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The Las Vegas debate will be Mike Bloomberg's first, giving him the opportunity to reveal his position on democracy reform.

Debate gives Bloomberg airtime to detail (and defend) his democracy reform ideas

Mike Bloomberg's debate debut offers him an opportunity to explain where he stands on most of the main agenda items in the democracy reform movement, a topic on which he's revealed little so far.

And if he doesn't volunteer his views, starting with his attitude as a self-funding billionaire candidate toward regulating the campaign giving and spending by others, his presidential rivals will have every incentive to press him hard Wednesday night.

Of the 17 most prominent proposals for improving the way democracy works — not only on campaign finance but also on access to the ballot box, election security, political ethics and revamping our governing systems — Bloomberg has staked out a clear position on just 10.

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Democratic presidential candidates debate in the run-up to the New Hampshire primary. They each have staked out positions on democracy reform issues.

Democracy reform’s welcome arrival as a Democratic cause

Schmitt is director of the political reform program at New America, a nonpartisan think tank.

A presidential campaign is a contest of ideas, not just personalities. As candidates set out policy priorities and develop proposals, we learn more about what they care about, but we also see in their reflection what voters and party activists want to hear. The proposals that even the failed candidates embrace, and the priority they give them, can foreshadow ideas that will take hold in the future.

New America looked into how the major candidates for president have been talking about reform of democracy. We took an inventory of the ideas emerging in this high-intensity laboratory. What we found validated our colleague Lee Drutman's recent observation that "from the long arc of American political history, I see the bright flashing arrows of a new age of reform and renewal ahead."

Not since 1976, after Watergate and an earlier impeachment, has the vision of reforming democracy itself been as central to a presidential contest as it is now.

While curbing the influence of money in politics has been on the agenda in previous campaigns — it was central to 2008 Republican nominee John McCain's career, and Barack Obama emphasized restrictions on lobbying — the range of different democracy reform issues on the agenda this year is unprecedented. In the decade since the Citizens United v. FEC and Shelby County v. Holder decisions, citizens have been mobilized by concerns about voting rights, corruption and the relationship between economic and political power.

President Trump has embraced some limits on the "revolving door" between lobbying and government, but he has appointed more lobbyists to key positions in three years than his two predecessors did in eight. Otherwise, Trump has not endorsed any elements of a political reform agenda, and promotes removing voters from the rolls.

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Jeff Barrett argues, "Mike Bloomberg doesn't have to win a single state to become the nominee. And that should scare you."

Why Bloomberg’s candidacy is bad for democracy

Barrett is a communications consultant and advisor to Square One Politics, a Democratic campaign consulting firm. He's also on the advisory board of DoSomething, which promotes civic engagement by young people.

Chaos. That is Mike Bloomberg's strategy for 2020. And after Iowa he has what he wants.

Smart billionaires don't keep airing national commercials of their bus driving through America — unless they know the path. That path doesn't seem clear to everyone right now, but it is. And every domino is falling in the right direction for it.

How we got to this path is decades in the making, involves a lot of money and should make you want to punch through a wall like the Kool-Aid Man. Because at the core of Bloomberg's apparent strategy is something antithetical to a functioning democracy. He doesn't actually need your vote. He doesn't need to win a single state in the primary. He has enough money to circumvent the entire process, to sustain a losing campaign until it becomes viable or hang around long enough to do something even worse for democracy.

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Youth voting could be the deciding factor in driving Sen. Bernie Sanders or Sen. Elizabeth Warren to victory in the Iowa caucuses, according to a new poll.

Historic youth turnout expected in Iowa caucuses

A historic number of young voters are set to turn out during the pivotal Iowa caucuses next month, a new poll finds. And by participating in record numbers, the youth bloc could tilt the results heavily in favor of the leading progressive candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination.

More than a third of eligible Iowa voters between the ages of 18 and 29 said they were "extremely likely" to participate during the Feb. 3 caucuses, a number that would dwarf previous turnout figures, according to researchers at Tufts University's Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement and Suffolk University.

Only an estimated 11 percent of young Iowans turned out for the 2016 caucuses, when both parties had contested primaries. In 2008 and 2012, just 4 percent of young voters participated in the country's first-in-the-nation nominating contest, the researchers said.

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