I had never seen a billionaire get his ass kicked on TV until last night, when Michael Bloomberg took abuse from the other Democratic presidential candidates at the debate in Las Vegas. The primary bruiser was Elizabeth Warren, who carved up the former mayor of New York with words no one has ever spoken to him in person before. I hope that helps Warren get back into the top tier in the polls in the coming days, and in the Nevada caucuses on Saturday. I would also love to see her go one on one with Trump, although he’s such a coward he would probably refuse to debate her.
Bloomberg looked bored, passionless, and less compelling on stage than fellow rich guys (and ex-candidates) Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang combined. It was clear he hadn’t done the prep work necessary before a debate, figuring out good answers to the questions he should have known he’d be confronted with, particularly on sexual harassment, where his responses were absolutely horrible. Does that mean Bloomberg wasted the $400 million he’s spent thus far on TV ads? I don’t think so, because he knows that the next $400 million worth of commercials will be seen more often and by more people than all the viral video clips of Warren putting her foot on his neck combined — especially in California where paid media is so much more expensive than the other Super Tuesday states.
Still, Bloomberg was way out of his league on a stage with five people who had so much more practice in the art of campaigning and debating during the months he wasn’t even in the race. The question I have is, after getting his ass kicked last night (and likely again Tuesday in the next debate), will Bloomberg — who claims the only thing that matters is making 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue the former address for the Trumps — use his wealth to support someone else if they become the nominee? Would they accept it? Even Bernie?
After all was said and done, did this debate change the minds of any voters? I don’t expect much of a shakeup, which means nothing that will keep Bernie from continuing to lead. Perhaps Liz gets back into double digits. In the battle of the moderates, Uncle Joe managed to have an almost gaffe-free night (he confused mediators and moderators and monitors), but his fortunes seem irreversibly bad. Meanwhile, Pete kicked Amy pretty hard with her own record (and then went all Cory Booker with two sentences in Spanish), but Amy kicked right back. They each need the other to drop out, but that seems unlikely in the next couple of weeks, and I didn’t see much last night that will help either of them enough.
My biggest fear last night was that Chuck Todd would revert to one of his ridiculous questions that demand “only a one word answer” or “raise your hand if you agree.” I was disappointed when he snuck one in with 10 minutes to go.
I was also struck by how any major news organization could hold a debate between people running for president in Las Vegas — site of the deadliest mass shooting in US history — without a single question on gun control. Bloomberg has spent a lot of money urging better gun control legislation, but even he didn’t bring it up. Only Biden mentioned the issue in his closing remarks for ten seconds. And it was in very poor taste for MSNBC to put up a graphic immediately after the debate saying, “Democrats trade shots in Las Vegas.”
There was also no discussion whatsoever about Trump’s recent pardons and the rule of law. I agree with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who tweeted last night: “There should be themed debates. Doing so educates the public far more on issues & actually serves the purpose of distinguishing who knows what they’re talking about + who doesn’t. Climate debate. Foreign policy debate. Healthcare. Racial justice. Labor&Econ. Can’t hide.”
Those seem a bit more important than whether we should see Bernie’s chest x-rays.