Warren shines, Sanders stays steadfast and Bloomberg takes a beating in Democratic debate
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The six Democratic candidates spent most of their time on stage in Las Vegas, Nevada ripping each other apart with one candidate, debate debutant Michael Bloomberg, bearing the brunt of the attacks.
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren came out all guns blazing against former New York Mayor Bloomberg just minutes into the ninth debate: "We're running against a billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians. And, no, I am not talking about Donald Trump, I'm talking about Mayor Bloomberg.”
"Democrats take a huge risk if we just substitute one arrogant billionaire for another," Warren added.
Bloomberg, who entered the race 10 weeks ago, and is skipping the first four states on the primary calendar and instead focusing his considerable financial resources on the 15 states and territories that vote on Super Tuesday, said he is "a philanthropist who didn't inherit his money but made his money".
"I’m spending that money to get rid of Donald Trump – the worst president we’ve ever had”, said Bloomberg. “And if I can get that done, it will be a great contribution to America and to my kids.”
Warren continued to savage Bloomberg, criticising his record on race and history of sexist comments. At times, Bloomberg seemed lost for words as he nervously scratched his nose.
"We are not going to beat Donald Trump with a man who has who knows how many nondisclosure agreements and the drip, drip, drip of stories of women saying they have been harassed and discriminated against," Warren said.
Bloomberg said there were "very few" nondisclosure agreements. "None of them accuse me of anything," he added. "Maybe they didn't like the jokes I told."
Both Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden are trying to reignite their campaigns after poor showings in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Biden berates Bloomberg for stop-and-frisk
Biden attacked Bloomberg over the stop-and-frisk policing policy in New York City that has targetted blacks and Latinos. Biden said Bloomberg's policy had thrown "close to 5 million young black men up against the wall " and that he (Biden) had worked with the Obama administration to put an end to the policy.
"It's not whether you apologise or not, it's the policy. The policy was abhorrent. And it was in fact a violation of every right people have," Biden said.
Biden told Bloomberg that apologising for the misguided policy was not enough.
Trump added his voice to the attacks on Bloomberg, telling supporters at a rally in Phoenix, Arizona: "I hear he's getting pounded tonight."
The high stakes in this debate were evident in the scathing attacks each of the candidates heaped on the other.
Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar exchanged barbs. The two are battling it out for the "moderate" moniker. Buttigieg would not let up on the fact that Klobuchar had not been able to name the president of Mexico in an interview. Klobuchar was visibly rattled: "I wish everyone was as perfect as you Pete", she told him sarcastically.
Sanders defends socialism
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who is the frontrunner in the Democratic race, stayed true to himself throughout, deflecting attacks and defending his Medicare for all proposal.
When Bloomberg tried to equate socialism with communism, Sanders called it a “cheap shot” and turned the discussion to democratic socialism, saying, “We are living in many ways in a socialist society right now. The problem is, as Dr. Martin Luther King reminded us. We have socialism for the very rich. Rugged individualism for the poor.”
The debate comes at a pivotal time, three days before Nevada's presidential caucuses, the first in a state known for its more diverse population after contests in the mainly white states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
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