Democrats attack Michael Bloomberg in fiery Las Vegas debate
Bloomberg's first debate saw his comments about women brought to the fore, while Bernie Sanders was attacked for his socialism
The gloves were off at the Democratic debate in Las Vegas on Wednesday night as candidates exchanged insults to try to win nomination and run against US President Donald Trump in November.
It was the first debate for former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who entered the race in November and has so far spent more than $409 million (Dh1.5 billion) of his own money on campaign advertising.
While the spending has pushed him into second place, recent polls show, it has also been the subject of attacks from rivals in Nevada.
Foreign policy issues were largely absent from the debate, as personal squabbling between candidates and differences over domestic policies took over.
Progressive Senator Elizabeth Warren scored the hardest hit against Mr Bloomberg, bringing up allegations of his disrespect for women in the workplace, lawsuits and his resistance to release his tax returns.
“I’d like to talk about who we’re running against: a billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians,” Ms Warren said. “No, I’m not talking about Donald Trump, I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.”
In the first half of the debate, Mr Bloomberg struggled to explain some of his previous policies.
They included continuing the controversial "stop and frisk" policy in New York, in which police officers stopped and questioned people they believed to be engaged in criminal activity.
I’d like to talk about who we’re running against: a billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians
But Mr Bloomberg showed more energy in the second half, taking on the front-runner, Senator Bernie Sanders and attacking his embrace of socialism.
“I don’t think there’s any chance of the senator beating President Trump,” he said.
“It’s ridiculous. We're not going to throw out capitalism. We tried that. Other countries tried. That was called communism and it just didn’t work.”
Mr Sanders hit back, questioning Mr Bloomberg’s time as a Republican until 2007, his support for former President George W Bush, and the fact he did not back Barack Obama in 2008 against John McCain.
Mr Obama's former vice president, Joe Biden, accused Mr Bloomberg of “throwing close to 5 million young black men up against the wall” under the stop-and-frisk policy.
Ms Warren gave her best debate performance to date as she went on the offensive, criticising her fellow democratic candidates and drawing contrasts on economic policies without embracing socialism.
A recent NBC-PBS-Marist poll showed that 58 per cent of Americans have an unfavourable view of socialism, yet Mr Sanders is leading the Democratic field by double digits, according to an ABC-Washington Post poll released this week.
Former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg and Senator Amy Klobuchar also traded personal attacks.
As Mr Buttigieg attacked her voting record, Ms Klobuchar accused him of memorising "a bunch of talking points” and not being in the arena.
CNN and the The Washington Post declared Ms Warren to be the winner on the night.
Mr Sanders also had a good evening, maintaining his lead as Nevada votes on Saturday.
But despite his widening lead, none of the candidates may be able to reach the 1,991 delegates required to claim the nomination in July at the national convention.
All candidates except Mr Sanders agreed that the person with the most delegates at the end of the primary season should be the nominee, even if they are short of a majority.
Not far from the debate arena, Mr Trump was hosting a rally in Nevada and mocking Democratic candidates, referring to some by demeaning nicknames.
“Sleepy Joe Biden, the other day, had 68 people. And now they have another member of the crew, Mini Mike,” he said.
Mr Sanders leads in the Nevada polls before the vote on Saturday, but trails Mr Biden in South Carolina, which votes on February 29.
Updated: March 3, 2020 06:17 PM