From the opening bell, Democrats unleashed an aggressive verbal assault on New York billionaire Mike Bloomberg and raised new questions about Bernie Sanders’ take-no-prisoners politics in a contentious debate Wednesday nightthat threatened to scramble even further the party’s urgent quest to defeat President Donald Trump.
The former New York City mayor was forced to defend his divisive record on race, gender and Wall Street in his debate-stage debut, while Sanders, appearing in his ninth of the 2020 primary season, tried to beat back pointed questions about his healthand his embrace of democratic socialism.
Fierce exchanges throughout the two-hour affair marked the most aggressive sustained period of infighting in the Democrats’ yearlong search for a presidential nominee, reflecting rising urgency in a 2020 primary season that is already deep into its voting phase. Nevada votes Saturday. South Carolina the week after. And more than a dozen states host a series of Super Tuesday contests in less than two weeks.
In a fight for her political life, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren was a leading aggressor against Bloomberg. She was on the attack throughout the night followinga sharp slide in the polls, calling Bloomberg “a billionaire who calls people fat broads and horse-faced lesbians.”
She wasn’t alone.
Sanders lashed out at Bloomberg’s policing policies as New York City mayor that he said targeted “African-American and Latinos in an outrageous way.”
And former Vice President Joe Biden charged that Bloomberg’s “stop-and-frisk” policy ended up “throwing 5 million black men up against the wall.”
Bloomberg defended himself on all counts and took a shot at Sanders’ electability: “I don’t think there’s any chance of the senator beating Donald Trump.”
Bloomberg later seized on Sanders’ rising wealth: “The best known socialist in the country happens to be a millionaire with three houses!” Sanders defended owning multiple houses, noting he has one in Washington, where he works, and two in Vermont.