Six Democratic contenders take the debate stage in Las Vegas on Wednesday night, but one will be in the spotlight like no other: Mike Bloomberg is getting behind the podium for the first time, and "he is going to have a giant target on his back from all sides," Democratic strategist Brian Brokaw tells the AP. "It'll either all come together brilliantly or could fall apart very quickly. ... The stakes are just incredibly high for him." As they are for the other participating candidates—that would be Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren—ahead of Saturday's Nevada caucuses (which Bloomberg is not participating in). Coverage:
- The Guardian reports that the expected pile-on will be a first for Bloomberg, who hasn't been on a debate stage since 2009 and never debated more than one candidate while vying to become New York City mayor.
- But Axios paints him as prepared. "Bloomberg knows it's coming, has rehearsed his retorts, readied ads and policy plans to deflect, and will unleash $1.5 billion more on ads and staff to clean up any damage."
- So what is coming? Axios nicely outlines that, too, and it's a big list. Among the six points it expects his rivals to try to make: "He was crude and sexist" and "he coddled China for business reasons." Read the full list here. Or check out some of the most recent reporting on the topic: A BuzzFeed News piece on a 2019 video in which Bloomberg described transgender people as "he, she, or it."
- If Bloomberg gets pummeled, is it enough to take him down? Democratic strategist Eddie Vale has his doubts. He tells Time that "even if it's bad for him in the traditional sense ... that may not even matter given number of people who will watch debate versus see the $100 million in ads the following week."
- The target on Bloomberg's back is great news for one candidate, observes FiveThirtyEight. "It’s a pretty sweet deal for Sanders that he has largely been spared attacks even though he's the primary front-runner after winning New Hampshire (and, arguably, Iowa). He looks on track to win Nevada, too! He's a more imminent threat than Bloomberg is to the other candidates."
- Speaking of Sanders and Bloomberg, a colorful detail from the New York Times about Bloomberg's debate prep: One of his top advisers "has been playing Mr. Sanders in the mock forums, taking inspiration in part from the curmudgeonly Muppets characters Statler and Waldorf. ... The impression has occasionally moved Mr. Bloomberg to fits of momentum-breaking laughter during their practices, according to an aide."
- Looking to know more about Bloomberg ahead of tonight's appearance? Read Politico's "55 Things You Need to Know" piece. No. 13: "He smoked until he was in his early 30s. He quit by imagining his worst enemy outliving him. Who that was, or is, he has never said."
- The MSNBC/NBC News debate begins at 9pm ET. USA Today explains the ways in which you can stream it here.
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