Democrats bare fangs at Michael Bloomberg in fiery debate
Las Vegas: Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg endured a punishing assault in his debut Democratic presidential debate on Wednesday from rivals who savaged him for parachuting in late and throwing astronomical amounts of money at the race.
The Las Vegas showdown came at a tense time in the party’s nomination race, with Bernie Sanders coalescing as the front-runner and some challengers fighting for survival.
US media magnate Bloomberg found himself targeted from the start, as candidates from Sanders to former vice president Joe Biden impugned the man whose sudden prominence in polling has scrambled the race to defeat President Donald Trump.
“Understand this: Democrats take a huge risk if we just substitute one arrogant billionaire for another,” Senator Elizabeth Warren said in a fiery attack on Bloomberg.
“Democrats are not going to win if we have a nominee who has a history of hiding his tax returns, of harassing women, and of supporting racist policies,” she added.
Sanders hit Bloomberg hard on his vast wealth at a time of “grotesque” income inequality in America.
“Mike Bloomberg owns more wealth than the bottom 125 million Americans,” Sanders said in one of the night’s many abrasive moments. “That’s immoral.”
All eyes were on Bloomberg’s first appearance on the debate stage after spending hundreds of millions of dollars on campaign advertising.
He endured a very public vetting and struggled to highlight his roles as problem solver, businessman, city manager and philanthropist. He found himself on the defensive when pressed to explain sexual harassment claims against him and employees, his delay in releasing his taxes and more.
Political analyst Aaron Kall of the University of Michigan said Bloomberg proved “really weak” in the face of the onslaught.
“It’ll be interesting to see […] whether that’s disqualifying for a lot of people that have recently gone on his side,” Kall said.
Bloomberg at one point managed to push back forcefully against Sanders, saying if the self-declared democratic socialist is the nominee, “we will have Donald Trump for another four years”. – AFP