Debate Was a Brutal Night for Bloomberg

Warren praised for standout performance
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 20, 2020 3:28 AM CST
Updated Feb 20, 2020 6:40 AM CST
Winners, Losers From Democratic Debate
Mike Bloomberg, Amy Klobuchar, and Joe Biden talk during a break in a Democratic presidential primary debate Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020, in Las Vegas, hosted by NBC News and MSNBC.   (AP Photo/John Locher)

Viewers who watched the ninth Democratic presidential debate Wednesday night hoping to see fireworks would not have been disappointed. Anybody hoping for a strong performance from Michael Bloomberg, however, would probably have changed the channel before the end of the first hour. The billionaire made his presidential debate debut in Las Vegas Wednesday night and was immediately targeted by the five other Democrats on stage in a two-hour debate that the BBC describes as a "slugfest worthy of Las Vegas." How the pundits saw it:

  • Elizabeth Warren. Warren, who savaged Bloomberg from her opening answer onward, could hardly have had a better debate, analysts say. "Warren needs a miracle to save her campaign, and while strong debate performances haven’t always translated into good polling in the past, Wednesday night was still one hell of a start," writes Zack Beauchamp at Vox. "Warren dominated the stage, delivering striking answers in one of the best performances I’ve seen from a presidential candidate—not just in this cycle, but ever." In one of the most talked-about exchanges, she urged Bloomberg to release women who had complained about sexual harassment at his company from their nondisclosure agreements.

  • Michael Bloomberg. This was the billionaire's first time on a debate stage since a 2009 mayoral debate in New York City, and he seemed ill-prepared for the onslaught on issues like the stop-and-frisk policy. "The first hour of the debate was an absolute and total disaster for the former mayor," writes Chris Cillizza at CNN. "Warren dunked on him repeatedly. Sanders slammed him. Biden bashed him. It was like watching a pro wrestling match where everyone decided to gang up on a single wrestler in the ring—and that wrestler was totally and completely caught off-guard."
  • Bernie Sanders. Sanders went into the debate the undisputed frontrunner and emerged largely unscathed, with his rivals preferring to focus on Bloomberg. He had a few weak moments, including when he was asked about releasing detailed medical records, "but there was no singular moment that would seem to upend his current positive trajectory, both in Nevada and nationally," Shane Goldmacher and Reid Epstein write at the New York Times. "Even if Mr. Sanders did not deliver his most forceful performance, that might be enough."
  • Joe Biden. While Biden had some strong moments, he was widely seen as an also-ran. "If there was a bystander on the debate stage Tuesday night, it was Biden," Aaron Blake writes at the Washington Post. "There was nothing there to suggest he might rescue his struggling campaign."
  • Pete Buttigieg. The other former mayor on stage is behind in the polls in the next two states to vote, and his debate performance is unlikely to help him regain momentum. "A stand-out night would have helped, and he didn’t get one. He did not have any obvious gaffe, either," writes Niall Stanage at the Hill. "Buttigieg, on Wednesday, was OK. And that probably isn’t good enough."
  • Amy Klobuchar. Klobuchar, who repeatedly clashed with Buttigieg, got mixed reviews for a debate performance seen as below her usual high standard. "Klobuchar’s streak of successful debates came to an end tonight," says Christopher Cadelago at Politico. "She’ll need a big finish this weekend to keep herself in the game."
(More Democratic debate stories.)

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