LAS VEGAS — It took exactly one question at Wednesday’s Democratic presidential debate for Michael Bloomberg’s opponents to lay into him.
Bernie Sanders slammed Bloomberg for his “stop-and-frisk” policy while he was New York’s mayor, which the senator described as “outrageous” and a way to guarantee low turnout from black and Hispanic voters. Elizabeth Warren called Bloomberg “a billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians.” Joe Biden slammed him for “throwing close to 5 million young black men up against the wall.”
After months of relatively tame debates, the increasingly desperate field of Democratic candidates wasn’t interested in debating the nice points of policy. And they were united — at least for a moment — in attacking the billionaire former Republican mayor of New York City, who has spent his way into second place in the national polls in spite of a spate of transgressions from liberal orthodoxy. It was Bloomberg’s first appearance on a debate stage.
Bloomberg, in his first answer, shot back at Sanders, arguing his Medicare for All plan would be a death knell in the general election. ”I don’t think there’s any chance of Sanders beating President Trump,” he warned.
But after months of watching Bloomberg dump hundreds of millions on TV ads and buy his way into double-digit national poll numbers without even competing in the first four primary and caucus states, his opponents weren’t ready to let him go just yet. And for an extended period, the ultra-wealthy former mayor wasn’t able to get in a word edgewise as his opponents pounded him time and again.
Amy Klobuchar welcomed him to the stage after “hiding behind his TV ads” for months, before slamming him for a memo from his campaign calling for her and other moderate-leaning Democrats to drop out and coalesce behind Bloomberg to stop Sanders.
And Pete Buttigieg took aim at both Sanders and Bloomberg, saying Democrats shouldn’t have to choose between “one candidate who wants to burn this party down and another candidate who wants to buy this party out.”
Buttigieg warned that the party is barreling toward a Bloomberg vs. Sanders race — the most likely result if current poll trends hold. But the rest of the field showed they’re not ready to go quietly.
Cover: Democratic presidential hopefuls former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren participate in the ninth Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by NBC News, MSNBC, Noticias Telemundo and The Nevada Independent at the Paris Theater in Las Vegas, Nevada, on February 19, 2020. (Photo: MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images)