NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll: Bernie Sanders leads, Bloomberg qualifies for debate

Sanders has 31% support nationally, up 9 points since December, the last time the poll asked about Democratic voters' preferences.

  • By Domenico Montanaro/NPR

(Washington) — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has opened up a double-digit lead in the Democratic nominating contest, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.

Sanders has 31% support nationally, up 9 points since December, the last time the poll asked about Democratic voters’ preferences.

His next closest contender has 19%. But that second-place rival is former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Many Americans have become familiar with Bloomberg lately in this race because of his ubiquitous TV ads. But now get ready to see him on the debate stage for the first time Wednesday. With this poll, Bloomberg has qualified for the Nevada debate, despite not being on the ballot there for Saturday’s caucuses.

Bloomberg’s campaign has said he will participate in the debate if he qualifies.

To qualify, a candidate needed to have won at least one delegate in the first two contests, have four national polls showing the candidate with 10% or more or two state polls from either South Carolina or Nevada showing the candidate with 12% or more support. Bloomberg previously cracked 10% in polls from Quinnipiac University, Monmouth University and Fox News.

Bloomberg, a multi-billionaire, has spent more than $300 million of his own money on ads, and despite not competing in the first four states of the nominating process, he’s vaulted now into second place nationally.

Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg greets supporters after speaking at a campaign event in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020.

Gerald Herbert / AP Photo

Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg greets supporters after speaking at a campaign event in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020.

In recent days, Sanders and Bloomberg have upped attacks against each other. Sanders has taken aim at Bloomberg for the amount of money he has spent in the campaign, accusing him of trying to buy the nomination.

He tweeted that Bloomberg “will not create the kind of excitement and energy we need to defeat Donald Trump.” Bloomberg responded by tweeting a video compilation of attacks leveled against fellow competitors by Sanders supporters online and stressing it’s important to “unite” and that “this type of ‘energy’ is not going to get us there.”

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