Michael Bloomberg was on a Democratic presidential debate stage for the first time Wednesday night and he became a major target in the Las Vegas debate from the opening minutes onward—more so than frontrunner Bernie Sanders. Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Joe Biden, and Pete Buttigieg also took part in the first debate since the New Hampshire primary. Nevada holds its Democratic caucuses on Saturday. Highlights:
- Sanders quickly brought up Bloomberg's record as New York City mayor, arguing that defeating President Trump will require "the largest voter turnout in the history of the United States" and Bloomberg's record on issues like stop-and-frisk will make that impossible, the Washington Post reports. Bloomberg countered that Sanders' support of policies like Medicare for All would make it impossible for him to beat Trump.
- Warren also went on the attack against Bloomberg, saying: "I'd like to talk about who we're running against. A billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians, and no, I'm not talking about Donald Trump, I'm talking about Mayor Bloomberg." She added: "Democrats take a huge risk if we substitute one arrogant billionaire for another."
- Buttigieg tried to portray himself as more electable than either Sanders or Bloomberg. He called them "polarizing" and said Democrats "shouldn’t have to choose between one candidate who wants to burn this party down and another who wants to buy this party out." "Let's put forward someone who is actually a Democrat," he said. Sanders responded that "maybe it's time for the working class of this country to have a little bit of power in Washington rather than your billionaire campaign contributors."
- Sanders distanced himself from some of his supporters' online attacks on critics including Nevada union leaders, the Guardian reports. "If there are a few people who make ugly remarks, who attack trade union leaders, I disown those people—they are not part of my campaign," he said.
- Warren, asked about her plan for Medicare for All, derided the policies of Buttigieg and Klobuchar, saying Buttigieg's policy was more of a Powerpoint presentation than a plan and Klobuchar's is a "Post-It note." Klobuchar observed that Post-It notes were invented in her home state, Minnesota, NBC reports. Buttigieg said he was "more of a Microsoft Word guy."
- Bloomberg defended the intent behind the stop-and-frisk policy, saying it was to stop murders. "I've apologized. I've asked for forgiveness," he said. "We stopped too many people." Warren noted the harm the policy had caused to minority communities and told him: "You need a different apology."
- Sanders, asked about releasing detailed health records after his heart attack, noted that fellow 78-year-old Bloomberg has also had heart surgery, the Post reports. "I think the one area maybe that Mayor Bloomberg and I share is, you have two stents as well," he said. "25 years ago," Bloomberg responded.
- Warren used the transparency issue to go after Bloomberg again, telling him he should release women who had complained about sexual harassment in his company from nondisclosure agreements, Politico reports. "They signed those agreements, and we’ll live with it," he said.
- Buttigieg criticized Klobuchar for forgetting the name of Mexico's president during a recent town hall meeting."Are you trying to say that I'm dumb? Are you mocking me?" she asked him. Warren interjected to defend Klobuchar during the heated exchange, CBS reports.
- The second half of the debate began with a discussion of climate change. "If we don’t elect a president who actually believes in climate science now, we will never meet any of the other scientific or policy deadline—and we need to," Buttigieg said.
- Sanders focused on Bloomberg when asked about his remark that billionaires "shouldn't exist." "We have a grotesque and immoral distribution of wealth and income," Sanders said. "Mike Bloomberg owns more wealth than the bottom 125 million Americans. That’s wrong. That’s immoral." Bloomberg said he was giving his money away "to make the country better." "Mr. Bloomberg, it wasn’t you who made all that money, maybe it was your workers as well," Sanders told him.
- Sanders said America is already a socialist country—but only for the rich. "I believe in democratic socialism for working people, not billionaires," he told Bloomberg, saying it was a "cheap shot" for the former mayor to compare democratic socialism to communism.
- Warren implied that some of her rivals had conflicts of interest, ABC reports. "Amy and Joe's hearts are in the right place, but we can't be so eager to be liked by Mitch McConnell that we forget how to fight the Republicans," she said. "Mayor Buttigieg has been taking money from big donors and changing his positions. So it makes it unclear what it is he stands for other than his own."
- Buttigieg and Klobuchar clashed again when the debate turned to immigration and he targeted her voting record in the Senate. "You’ve memorized a bunch of talking points and a bunch of things," she told him before listing immigration reforms she has worked on in Congress, the Guardian reports.
- Addressing fears of a brokered convention in July, every candidate except Bloomberg said they believed the candidate who got the most delegates should win the nomination, even if they failed to reach the 1,991 necessary to clinch it.
- Most candidates focused on unity in their closing statement. "What I want everyone out there watching to remember is that what unites us is so much bigger than what divides us and that we need a candidate that can bring people with her," said Klobuchar. Biden's closing statement was briefly interrupted by protesters.
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