Mike Bloomberg spent the past 10 weeks flooding the airwaves with ads while climbing in the national polls. Now, he risks losing those swift gains as he stumbled through his first nationally televised primary debate.
The Back Story: Billionaire businessman Mike Bloomberg launched his presidential campaign just 10 weeks ago, while most of his Democratic rivals started at least a year earlier. His self-funded campaign spent $409 million through January 2020, more than all other Democratic candidates combined. All of this spending had positioned him as a top-tier candidate, though critics of the former New York City Mayor say he is attempting to buy the election.
What Happened: Due to earlier Democratic Party debate rules requiring a broad base of small campaign donors, Bloomberg was unable to participate in earlier debates. The party changed its qualification rules prior to the February 19th debate in Las Vegas, which allowed Bloomberg to participate. Many within the moderate wing of the party had high hopes for Bloomberg, who is considered a moderate voice within an increasingly progressive party.
Bloomberg provided the nation with a wildly disappointing performance. He was rusty. He was testy. He was out of touch. And, for a candidate often shielded by the scripted one-liners of killer campaign advisers, he was on his own — unable to hide his peevish demeanor and unable to portray himself, as his campaign has tried to do, as the clear choice to stop Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and beat President Donald Trump.
Bloomberg emerged so diminished that the other billionaire Democrat in the race — who failed to qualify for the debate stage — stepped in wielding a platinum dagger.
“One lesson from tonight,” Tom Steyer concluded of the evening, “looks like Mike Bloomberg might be running in the wrong primary.”
- Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) came out swinging, saying “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.”
- Bloomberg rolled his eyes when Warren pressured him to release women had signed non-disclosure agreements at his company (Bloomberg L.P.), allowing them to share “their side of the story.”
- When asked how many non-disclosure agreements existed, Bloomberg insisted there are “very few,” stating he has never been accused of any wrongdoing, “other than maybe they didn’t like a joke I told.”
- Bloomberg stated he would release his latest tax returns, however it takes time since “the number of pages will probably be in the thousands of pages. I can’t simply go to TurboTax,” unintentionally highlighting his immense wealth in comparison to the average American.
- On his controversial stop-and-frisk policing policy while New York’s Mayor, Bloomberg said he felt embarrassed about how it turned out, though said “there is no great answer to a lot of these problems.” Joe Biden called it abhorrent, Warren said he needs to truly apologize.
See What Major News Sources are Saying:
- Politico: Bloomberg Bombs in Debate Debut
- Fox News: After Bloomberg Bombs in Debate Debut, Will It Sink Him?
- The New York Times: How Bloomberg Bungled a Debate That He Had Been Prepped For
- Wall Street Journal: Michael Bloomberg, in Debate, Draws Fire from Democratic Rivals
- Washington Post: Bloomberg’s Disastrous Debate Performance Capped His Catastrophic Week