- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The jabs came fast and furious against Michael R. Bloomberg at the Democratic presidential debate Wednesday in Las Vegas, where his rivals ganged up to take him down for harassing women, hiding his tax returns and, worst of all, being a billionaire just like President Trump.

The pummeling greeted Mr. Bloomberg as soon as the curtain rose on his first debate appearance in the race.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who is struggling to regain her footing in the far-left lane of the race, muscled her way into the opening salvo to accuse Mr. Bloomberg of being a mirror image of Mr. Trump.

SEE ALSO: Winners and losers from the Democratic debate

“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,” Ms. Warren said.

She later added, “Democrats take a huge risk if we just substitute one arrogant billionaire for another.”

Mr. Bloomberg countered that he is the strongest Democratic candidate because he can defeat Mr. Trump and do the job of president.

SEE ALSO: Warren unloads on Bloomberg over NDAs: ‘That’s not what we do’

“I am a New Yorker. I know how to take on an arrogant con man like Donald Trump that comes from New York,” he said, vowing to pour his largesse into the fight. “If I can get that done, it will be a great contribution to America and to my kids.”

The question of electability or the ability to beat Mr. Trump was a theme echoed by the other hopefuls gunning for Mr. Bloomberg, including front-running avowed socialist Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont and more moderate upstart Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana.

Mr. Sanders said Mr. Bloomberg, a former mayor of New York, couldn’t turn out the minority voters needed to oust Mr. Trump.

“Mr. Bloomberg had policies in New York City of stop and frisk that went after African American and Latino people in an outrageous way,” Mr. Sanders said.

He also said people should ask why Mr. Bloomberg backed President George W. Bush in 2004, put money behind Republicans running for the Senate and backed cuts to entitlement programs.

“If that is a way to beat Donald Trump — wow — I would be very surprised,” Mr. Sanders said.

Mr. Buttigieg, who is openly gay, said the Democratic race could boil down to a losing proposition of either Mr. Sanders or Mr. Bloomberg.

“We shouldn’t have to choose between one candidate who wants to burn this party down and another candidate who wants to buy this party out. We can do better,” he said.

He is jockeying in the more moderate lane of the race with Mr. Bloomberg and several other contenders, such as Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden.

But the billionaire’s more than $300 million in TV ads have given him a leg up in the race to take on the far-left Mr. Sanders.

Mr. Buttigieg said a Sanders-Bloomberg race was a recipe to reelect Mr. Trump.

“Most Americans don’t see where they fit if they have to choose between a socialist who thinks capitalism is the root of all evil and a billionaire who thinks money ought to be the root of all power,” he said. “Let’s put forward somebody who actually lives and works in a middle-class neighborhood in an industrial Midwestern city.”

Mr. Bloomberg, a Democrat turned Republican turned independent turned Democrat, has been the wild card in the race.

The billionaire businessman has been waiting with an aircraft carrier chock-full of cash and an armada of paid political operatives, while the rest of the Democratic presidential field navigates the choppy waters of the first four primary states.

Forgoing the opening contests allowed Mr. Bloomberg to stay above the fray and focus on defining himself, before others do it for him, with a more than $300 million spending spree on TV ads across the 14 states in the Super Tuesday primaries on March 3, when over a third of all the pledged delegates to the Democratic National Convention will be on the line.

Evidence suggests the strategy is working.

Mr. Bloomberg climbed into a tie for first place in Virginia, second place in California and third place in North Carolina, according to the Real Clear Politics average of polls.

Seeking to make up for lost time, even before the debate, his rivals started attacking him. Even those who failed to make the debate stage have taken on Mr. Bloomberg in a more forceful manner.

Before the debate, fellow billionaire Tom Steyer launched what his presidential campaign called an initial “seven-figure” TV ad buy cautioning voters about Mr. Bloomberg’s past support for “racist” policies and for comments on policing and housing.

Michael Bloomberg has been telling his story in TV ads all across Super Tuesday states, but there is another side of that story that voters need to know,” Mr. Steyer said. “It’s important that Democratic voters get the full picture of Bloomberg’s record, including on issues such as stop and frisk, redlining and support for Republicans including George W. Bush.”

Citing the unsettled nature of the nomination race, Mr. Bloomberg entered in late November after the contenders participated in five nationally televised debates.

He failed to qualify for the ensuing three debates after signaling that he had no intention of trying to meet the donor criteria that the Democratic National Committee set as a way to cull the field and to ensure candidates could build strong grassroots support and donor networks.

But the party tweaked the rules late last month to remove the donor threshold and open the door for Mr. Bloomberg to qualify solely through strong polling.

The move infuriated the far left, including the Sanders camp, which said the change was the “definition of a rigged system.”

S.A. Miller contributed to this report.

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