By: Jeremy Perillo
The ninth Democratic debate, hosted in Las Vegas, proved to be one of the most contentious debates to have taken place so far. With controversial candidate Michael Bloomberg taking the stage for the first time, the whittled-down Democratic field seemed to be at one of its most competitive moments yet.
The controversial former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was no doubt at the center for most of the night’s debate. His campaign’s strategy of spending $400 million so far on campaign ads and his controversial record as mayor have been the focus of concerns from fellow Democratic candidates as the polls surged in his favor.
The Democrats brought up questions about electability and money in politics, and coinciding with the attacks on Bloomberg, Elizabeth Warren was on the offensive throughout the debate. Her fiery and intense performance on Wednesday night was an obvious attempt at trying to boost her campaign, as she stagnated through Iowa and New Hampshire.
Warren drew on the Mayor’s colorful history with harassing women, and “who knows how many nondisclosure agreements.” Warren’s digging weakened Bloomberg, as she pushed him into a corner, forcing him to admit to some of the inappropriate “jokes” he may have said. Overall, for a significant portion of the debate, the candidates were focused on Bloomberg’s NDAs and harassment, something that no candidate wants to remain vulnerable to, especially on their first debate coverage.
Candidates also targeted Bloomberg’s wealth and the controversial stop-and-frisk policy, which disproportionately targeted minorities, that he supported as mayor. Bloomberg answered no answers for a majority of the issues that were raised throughout the debate including why his tax returns haven’t been published, his opposition to Obamacare, and history of harassment towards women.
Most likely as a result of the attention drawn to Bloomberg throughout the night, the Democratic front runner, Bernie Sanders, emerged mostly unscathed from the contentious evening. Attacks were made against Sanders’ Democratic socialist beliefs and medicare for all, but with most of the focus on the new kid on the block, the results of Nevada caucuses may reflect Sanders’ deflection.
Throughout the debate, Joe Biden did not seem to be a serious participant in the ongoing discussion, only speaking for six minutes and twenty-four seconds, while the rest of the candidates, except Pete Buttigieg, spoke for over eight minutes. Biden and Buttigieg, while adding in points here and there, were not able to break away from the rest of the pack enough to have any significant performances. Biden’s campaign, which desperately needs a strong show of force in Nevada and especially South Carolina to ensure its vitality, may hurt significantly from the insignificant performance.
While Klobuchar had one of her best performances to date, her midwest moderacy makes it difficult to break into Sanders’ socialist limelight or the heckling of Bloomberg. Buttigieg and Klobuchar’s midwest moderate stance is smothering each other, creating a difficult decision for independent and moderate Democrats who don’t want a Sanders or a Warren at the top of the ticket.