Democrats clash in fiery Las Vegas debate with Bloomberg as main target


WASHINGTON (CBS News) — Michael Bloomberg was welcomed to his very first presidential debate with a fusillade of attacks generally reserved for front-runners. For parts of the debate, he was the main target of his fellow Democratic candidates, but there were also a number of clashes between other candidates in what may have been the most contentious debate of the primary season yet.

The six Democrats faced off in Las Vegas, less than a week away from the Nevada caucuses, which take place on Saturday. Early voting is already underway.

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Bloomberg was challenged on his record on stop-and-frisk, his derogatory comments about women, his tax returns, his wealth and his company’s use of nondisclosure agreements. Elizabeth Warren kicked things off by saying, “I’d like to talk about who we’re running against — a billionaire who calls women ‘fat broads’ and ‘horse-faced’ … No, I’m not talking about Donald Trump. I’m talking about Michael Bloomberg.”

His wealth and the way he’s used it were brought up frequently. At one point, the mere fact of his wealth was a topic, when moderator Chuck Todd mentioned that Bernie Sanders had once said that billionaires should not exist. He posed the question to Bloomberg: “Mayor Bloomberg, should you exist?”

Pete Buttigieg called Bloomberg and Sanders the “most polarizing candidates on the stage” and suggested that one, Sanders, “wants to burn this party down,” and “the other wants to buy this party out.” But he mainly clashed with Amy Klobuchar, attacking her inability to recall the name of the Mexican president. “Are you saying I’m dumb?” Klobuchar said.

The clashes between Buttigieg and Klobuchar continued until the closing minutes of the debate, with Buttigieg going after Klobuchar for supporting Trump nominees. Klobuchar derided Buttigieg in response, saying that he was “not in the arena” and dismissed him as having just “memorized a bunch of talking points.”

Mr. Trump, meanwhile, held a rally in Phoenix, the first in a three-day swing of rallies. He referenced the debate and Bloomberg’s performance, saying “I hear he’s getting pounded tonight — you know, he’s in a debate.”

“He spent $500 million so far and I think he has 15 points. Crazy Bernie was at 30,” Mr. Trump said.

NBC News and MSNBC hosted the Las Vegas debate, in partnership with the Nevada Independent newspaper. The next debate, hosted by CBS News with the Congressional Black Caucus Institute, will be held Tuesday in Charleston, South Carolina, ahead of that state’s primary on February 29.

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