Mike Bloomberg takes 2nd place in new Democratic primary poll, qualifies for Wednesday's debate

Peter Weber

A few days before the Nevada caucuses, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has taken a 12 percentage point lead in the Democratic presidential contest, according to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released Tuesday morning. Sanders has the support of 31 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, up 9 points from the last Marist poll in December, but coming in at No. 2 is former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, at 19 percent. That's a 15-point jump since December.

This poll qualifies Bloomberg to participate in Wednesday's Democratic debate, though Bloomberg won't be on the ballot in Saturday's caucuses. Bloomberg's campaign said he plans to participate if he qualifies. The billionaire media tycoon built up his poll numbers with the help of more than $400 million of his personal fortune and lots of advertising. He and the other candidates, especially Sanders, are going after each other with increasing vigor.

Former Vice President Joe Biden comes in third place in the poll at 15 percent, down 9 points since December, followed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) at 12 percent (a drop of 5 points), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) at 9 percent (down 4 points), and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 8 percent (down from 13 percent). Buttigieg narrowly leads in delegates after strong showings in Iowa and New Hampshire.

All of the candidates beat President Trump in a hypothetical head-to-head matchups, with Biden enjoying the biggest lead, followed by Bloomberg, Sanders, Klobuchar and Buttigieg, and Warren. Sanders leads among most categories except black voters — he's a close second to Biden — moderates, and voters over 45; Bloomberg gets the most support among those last two groups and is No. 3 with black voters.

Marist conducted the poll Feb. 13-16 among 1,416 U.S. adults, including 527 Democrats and leaners. The entire poll, including the head-to-heads with Trump, has a margin of error of ±3.7 percentage points; the Democratic rankings have a margin of error of ±5.4 points.

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