There have been contentious arguments, strong policy disagreements and tense exchanges on the eight debate stages thus far in the primary cycle, and then there was Wednesday night’s brawl in Las Vegas.
From its onset, the debate shedded any semblance of civility and exposed the strengths and weakness of the six Democratic contenders that stood on the stage at a critical time for their campaigns, just days before Nevadans hold their caucuses and weeks before the Super Tuesday contests award the largest swath of delegates yet.
He may not have appeared on a single ballot, or won a single delegate, but former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the newcomer on the stage, was the lightning rod at the center of near-constant attacks, turning in an uneven performance as the field grapples with his rise in the polls.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren turned in a fiesty performance, going after Bloomberg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who in turn had testy moments between each other. Former Vice President Joe Biden also mixed it up with Bloomberg as he tries to revive his faltering campaign. Meanwhile Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has taken a sizable lead in recent national polls, fended off attacks on policy and his personal health.
Here are five takeaways from a Democratic debate full of fireworks on the Las Vegas Strip.
Everybody versus Bloomberg
With perhaps the entire field recognizing the urgency of Wednesday’s debate, it took less than 10 minutes for the most divisive debate of the cycle to emerge.
The gloves came off, early and often, for the Democratic contenders eager to poke holes in Bloomberg’s record and argument for why he’s the best candidate to beat Donald Trump in November.
“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,” Warren said to audible gasps in the debate hall, alluding to the slew of recent stories on the mistreatment of women in the workplace at Bloomberg’s companies.
“Let’s put forward someone who’s actually a Democrat…We 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 said slamming both Bloomberg and Sanders.
“The mayor says that he has a great record, that he’s done these wonderful things. Well, the fact — the fact of the matter is, he has not managed his city very, very well when he was there. He didn’t get a whole lot done,” said Biden, who went after Bloomberg’s past criticism of the landmark Affordable Care Act and his criminal justice record.
For his part, Bloomberg largely tried to stay above the fray, defending the astronomical amount of money he’s poured into his campaign, more than $400 million to this point.
“I’m spending that money to get rid of Donald Trump, the worst president we’ve ever had and If I can get that done, it will be a great contribution to America and to my kids,” Bloomberg said.
A feisty Warren comes out swinging and doesn’t stop
Warren is in a fight for her political life, and Wednesday night made it clear she’s willing to fight harder than ever before to get back to the top of the pack.
In what marks a complete shift from her debate strategy to this point, Warren consistently and aggressively attacked her rivals on topic after topic.
Her immediate jab at Bloomberg set the tone for the entire debate, and coming off disappointing finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire it was crystal clear that Warren viewed Wednesday’s debate as a make or break moment for her campaign.
You can read the rest of John Verhovek and Kendall Karson’s article at ABCnews.com