Top story from Time: 6 Democratic Candidates Take the Nevada Debate Stage Tonight at a Crucial Moment in the 2020 Primary Cycle. Follow Along Live



We’re at a crucial point in the the 2020 Democratic presidential primary: two early voting states are behind us and two more — Nevada and South Carolina — lay ahead. Some candidates are skyrocketing in the national polls while other former frontrunners are swiftly dropping; needless to say, February has been intense.

Tonight, six Democratic presidential candidates will face off just days before the Feb. 22 Nevada caucuses, each hoping to prove they can mobilize a diverse Democratic coalition. And although it’s the ninth DNC-sanctioned debate of the election cycle, a new face will be on stage: Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The 78-year-old billionaire has made the debate stage for the first time since the DNC ended its donor requirements.(He has pledged to self-fund his campaign and thus couldn’t qualify for previous debates.) Bloomberg has already spent more $200 million dollars on television and digital advertisements, rapidly rising in the polls. Because he entered the race late, he’s decided to skip the first for voting states – Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina — and instead poured his resources into the races on the Super Tuesday contests on March 3. Meaning that while he’ll appear in the Nevada debate, he won’t be on the ballot for the Nevada caucuses this weekend.

New Hampshire primary winner Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders will also be on stage and undoubtedly on the attack. The self-avowed democratic socialist leads in the polls, preformed well in Iowa and New Hampshire and has said billionaires should not exist.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren will also appear on stage. Warren and Biden — who were once thought of as front runners — need strong debate performances after coming in fourth and fifth in New Hampshire, respectively.

NBC, MSNBC and The Nevada Independent will co-host the debate, which will air live from 9 to 11 p.m. from the Paris Theater in Las Vegas. It will broadcast on NBC and MSNBC and stream on NBC News NOW, NBCNews.com MSNBC.com, NBC News Mobile App, NBC News, MSNBC’s Facebook pages, and online at The Nevada Independent. A Spanish translation will air on Universo as well as the Noticias Telemundo mobile app, website and Facebook page.

Five journalists will co-moderate: NBC anchor Lester Holt, NBC political director Chuck Todd, White House correspondent Hallie Jackson, Noticias Telemundo senior correspondent Vanessa Hauc and The Nevada Independent editor Jon Ralston.

Candidates had until 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday to get at least 10% in four DNC-approved polls or 12% in at least two early state polls (South Carolina and/or Nevada). Candidates with at least one delegate could also qualify. Tonight’s debate will be the third of four debates held by the DNC in early voting state, the last of which will be in Charleston on Feb. 25.

It’s been a long month for the Democrats. The first nominating contest of the election cycle, the Iowa caucuses, were a mess. An app meant for reporting results malfunctioned, and the Associated Press said it’s unable to declare a winner. Buttigieg and Sanders both came within striking distance of first place, and in the end Buttigieg received 13 delegates to Sanders’s 12. A little over a week later Sanders won the New Hampshire primary with 26% of the vote, although Buttigieg followed closely with 24% and Klobuchar came in third with 20%.

But Democratic voters in Nevada and South Carolina are much more diverse than Iowa and New Hampshire, and candidates have yet to prove how they mobilize voters of color. Tonight, they’ll make their case to Nevada and the rest of the U.S.

Follow along for live updates.

Michael Bloomberg makes his first debate appearance

Bloomberg has a lot to prove tonight. Even though he announced his candidacy in the fall, the former mayor missed the previous debates because of the donor requirements. Starting tonight, candidates no longer have to meet a donation threshold, opening the door for Bloomberg to appear on stage.
Tonight will be the first time many Americans see Bloomberg outside of his well-produced advertisements, and he’ll likely be on the defense. Candidates might take aim at his massive spending and wealth, as well as the fact that he jumped into the race too late for voters in the first four states to rule on his candidacy. Bloomberg is more wealthy than even many other billionaire, such as his fellow candidate Tom Steyer who did not make the debate. The former mayor is worth more than $64 billion and is the eighth richest person in the U.S., according to Forbes.
Warren and Sanders have been campaigning off Bloomberg for months, arguing his candidacy proves the corrupting power money has in politics. On Tuesday, Warren called him an “egomaniac billionaire” and compared him to President Donald Trump. Sanders has said he’s trying to buy the election. Moderate candidates will also go after him, give the threat he poses to maintaining their bases.
Bloomberg, meanwhile, will try to continued his momentum. A NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll published Tuesday found he was polling second after Sanders with 19% of Democratic voters.

How will the results from New Hampshire and Iowa affect the debate?

Buttigieg and Sanders will also take some heat. After preforming strongly in the first two states, they appeared to have been have teed up as the front runners for the moderate and progressive wings of the party. But that can quickly change. Klobuchar did surprisingly well in New Hampshire after a strong debate performance; she’ll try and repeat that magic again in Nevada. And of course Bloomberg has quickly risen in the polls, having already passed Buttigieg nationally.

Given his lead in the polls and his recent win, Sanders might face even more attacks than Bloomberg. Eric Herzik, a professor of political science at University of Nevada, writes in an email that he “can see a scenario where Klobuchar and Buttigieg (with Biden also in the mix) go after Sanders on the electability issue, healthcare, [and even] on taxes.”

Warren may also break her d├ętente with her friend and ally in an attempt to win back some of the progressive base. Although she has not typically attacked candidates in previous debates, she may feel she has to after coming in fourth in New Hampshire.

Biden will also be on the offensive. “I think at this point, the Biden campaign is not quite on life support but they’re in the ambulance,” Jacob Thompson, a professor of communications at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas who teaches a class on political debates, tells TIME. As Bloomberg makes his case to moderate voters, Biden will try his best to stop him.

One way Biden might go after Bloomberg is by bringing up race. Over the weekend he criticized Bloomberg for the NYPD’s policy of “stop and frisk” under his tenure, which many have argued amounted to racial profiling. Bloomberg’s past comments about women and gender might also be raised some attention.

Thompson tells TIME that a few issues could get more attention because of Nevada’s diversity, namely immigration policy, policing, cash bail and housing discrimination.