DAVID GREENE, HOST:
The Democratic presidential race is entering a very different phase this week with more diverse states having a say, and things are going to be very different at the next debate in Nevada tomorrow night. Mike Bloomberg has qualified to be on stage. The former mayor of New York hit that mark in a new poll. It's actually a poll from NPR, the PBS NewsHour and Marist. And let's talk all this through with NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro.
DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey, David.
GREENE: So let's start with Bloomberg and how this process worked here. He's going to be on the debate stage for the first time, although this is the ninth debate we've seen. What - how did this happen?
MONTANARO: Well, number one, he's a multi-billionaire, and he's shown a willingness to spend. I mean, he's spent more than $300 million of his own money on ads nationally. It's raised his profile and now vaulted him into second place in our poll with 19%.
And it's not just our poll. This is the fourth one showing Bloomberg at 10% or more nationally. And that's the threshold for what he needed to qualify for Wednesday's debate. The odd thing here is that he's not even on the ballot in Nevada, where the debate's going to be held.
MONTANARO: He's, instead, focusing his resources on the Super Tuesday states on March 3, which hold more than a third of all the delegates up for grabs.
GREENE: So he's not - even though it's going to be in Nevada, he's not going to be speaking to Nevada caucus-goers. I mean, he's hoping to deliver his message and raise his profile nationally with this.
MONTANARO: That's exactly right.
GREENE: So looking at our - the NPR poll, Bernie Sanders has been building his status as a front-runner. I mean, certainly off of these first couple contests where he did very well, our poll seems to show him building and gaining. What - what do you attribute this to as you look at the numbers?
MONTANARO: Yeah, it's a big story. I mean, while Democratic moderates are split, I mean, progressives are appearing to unify around Sanders. We've seen Elizabeth Warren decline a bit, and Sanders has picked up a lot of that vote because he's ahead pretty strongly with progressives. He's now opened up a double-digit lead in our poll. He's got 31% of the vote overall. And he also appears to be expanding his coalition.
This is not just coming from progressives or voters under 45 or people who live in cities. Where Sanders - he's leading in all of those areas, predictably. But he's also now ahead with women, people who live in rural and suburban areas and he's in a close second when it comes to black voters behind former Vice President Biden, who's, by the way, fading in this poll. He's just third with 15%.
GREENE: And he, obviously, is going into some very important states to try and remain viable here. So the primary season, we're going from places like Iowa, New Hampshire, to states that are much more diverse like Nevada, like South Carolina. What are you seeing as this moves on?
MONTANARO: Well, these are very different states, I mean, much more diverse coalitions. And they're going to look nothing like Iowa and New Hampshire. Iowa and New Hampshire are two of the whitest states in the country. More than 90% of even the Democratic electorate was white.
Nevada and South Carolina, though, many more black and brown voters - Nevada, 41% nonwhite. About 1 in 5 Nevada Democratic voters in 2016 was Latino. In 2016, there was also about 13% black and 4% Asian, so a lot of different coalitions and groups there. And in South Carolina - two-thirds nonwhite - mostly African American. Sixty-one percent of the Democratic voters in 2016 who came out in South Carolina were black.
GREENE: I'm just thinking about some of the other names we're talking about coming out of New Hampshire. Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar - what does this new phase of the race mean for them?
MONTANARO: It's a huge test for them. You know, we talk about, you know, Bloomberg rising to 19%. You've got Klobuchar and Buttigieg stuck around 9 and 8% each. And Buttigieg did very well in Iowa and New Hampshire. Klobuchar - surprisingly good finishes in both, especially in New Hampshire.
But both have struggled with voters of color. Our poll, for example, showed them in single digits, not only overall, but about 3 or 4% each with black voters. That's just not going to get it done. And if they want to be able to show that they can be the alternative to Bernie Sanders instead of Bloomberg or Biden or someone like that, it's going to be nearly impossible for them to do that and win the nomination without winning over voters of color.
So Nevada and South Carolina - a big test for them.
GREENE: NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro. Domenico, thanks.
MONTANARO: You're welcome.
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