Feb 20, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Bloomberg's rough debut

Photo: John Locher/AP

Mike Bloomberg was booed during his debut debate as a Democratic presidential candidate — indicative of a rusty outing where the former New York mayor looked unprepared to respond to obvious lines of attack.

Why it matters ... The debate underscored the Bloomberg’s campaign biggest fear: It's hard to hide to his prickly demeanor. Bloomberg had all the time, practice and forewarning money could buy — and still struggled mightily on the public stage. 

  • But it'd be foolish to assume blanket ads can't undo the damage. Elizabeth Warren said on MSNBC: "I have no doubt that he is about to drop, tonight, another hundred million dollars on his campaign ... in order to try to erase America’s memory of what happened on that debate stage."

Warren drew cheers when she challenged Bloomberg to release women from "nondisclosure agreements both for sexual harassment and for gender discrimination in the workplace."

  • Bloomberg: "We have a very few nondisclosure agreements."
  • Warren: "How many is that?"
  • Bloomberg: "Let me finish."
  • Warren: "How many is that?"
  • Bloomberg: "None of them accuse me of doing anything, other than maybe they didn't like a joke I told. ... They signed the agreements and that's what we're going to live with."

The audience booed when Bloomberg later said: "I've said we're not going ... to end these agreements because they were made consensually, and they have every right to expect that they will stay private."

  • Warren provoked the moment of the debate when she said: "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."

Bloomberg replied: "I have no tolerance for the kind of behavior that the #MeToo movement has exposed.  And anybody that does anything wrong in our company, we investigate it, and if it's appropriate, they're gone that day."

  • Warren jabbed back: "I hope you heard what his defense was: I've been nice to some women. That just doesn't cut it."

Between the lines: The debate left Bernie Sanders firmly in control of the race headed into Super Tuesday on March 3.

  • Bloomberg's campaign has warned — and other top Democrats agree — that with no disruption in the race, Sanders could quickly accumulate an insurmountable delegate lead.  
  • Robert Gibbs, who was White House press secretary under President Obama, said on MSNBC's postgame show: "A lot of the candidates were focused on Bloomberg. And if they do that too much, the polls will close in California in a little less than two weeks, and they’ll see Bernie with a lead that's ultimately insurmountable — something they can’t catch."

The bottom line ... Kevin Sheekey, Bloomberg's top strategist, said in a post-debate statement: "He was just warming up tonight."

Go deeper

Bloomberg denies telling a pregnant employee to "kill it"

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg on the debate stage Tuesday denied telling a former employee to terminate her pregnancy.

Catch up quick: Per the Washington Post, a former saleswoman has alleged workplace discrimination against Bloomberg and his company and says Bloomberg told her to "kill it" when he learned she was pregnant. Bloomberg denied the allegation under oath and entered a confidential settlement with the woman.

Warren launches at Bloomberg: We can't "substitute one arrogant billionaire for another"

Bloomberg in Las Vegas, Nevada on Feb. 19. Photo: Bridget Bennett/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Elizabeth at Wednesday's Democratic debate painted New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg as the same kind of racist and sexist that Democrats have repeatedly accused President Trump of being.

What she's saying: "I'd like to talk about who we're running against. We're talking about 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."

Debate night: Democrats fight for make-or-break moments in Nevada

Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images.

Billionaire Michael Bloomberg defended his wealth to his Democratic competitors in his debate debut, while Sen. Bernie Sanders, a front-runner, faced comparisons to President Trump over his populist appeals, at the ninth Democratic debate in Las Vegas Wednesday just days before the Nevada caucuses.

The big picture: Sanders argued that Bloomberg's version of centrism won't produce the voter turnout needed to beat Trump. Bloomberg retorted that he doesn't think there's "any chance, whatsoever" of Sanders beating Trump and struck at the senator's Medicare for All plan.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Feb 20, 2020 - Politics & Policy