls and has been rising in the polls as he spends hundreds of millions of dollars of his vast personal fortune to blanket the airwaves with campaign ads.

Evidence of his rise is the fact that he is coming under frequent attack from rivals — including Sanders, Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden — and from Trump himself.

Wednesday's debate will be held in Las Vegas, ahead of the Nevada state caucuses.

Bloomberg is skipping the first four primaries and caucuses to concentrate on so-called Super Tuesday on March 3, when 14 states vote on choosing a Democratic nominee. — AFP