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How 2020 Democrats are faring in new national poll

Six Democratic presidential candidates will debate Wednesday night in Nevada, with a new face joining onstage. Michael Bloomberg will participate for the first time this primary cycle, as scrutiny over his record intensifies. Lisa Desjardins reports on the candidate's efforts to appeal to minority voters ahead of the Nevada caucuses, and Judy Woodruff talks polling with NPR’s Domenico Montanaro.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Six of the remaining Democratic presidential candidates are set to debate tomorrow night in Nevada.

    And, as Lisa Desjardins reports, there will be a new face on stage.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    After mounting calls for Michael Bloomberg to have to debate his opponents directly…

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.:

    I can't beat him on the airways, but I can beat him on the debate stage.

  • Former Vice President Joseph Biden:

    I'm going to get a chance to debate him on everything from redlining to stop and frisk to a whole range of other things.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    2020 Democrats will get their chance tomorrow night in Las Vegas, during the ninth Democratic debate, which will be Bloomberg's first. The former New York City mayor qualified for the debate after hitting 19 percent support in a new national "PBS NewsHour"/NPR/Marist poll out today.

    Another headline in the poll? Bernie Sanders' has a hefty double-digit lead. Other Democrats, including those with strong showings in Iowa and New Hampshire, fell behind, like former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who criticized Sanders at a town hall in Las Vegas.

  • Pete Buttigieg:

    The politics that says, if you don't agree with me 100 percent of the time, you don't even belong, that's clubbing people over the head, telling them you have got to be just all the way over to the edge like us.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The in-person campaigning is battling a tidal wave of TV ads, especially from Bloomberg. He's funded a nearly $420 million ad blitz with his own fortune.

    Bloomberg's record has come under fire in recent days for his past comments on stop-and-frisk policing policies targeting minorities and his treatment of women at his company. Now several news outlets have surfaced Bloomberg's 2011 "NewsHour" interview with Jeffrey Brown about a program for young minority men.

  • Michael Bloomberg:

    There's this enormous cohort of black and Latino males aged, let's say, 16 to 25 that don't have jobs, don't have any prospects, don't know how to find jobs, don't know what their skill sets are, don't know how to behave in the workplace.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's the other undeniable dynamic, the importance of diversity. Some 40 percent of Nevada caucus-goers in 2016 were people of color. And candidates today are directly appealing to them now.

  • Tom Steyer:

    Democrats are supposed to represent working people. Democrats are supposed to represent black people and Latinos.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The hopefuls face off each other again when the state holds its caucuses this Saturday.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Lisa Desjardins.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And for a closer look at the results from that latest "PBS NewsHour"/NPR/Marist poll and what those numbers mean for the state of the 2020 race, I'm joined now by Domenico Montanaro. He's the senior political editor at NPR.

    And we welcome you back to the program.

  • Domenico Montanaro:

    Thank you, as always.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, let's look at these numbers, Domenico.

    We're going to put the numbers of this "NewsHour"/NPR/Marist poll up, as we just mentioned, Bernie Sanders on top, 31 percent, Michael Bloomberg shooting up into second place.

    What do you see with these numbers?

  • Domenico Montanaro:

    Well, the key here, it's pretty remarkable.

    You see Bloomberg having spent more than $300 million. We're hearing over $330 million now from Ad Analytica. And what he's been able to do is flood the airwaves quite literally, build his profile. And he's gained 15 points in our polling since December, the last time we asked that.

    He's leapfrogged right over Joe Biden, the former vice president, who had been the far-and-away poll leader for a long time. And, remember, when I would come on and talk about how national polls, they don't really matter all that much, you got to look at the states, and those things will move, that's what's happened here.

    And you see Warren down, Pete Buttigieg, really surprisingly, at 8 percent, down five points, after two very good showings. A lot on the line in Nevada and South Carolina for them.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yes, it's interesting, because Pete Buttigieg, just as one example, came in first, just barely ahead of Sanders in Iowa, did well, right behind Sanders, in New Hampshire. But that's not reflected here.

  • Domenico Montanaro:

    Yes.

    He is the pledged delegate leader, and he's at 8 percent in the national polling.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yes.

  • Domenico Montanaro:

    And the reason why national polls start to matter a little bit more now is because we're only a couple weeks away from Super Tuesday, March 3, when 14 states are going to hold contests.

    You're going to have more than a third of all the delegates at stake up for grabs in one single day. It really is like a national primary. And you have Mayor Bloomberg, having advertised in all of those states, spending all that money. And he can do it at will because he's worth billions.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The other interesting thing — in fact, there's several interesting things to look at, but Amy Klobuchar.

  • Domenico Montanaro:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Here's somebody who did better than expected in both Iowa and New Hampshire. But you see her in single digits in this…

  • Domenico Montanaro:

    Yes.

    Well, look, if you add up Klobuchar, Buttigieg, Biden, and Bloomberg together, they get to about 51 percent. You add up Sanders and Warren for that progressive lane, you're at about 43 percent. So you see that there are sort of — there's this filter where they're really sort of struggling to get out of each other's way.

    Klobuchar and Buttigieg in particular need to distinguish themselves, because they have had a very difficult time breaking through with voters of color. You have two states in Nevada and South Carolina where, overwhelmingly, you're going to see way more voters of color, way more diverse states; 41 percent in 2016 in Nevada were non-white in the Democratic electorate, and, in South Carolina, two-thirds non-white, 61 percent African-American.

    They are only at 4 percent and 3 percent respectively in our poll with black voters. They got to do better than that if they want to win the nomination.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, speaking of African-American voters, Domenico, Vice — former Vice President Biden was doing very well, has been doing very well in South Carolina.

  • Domenico Montanaro:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Here's somebody who was leading in every — almost every single national poll show.

  • Domenico Montanaro:

    That's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And here you see now there have been a couple polls, including this one out today, that shows him running third, and at 15 percent.

    Now, this is a Nevada poll…

  • Domenico Montanaro:

    That's Nevada.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    … which has him down a little bit, still in second place.

  • Domenico Montanaro:

    Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But what do you — how do you account for what's happened to Vice President Biden?

  • Domenico Montanaro:

    By look, Biden still has support of African-Americans. In our poll, he has 31 percent of the black vote, Bernie Sanders, though, right on his heels at 28 percent, so margin of error difference, really, between the two of them.

    I think that's the most undertold story of this entire election is how much Bernie Sanders has been able to win over voters of color, especially voters of color under 45. Voters under 45 generally, it's like no other candidate exists.

    He's got more than half of voters under 45 in our polling. And Biden was somebody who promised he could win over those working-class white voters, and he couldn't do it in a place like New Hampshire.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Exactly.

  • Domenico Montanaro:

    And it makes his electability case very difficult.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So much volatility, so much change, so much to watch.

  • Domenico Montanaro:

    Yes, absolutely.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Domenico Montanaro, NPR, thank you very much.

  • Domenico Montanaro:

    You're welcome.

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