In a controversial decision last week, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) drastically changed the requirements for upcoming primary election debates. The DNC completely eliminated the individual donor threshold, potentially allowing billionaire Michael Bloomberg to participate in the debates.
Seen as an attempt to appease Bloomberg — a major party donor — the move was criticized by a number of Democratic presidential candidates and came with intense backlash from progressive activists. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont weighed in on the issue during a press conference on Thursday, according to The Hill.
“I think it is an outrage,” Sanders said, pointing out that other White House hopefuls did not enjoy the same treatment when they failed to meet the debate requirements.
“Listen, rules are rules, and people like Julián Castro played by the rules, campaigned really hard. Cory Booker played by the rules. Tulsi Gabbard played by the rules. Andrew Yang played by the rules,” the senator stated. “And based on the rules determined by the DNC, they were unable to participate in one or more debates.”
“Suddenly a guy comes in who has not campaigned one bit in Iowa or New Hampshire … but he’s worth $55 billion and I guess if you’re worth $55 billion you can get the rules changed for a debate.”
Bloomberg is not even on the ballot in early contests. The billionaire is focusing on Super Tuesday states and beyond, apparently hoping to win support by spending record amounts of money on television and radio advertisements.
According to reports, some of former Vice President Joe Biden’s allies are concerned that Biden supporters will migrate to Bloomberg, clearing Sanders’ path to nomination. According to those close to Bloomberg, however, the billionaire is running in order to stop Sanders from winning the nomination and to act as a moderate alternative to Biden.
The DNC’s decision to relax the rules is also being viewed through the prism of the billionaire’s financial contributions to the committee and in the context of his relationships with Democratic power brokers. According to recent reports, two top Bloomberg surrogates have positions on the DNC’s Rules Committee and the Standing Rules and Bylaws Committee.
CBS News asked @MikeBloomberg — who is campaigning in California during the Iowa Caucuses — about his feud with President Trump, and whether people want to see two billionaires fighting on Twitter.— CBS News (@CBSNews) February 4, 2020
Bloomberg: "Two billionaires? Who's the second one?" pic.twitter.com/UYGENHauKw
According to the RealClearPolitics average of polling data, Bloomberg’s unorthodox campaign strategy has already started paying off. Although a nonentity in early states, the billionaire is becoming a formidable contender across the country. He is polling at around 10 percent nationally, having surpassed candidates such as former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.