Bloomberg set for debate spotlight amid Sanders’ rise

The TAKE with Rick Klein

Michael Bloomberg gets his very expensive wish in Las Vegas Wednesday night: a Democratic debate where he can draw direct contrasts with his rivals — Sen. Bernie Sanders in particular.

But Bloomberg will have company in making arguments around electability and practicality. And Sanders could have even more company in blasting the billionaire former New York City mayor and his long record running a complicated business and an even more complicated city.

A new ABC News/Washington Post poll out Wednesday morning — conducted after New Hampshire’s dust settled — tells the story of the race’s shifting fortunes. Bloomberg has surged to 14% in the poll among Democrats and independents who lean Democrat, up six points since last month, while former Vice President Joe Biden slid 11 points, to 17%.

Sanders, meanwhile, stands atop the field at 32% in the poll — a surge of eight points since voting season began with him netting the most votes in both Iowa and New Hampshire.

Sanders’ 15-point lead over Biden is nearly twice as large as any lead Biden has held over Sanders and the rest of the field in ABC/Post polling this cycle. Winning elections feeds electability arguments: Sanders now is seen as the candidate with the best chance of beating President Donald Trump, 11 points above Biden and 12 above Bloomberg.

Things have broken Bloomberg’s way in early voting, despite — if not because of — his decision to skip early-voting states. He’s already broken the record for campaign spending by a candidate, even though no one will see his name on a ballot until the week after next.

Yet while his name has been everywhere, his media vetting and testing by his rivals has been next to nowhere. That starts to change now.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

Trump has never been one to share the limelight, and this week he is once again producing compelling counter-programming to compete with the Democratic primary.

In the next three days, the president has three campaign rallies planned, all circling the next Democratic primary contests in Nevada and Super Tuesday.

Trump will hold a campaign rally Wednesday in Phoenix, Thursday in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and on Friday, he plans to hold a rally in Las Vegas on the eve of the Nevada caucuses.

Colorado will be a key battleground state for Democrats in the general election this cycle. On March 3, it is one of fourteen states hosting primary voting on Super Tuesday.

Sanders held a rally there over the weekend with nearly 12,000 people. So far this primary, he has been the only Democratic candidate able to bring out crowds that even get close to the president’s in terms of size and enthusiasm. Monday night, more than 17,000 people filled an arena in Tacoma, Washington, too, to hear him speak.

The senator, as of late, has done fewer stadium-sized, rally-style events compared to his 2016 campaign, opting instead to focus on more voter-interaction and town-hall style moments. That could change quickly, though, if he decides to flex this muscle and compete, rally for rally, with the president.

The TIP with Kendall Karson

The upcoming Nevada caucuses might be filled with anxieties, but the third nominating contest also brings the presidential contenders in front of a diverse electorate that is more reflective of the makeup of the Democratic Party — and the country as a whole — than the first two. Nevada is nearly 30% Latino, over 10% black, encompasses one of fastest-growing Asian-American and Pacific Islander populations across the country and is home to nearly 20 federally-recognized Native American tribes.

And Nevada Democrats are eager to tout their inclusiveness, which is reflected even in their early voting process. Some of the voting sites are on tribal reservations, including one in Hungry Valley, just outside of Reno, where about 30% of voters at the site were tribal members of the community, according to an unofficial count from the site lead, Brian Melendez, who is also the chair of the Nevada Statewide Native American Caucus.

But even with “phenomenal turnout,” Melendez argues that the “mass majority” of Democratic contenders “have been really disengaged,” saying, “I don’t think a lot of them really understand themselves how important tribal communities are in the state, because if they understood the dynamic of tribes in the state and the political power that the tribes have within the state … then they would do more to engage the tribes.”

But wooing the Native American vote in Nevada, he says, could shake up the dynamics of the race, as Saturday shapes up to be even more significant to the presidential contest after both Iowa and New Hampshire failed to pick a single front-runner. “We have a very significant block of voters, a very unique demographic of voters in the state are tribal people,” Melendez said. “(If) the Latino vote is important during the election cycle, then the native vote is equally important … whatever the election is the tribal people are almost always going to be in the small townships, and those tribal people are eligible to vote, and they’re registered to vote, and they vote. It has the potential to completely shape and change the dynamic of the state as far as the voting situation is in Nevada.”

ONE MORE THING

In several instances reviewed by ABC News, the Pete Buttigieg campaign has identified black public figures, business owners and others as supporters who later said their interactions had either been misunderstood or misconstrued. The mix-ups have come at a crucial moment for Buttigieg’s campaign — which has made a concerted effort to promote his desire for inclusivity, even as polls show he faces an ongoing challenge finding support from voters of color.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News’ “Start Here” podcast. Wednesday morning’s episode features ABC News Political Director Rick Klein, who previews Wednesday night’s Democratic debate in Las Vegas — the first featuring former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Then, ABC News Senior Editorial Producer John Santucci discusses the latest pardons and commutations from President Donald Trump. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

ABC News’ “Powerhouse Politics” podcast. Former Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, a retired five-term senator from Nevada and an architect of the state’s Democratic caucuses, joins the podcast to talk Nevada politics as early voting continues in the state. ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and ABC News Political Director Rick Klein also preview Wednesday night’s Democratic debate in Las Vegas, the first that will feature former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. http://apple.co/2Zfz5nD

FiveThirtyEight’s “Politics Podcast.” In the latest episode, the crew discusses former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s chances of winning the Democratic nomination and debates whether Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is a lock in the Nevada caucuses. https://apple.co/23r5y7w

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

President Donald Trump has a roundtable with supporters in Rancho Mirage, California, at 11 a.m. (PST) and delivers remarks to a joint fundraising luncheon at 11:30 a.m. He then delivers remarks on water access in Bakersfield at 2:15 p.m. Later he has a campaign rally at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix at 7 p.m. (MST) before traveling to Las Vegas for the night.

Vice President Mike Pence delivers remarks at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. He then participates in a roundtable discussion at Hampton University’s Proton Therapy Institute with students, staff and patients. Later he visits Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach to meet with U.S. Navy special warfare operators before returning to Washington for the night.

Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., join the picket line of the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 outside the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas at 9:45 a.m. (PST).

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, has a town hall at Beckette Event Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, at 6 p.m. (MST).

According to an ABC News analysis, the following candidates will participate in the NBC and MSNBC Democratic Debate from the Paris Theater in Las Vegas at 9 p.m.: Former Vice President Joe Biden, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Warren.

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The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the day’s top stories in politics. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.

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