Here's what Michael Bloomberg joining the debate stage means for Wednesday night

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Image: Mike Bloomberg speaks at a campaign event in Aventura, Fla., on Jan. 26, 2020.
Mike Bloomberg speaks at a campaign event in Aventura, Fla., on Jan. 26, 2020.Joe Raedle / Getty Images file

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By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Melissa Holzberg

LAS VEGAS — Tomorrow night here will be the ninth presidential debate for five of the Democratic candidates — Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar.

And it will be the first debate for Michael Bloomberg.

A new national NPR/PBS/Marist poll out this morning has Bloomberg hitting 19 percent, giving him his fourth accepted poll at 10 percent or higher, which appears to have qualified him for Wednesday’s Democratic debate.

What’s more, Bloomberg’s campaign has said the former New York City mayor will appear on the stage. “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,” campaign manager Kevin Sheekey said in a statement.

And here’s what having Bloomberg at the debate will mean:

  • It could suck the oxygen from some of the candidates trying to compete with Bernie Sanders — like Pete Buttigieg (who won Iowa) or Amy Klobuchar (who finished a surprising third in New Hampshire). Indeed, our friends over Politico Playbook write: “Bloomberg vs. Bernie: It’s on.”
  • It gives Sanders and Warren the billionaire foil for their policies and worldview.
  • And it means that plenty of scrutiny is probably coming Bloomberg’s way. That could hurt him. Or he could survive and thrive — like Donald Trump did in 2015-2016.

Strikingly, Bloomberg isn’t even competing in Nevada’s caucuses; he’s skipping the first four contests.

But he will be on the debate stage tomorrow night.

Sanders and Bloomberg leapfrog Biden in national poll

When you add it all up, the biggest likely beneficiary to having Bloomberg on the debate stage is Bernie Sanders — who also is now leading that national NPR/PBS/Marist poll by double digits.

Here are the numbers:

  • Sanders: 31 percent (+9 since December)
  • Bloomberg: 19 percent (+15)
  • Biden: 15 percent (-9)
  • Warren: 12 percent (-5)
  • Klobuchar: 9 percent (+5)
  • Buttigieg: 8 percent (-5)

No other candidate gets more than 2 percent in the poll.

The poll also includes hypothetical general-election matchups versus Trump:

  • Biden 50 percent, Trump 44 percent
  • Bloomberg 48 percent, Trump 44 percent
  • Sanders 48 percent, Trump 45 percent
  • Buttigieg 47 percent, Trump 45 percent
  • Klobuchar 47 percent, Trump 45 percent

So the Dem candidate who leads Trump by the largest margin – Biden – is also the candidate who’s lost the most ground in the Democratic race after losing in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Tweet of the day

2020 Vision: Sanders, Bloomberg lead in Virginia

Speaking of polls this morning, a new Monmouth survey shows Sanders and Bloomberg are tied in Virginia, which is one of the 14 states holding contests on Super Tuesday, March 3.

The numbers:

  • Bloomberg: 22 percent
  • Sanders: 22 percent
  • Biden: 18 percent
  • Buttigieg: 11 percent
  • Klobuchar: 9 percent
  • Warren: 5 percent

(Remember, if you’re not at 15 percent, you’re not picking up delegates.)

Interestingly, the poll also reduces the Dem field in Virginia into potential two-way contests:

  • Biden 53 percent, Sanders 38 percent
  • Bloomberg 47 percent, Sanders 41 percent
  • Sanders 44 percent, Buttigieg 42 percent
  • Sanders 45 percent, Klobuchar 42 percent

But one important thing here: Just 25 percent of likely Democratic primary voters in Virginia say they are firmly set on their candidate choice — which means there’s still plenty of uncertainty.

On the campaign trail today

One day before Wednesday’s debate, the action remains in Nevada: Bernie Sanders holds rallies in Las Vegas and Reno before attending a CNN town hall at 8:00 p.m. ET… Pete Buttigieg stumps in Vegas before attending his CNN town hall at 9:00 p.m. ET… Amy Klobuchar also makes stops in Las Vegas before attending her CNN town hall at 10:00 p.m. ET… Elizabeth Warren and Tom Steyer attend a National Domestic Worker Forum in Vegas… And Joe Biden is also in the city… Elsewhere, Tulsi Gabbard campaigns in Virginia.

Dispatches from NBC’s campaign embeds

Even in Nevada, Joe Biden can’t escape Iowa. Per NBC’s Marianna Sotomayor, an event-goer yesterday asked how Biden why he thought he lost, and if he can start winning. Biden responded, “One of the four most difficult states for me to win was going to be in Iowa because--they are good people-- it's all white it’s all Midwesterners and a lot of farming and it was going to be but it-- We did it okay if you take a look at what happened there, I mean it was kind of an unusual thing that I hope doesn't happen here,” Biden said. “My support in the Democratic Party and all the data still shows you will see is I am the candidate who has the broadest support from all sectors of the economy.”

And Tom Steyer is telling potential voters that his performance in Nevada and South Carolina is “do or die” for him, NBC’s Jordan Jackson reports. “Steyer answered questions from reporters after the event in South Carolina and spoke about the importance of Nevada and South Carolina to his strategy: ‘They are do or die. You're asking me a question. I'm telling you the truth. It's like, I need to be able to show in states where people have seen me and met me.’”

Data Download: The number of the day is … 26,000

26,000.

That’s the number of Nevada Democrats who have already participated early in Nevada’s caucuses as of yesterday, per the state party.

This is the first time Nevada has enabled caucus-goers to participate early — where participants can rank their choices before caucus day.

Also, 56 percent of those who participated early on Saturday were first-time caucus-goers.

ICYMI: News clips you shouldn’t miss

Two Americans were killed by an Afghan soldier as peace talks with the Taliban continue.

The evacuation of 14 Americans from a cruise ship off Japan doubles the number of Americans in the U.S. with Coronavirus.

Virginia Democrats’ proposed ban on assault weapons failed.

The Pentagon will stop opposing the Trump administration’s efforts to make it more difficult for U.S. companies to work with Huawei.

John Bolton is ready to talk … but his book is stuck in the White House classification review process.

Trump Agenda: Lindsey vs. Esper

Lindsey Graham and others are ready for a fight with Sec. Esper about troops in Africa.

A Native American tribe said the border wall could imperil their lands, and that the Department of Defense hasn’t consulted them.

An association of federal judges called an emergency meeting to address President Trump’s involvement in the Roger Stone case.

2020: Challenges for Buttigieg and Biden

Buttigieg looks to Nevada to prove he can win over voters of color.

Biden looks to start his comeback, and it has to start with at least second place in Nevada.

Sanders finds his foil in Michael Bloomberg.