• The change in rules opens the debate stage to Michael Bloomberg, who is not accepting outside donations
  • Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren already have met the polling thresholds to give them spots for the Feb. 19 debate in Las Vegas
  • A Sanders spokesman faulted the DNC change, saying Bloomberg is trying to buy the Democratic nomination

The Democratic National Committee Friday dropped its fundraising requirement for participation in the Democratic presidential debate and doubled its polling thresholds, opening the way for former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to participate.

The DNC had required candidates to meet certain polling and fundraising milestones to participate in each of the debates held so far. The new rule applies to the contest set for Feb. 19 in Las Vegas ahead of the Nevada caucuses. Bloomberg was barred from the last debate – the first since he announced his candidacy Nov. 24 – because he is self-financing and not participating next week’s New Hampshire debate.

"Now that the grassroots support is actually captured in real voting, the criteria will no longer require a donor threshold,” Adrienne Watson, a DNC spokesperson, told Politico. “The donor threshold was appropriate for the opening stages of the race, when candidates were building their organizations, and there were no metrics available outside of polling to distinguish those making progress from those who weren’t."

To qualify for the Las Vegas debate, candidates will have to have won at least one pledged delegate in Monday’s Iowa caucuses or the Feb. 10 New Hampshire primary. Bloomberg is skipping both those races to concentrate on Super Tuesday on March 3.

Other ways of qualifying include reaching 10% support in at least four national polls taken between Jan. 15 and Feb. 18, or 12% in two surveys.

Just six candidates participated in the last debate: Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; former Vice President Joe Biden, South Bend (Ind.) Mayor Pete Buttigieg and businessman Tom Steyer. Businessman Andrew Yank and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii both failed to meet the threshold, which was lower than that going forward.

Biden, Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Steyer and Yang have qualified for the New Hampshire debate; Biden, Sanders and Warren already have qualified for the Las Vegas debate.

“We are thrilled that voters could soon have the chance to see Mike Bloomberg on the debate stage, hear his vision for the country, and see why he is the strongest candidate to defeat Donald Trump and bring our country together," Bloomberg campaign manager Kevin Sheekey said in a statement.

Bloomberg has been campaigning with massive ad buys, including an $11 million, 60-second Super Bowl commercial.

Bloomberg has surpassed the 10% polling threshold in just one survey, garnering 17% in the Florida primary poll by StPetePolls. The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll puts him at 9% while the RealClearPolitics average has him at 8.2%.

“To now change the rules in the middle of the game to accommodate Mike Bloomberg, who is trying to buy his way into the Democratic nomination, is wrong,” Jeff Weaver, a senior adviser to Sanders, told Politico as the rules were being announced.