Democratic debate: Bloomberg focus of combative candidates

Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg took fire from all sides Wednesday in a contentious Democratic presidential debate that saw him questioned on race, money and calling women “fat broads.”

In the course of the two-hour event, Bloomberg, in his first debate appearance, was forced to defend his policy of stop and frisk and was asked if he would, there onstage, release from non-disclosure agreements women in his company who have complained about a hostile workplace.

Bloomberg was hesitant in some answers and seemed nervous when answering other pointed questions, many thrown at him by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Warren displayed a take-no-prisoners attitude for much of the debate, going after not only Bloomberg but everyone else on the stage over issues such as health care, climate change and taxing the wealthy.

A recurring argument between Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar turned heated at one point with Klobuchar asking Buttigieg if he was saying she is dumb.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, also got into several sharp exchanges with Bloomberg, saying he doesn’t believe a billionaire should be allowed to “buy an election.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who likewise went after Bloomberg and his wealth, also took a swipe at Sanders’ Medicare-for-all plan.

“When you asked Bernie how much it cost last time he said...' We’ll find out,’” Biden quipped. “It costs over $35 trillion, let’s get real.”

Here’s how the debate went:

Live updates:

Closing statements

11 p.m. ET Feb. 19, 2020: The debate ends as the candidates are asked to give closing statements.

Klobuchar says it’s about heart and Trump doesn’t have one. She then asks people to go to her website.

Bloomberg says people should go to his website, but he’s not asking for money. He says Trump isn’t doing the job – he’s not a manager, he can’t build teams.

Buttigieg says time is running out but he is the candidate who can build the largest coalition to defeat Trump.

“I grew up fighting,” Warren said. She talks about the hard times she had as a youngster and wonders why the US is still in hard times.

Biden begins to talk and protesters begin to yell. They are escorted from the room. He resumes his statement saying he is running to help people. “I know what it’s like to get knocked down.”

Sanders says he is the candidate for universal health care and taxing millionaires and billionaires.

Who wins at the convention?

10:45 p.m. ET Feb. 19, 2020: Todd asks each candidate if the person with the most candidates should win the nomination, not the person with 1,991 – a majority of the total number of Democratic delegates to the national convention.

Everyone but Sanders says no, the process should play out as the rules dictate. Sanders says the process is skewed with super delegates and that must be addressed.


10:43 p.m. ET Feb. 19, 2020: Klobuchar: tells Buttigieg she wishes "everyone was as perfect as you” after he attacks her on her record.

“You’ve memorized a bunch of talking points, and a bunch of things,” she says.

Buttigieg begins to speak in Spanish.

Helping with Trump’s reelection, according to Bloomberg

10:40 p.m. ET Feb. 19, 2020: Bloomberg takes a swipe at Sanders’s explanation of Democratic socialism.

“I can’t think of a way that would make it easier for Donald Trump to get re-elected than listening to this conversation,” Bloomberg said. “This is ridiculous. We’re not going to throw out capitalism. We tried that. Other countries tried that. It was called communism and it just didn’t work.”

Burnin’ down the party

How much money should you have?

10:16 p.m. ET Feb. 19, 2020: Chuck Todd asks Bloomberg about his wealth.

“Should you have earned that much money?,” Todd asked.

“Yes,” Bloomberg said. “I worked hard for it.”

Biden on guns

Climate change

10 p.m. ET Feb. 19, 2020: Biden is asked about climate change and says he will make sure the U.S. invests in renewable energy and high-speed rail.

Bloomberg says, “If you’re president, the first thing you do the first day is join the Paris agreement.”

Warren said she would allow some exceptions in the moratorium on new mining and oil drilling on land managed by the federal government.

Who is the president of Mexico?

9:55 p.m. ET Feb. 19, 2020: Klobuchar is asked about her inability to name the president of Mexico during an interview a few days ago.

She says his name, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, just slipped her mind. Buttigieg says that shouldn’t happen because part of her job as a senator is overseeing border issues, and he suggests she is not as prepared as she says she is.

Warren steps in and defends Klobuchar, saying forgetting a name happens sometimes.

Sexist remarks

9:50 p.m. ET Feb. 19, 2020: Warren pounces on Bloomberg for his answer on allegations that he made sexist remarks to women in his company, Bloomberg LP.

Bloomberg says he will not talk about it, and that when someone makes sexist remarks at his company, “we investigate it. And if it’s inappropriate, they’re gone that day.”

Warren cuts in and asks why he won’t release women from confidentiality agreements they signed relating to sexist comments and a hostile workplace.

“I’m sorry the question is are the women bound by being muzzled by you and you could release them from that immediately? Understand, this is not just a question of the mayor’s character. This is also a question about electability.”

He says he will not release the women from the agreements.

The audience boos.

“I hope you heard what his defense was. I’ve been nice to some women,” Warren said.

‘I can’t go to Turbo Tax’

9:40 p.m. ET Feb. 19, 2020: Bloomberg explains why he has not yet released his tax returns.

It’s a massive job to do that, Bloomberg says, and the results will be in the thousands of pages, he said.

“I can’t go to Turbo Tax,” he says.

Stop and frisk

9:37 p.m. ET Feb. 19, 2020: Bloomberg explains his stop and frisk policy: “I thought my first responsibility was to give people the right to live,” he said, but “it got out of control.”

“I’ve sat, I’ve apologized, I’ve asked for forgiveness,” Bloomberg said. “We stopped too many people.”

Warren responded, “This really is about leadership and accountability,” she said. “It targeted communities of color; it targeted black and brown men from the beginning. You need a new apology.”

Health care is the issue

9:20 p.m. ET Feb. 19, 2020: Warren attacks the health care plans of everyone on the stage. She says Klobuchar’s could be written on a Post-It note. Buttigieg’s plan is a campaign slogan, she says.

Klobuchar responds: “Post-it notes were invented in my state.”

Fireworks from the start

9:10 a.m. ET Feb. 19, 2020: Sanders gets the first question. It is about Bloomberg and why he, Sanders, would be a better choice for president. Sanders says Bloomberg has baggage that will keep him from bringing in people for Democrats.

Bloomberg says he doesn’t think there is “a chance of the senator (Sanders) beating Trump,” pointing to Sanders’ plan for Medicare for all.

Warren goes after Bloomberg saying there’s one candidate who has referred to women as “fat broad” and “horse-faced lesbians.”

“No, I’m not talking about Donald Trump, I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.”

“We are not going to win,” Warren said, “If we substitute one arrogant billionaire for another.”

Klobuchar said she was happy to see Bloomberg on the stage until she saw a memo from Bloomberg’s campaign that suggested she get out of the race.

Biden says, according to an NBC poll, he is the one who can beat Trump. “Look at your own poll,” he tells the moderators.

Buttigieg says the nominee could end up being one of the “two most polarizing figures on this stage.” Then he suggests, “Let’s put someone forward who is actually a Democrat.”

The debate is about to start

8:53 p.m. ET Feb. 19, 2020: The candidates are taking the stage now.

Who’s Number One?

8:40 p.m. ET Feb. 19, 2020: Sanders is now the front-runner in the Democratic race for the presidential nomination, replacing Biden. He is holding around 30% support in national polls.

However, the leader in primary results, which is what matters in gaining the nomination, is former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. He’s up by one delegate over Sanders.

Steyer isn’t there, but his money is

8:31 p.m. ET Feb. 19, 2020: Tom Steyer is not on the debate stage tonight. The billionaire entrepreneur has spent upwards of $14 million on ad buys in Nevada and is on the Nevada ballot, but he did not get enough support in polls to make the stage.

When will we know Nevada’s results?

8:25 p.m. ET Feb. 19, 2020: The Associated Press is reporting that Democrats will not commit to releasing Saturday’s Nevada caucuses results on Saturday.

According to The AP, Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez said several factors, including early voting and potentially high turnout, could affect the tabulation and timing of results. In addition, Nevada, like Iowa, will be reporting three sets of data from the multistage caucus process.

The rules

8:16 p.m. ET Feb. 19, 2020: The rules for the night will allow debaters one minute and 15 seconds for answering questions they are given by moderators, and 45 seconds for follow-up responses at the moderators’ discretion.

In past debates, those rules have often gone straight out the window with people jumping in on their own and, at times, hijacking the stage.

Health issues

8:03 p.m. ET Feb. 19, 2020: Bloomberg’s and Sanders’ campaigns have been trading barbs today. Sanders’ press secretary claimed this morning on CNN that Bloomberg has had “several heart attacks.” Bloomberg’s campaign called her out, saying Bloomberg has never had a heart attack.

Sanders, himself, has been questioned about his health following the heart attack he suffered in the fall.

A busy night, perhaps

7:43 p.m. ET Feb. 19, 2020: Robert Reich, who was in Presidents Gerald Ford’s, Jimmy Carter’s and Bill Clinton’s administrations, offers a list of questions Michael Bloomberg may have to answer tonight.

Live updates are beginning

7:30 p.m. ET Feb. 19, 2020: Welcome to live updates from the Democratic presidential debate. Six candidates are in Las Vegas getting ready for the debate which comes three days before Saturday’s Nevada caucuses.

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