Well, that was brutal. In the first few minutes of the Nevada Democratic debate on Wednesday night, a few things became clear. For starters, Sen. Elizabeth Warren came to fight, and fight hard.
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was prepared to attack Sen. Bernie Sanders, but totally unprepared for the level and voraciousness of the attacks which would be hurled back in his direction. Sanders was clearly expecting to take incoming fire, which he did, practically all night, whenever the other candidates weren’t busy attacking Bloomberg, but he was ready for it.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar tried to stay fairly level-headed during the debate, not rising to the level of roundhouse blows coming from Elizabeth Warren, and she probably came out looking decent on the other side.
Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg didn’t have his best night, often coming off with a “preachy” attitude toward his colleagues on stage, and seeming to take his attacks on Klobuchar a bit too far over the edge to the point of eliciting sympathy for his target from viewers.
Who are we missing? There was another candidate on stage though, wasn’t there? Former vice president Joe Biden, despite sharing center stage with Sanders, was almost an irrelevant non-issue for the night, which probably helped him, to be honest. His answers were often meandering, not directly addressing the question posed.
In the second half of the debate when asked point-blank about specific policies to help with regional issues in Nevada relating to climate change, Biden served up a laundry list of talking points, but nothing which resembled a particular policy to answer the question. This was indicative of his answers for many questions throughout the night, much of the time veering back toward his tenure serving under President Obama or his service in the U.S. Senate.
Enough about Biden, though, let’s get into the dynamics of the battle between Bloomberg and Sanders, the capitalist versus socialist fight that played out before our very eyes.
There was plenty of back-and-forth between Warren and Bloomberg, Warren and Buttigieg, Bloomberg and Sanders, Sanders and Bloomberg, etc.. Here are some of the highlights making rounds this morning.
You could tell that at times Sanders was getting under Bloomberg’s skin over attacks on wealth and attacks on his own personal fortune. This exchange, where Bloomberg attempts to call Sanders a hypocrite was a big moment, perhaps one of the few times when Bloomberg actually scored a point.
On the other hand, though, Bloomberg was on defense from the first few minutes thanks to Warren’s opening salvo:
This opener from Warren set the table for the evening. Bloomberg would be on the defense from this point forward. His history of being a Republican, his record as mayor on stop-and-frisk, his personal fortune at his disposal to wedge himself into the Democratic primary, and accusations of sexism within his media company all became fair game for the rest of the night.
Then, there were the battles between the less progressive candidates on stage. Pete Buttigieg spent a lot of time positioning himself just perfectly as the solution to the billionaire vs. Bernie debate. He also tried to call-out Klobuchar specifically:
At one point, Klobuchar finally got to the point of what often comes to mind when watching Buttigieg on stage. “I’m sorry we aren’t all as perfect as you are,” she retorted to him. Buttigieg said a lot on Wednesday night without saying much at all. Overall not his best night as he spent a lot of time on platitudes and trying to find the right lane, but not much time advancing his message. In the end, his argument boiled down to “I’m not that guy, or that guy, so vote for me.”
Joe Biden, an oft-opponent of Sanders throughout past debates over Medicare For All, shouldn’t be left out of the honorable mentions:
Sanders was expecting to take fire, as the front runner always does, and he was fairly well-prepared for it. His argument often comes down to his own courage in pushing his policies as much more important than his opponent’s excuses for not accomplishing things like universal healthcare.
For Bernie, it’s an “all or nothing” argument. Either you’re for his vision of achieving his overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system and economy, or you’re not, there is very little middle ground in his world.
The other portion of the evening which very likely hurt Bloomberg was when Elizabeth Warren went specifically at his past with allegations of sexism and a spate of non-disclosure agreements signed between Bloomberg and various female (or male?) employees:
Clearly he was unprepared for this and his responses were about the best he could muster on the spot, but the blood was shed on stage over this issue. Biden even got in on the action to complete the pile-on.
The end message is that Bloomberg finally had his day on the examination table and his opponents didn’t waste a second of it. It’s safe to say he took some damage. How major it will hurt him moving forward until the debate next week remains to be seen.
As for who won this debate? In some ways, Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar probably came out the best in the end, as did Elizabeth Warren. Bernie took a lot of harsh attacks on his views, but aside from Bloomberg calling him an outright communist, it’s all been heard before on the debate stage. The only difference, perhaps, is that more voters and viewers are finally tuning in to the primary so maybe they’re hearing it for the first time.