Fight Night in Vegas: Democrats Brawl in Ninth Presidential Debate

From left, Democratic presidential candidates, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.,former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., stand on stage before a Democratic presidential primary debate Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020, in Las Vegas, …
AP Photo/Matt York

Democrat presidential candidates entered the ninth Democrat presidential primary debate on Wednesday in attack mode.

The candidates launched at least 50 different attacks in the debate that, at times, appeared to overwhelm the NBC debate moderators.

The candidates who participated in the eight prior debates immediately teamed up against newcomer, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who took the debate stage for the first time on Wednesday.

“Mr. Bloomberg had policies in New York City of stop and frisk, which went after African American and Latino people in an outrageous way,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said in his first debate answer. “That is not a way you’re going to grow voter turnout.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) went further, reminding voters that Bloomberg called women “fat broads” and “horse-faced lesbians,” comparing him to President Donald Trump.

“Look, I’ll support whoever the Democratic nominee is,” she said. “But understand this: Democrats take a huge risk if we just substitute one arrogant billionaire for another.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) attacked Bloomberg’s campaign for suggesting that the three more moderate candidates should “get out of the way” to allow him to become the nominee.

“I’m not going to do that because a campaign memo from Mayor Bloomberg said this morning that the only way that we get a nominee is if we step aside for him,” she said.

Joe Biden began the debate by challenging Bloomberg on New York City’s policy of stop-and-frisk.

“He didn’t get a whole lot done,” Biden said about Bloomberg. “He had stop and frisk, throwing close to five million young black men up against a wall.”

Pete Buttigieg began his remarks by warning Democrats that the Democrat race could end up between Bloomberg and Sanders.

“Let’s put forward somebody who’s actually a Democrat,” he said, alluding to Sanders’ political identity as a Democratic socialist and Bloomberg’s flip from a Republican to an independent to a Democrat.

“We shouldn’t have to choose between one candidate who wants to burn this party down and another candidate who wants to buy this party out,” he continued. “We can do better.”

Sanders then pivoted to Buttigieg, reminding voters that he took money from billionaires like Michael Bloomberg, prompting Buttigieg to accuse Sanders of fueling a “toxic political environment” that produced online attacks against the Culinary Union in Las Vegas.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar jumped in to attack Sanders’ insurance bill, citing the millions of Americans who could lose their health care under his plan.

Warren then attacked Buttigieg, Klobuchar, and Sanders on their health care plans.

Buttigieg, she said, had a health care plan that was “a slogan that was thought up by his consultants.” Klobuchar, she said, was “like a Post-It note,” that read, “Insert Plan Here.” And Sanders, she said, only fueled online attacks of people who questioned how it would work.

Klobuchar pivoted to a Las Vegas gambling attack on both Warren’s and Sanders’ plan for health care.

“Why is Medicare for All not on the wheel?” she asked. “Why is it not on the wheel? Because two-thirds of the Democratic senators are not even on that bill.”

Biden then stepped in to warn that Sanders’ bill cost over $35 trillion and warned that he had no decent answer for how it would get paid for and also attacked Bloomberg for calling Obamacare a “disgrace.”

“What am I, chicken liver?” Bloomberg responded when Warren jumped in to attack Buttigieg’s plan.

As the moderators turned the debate topic to Bloomberg’s support of the stop-and-frisk policies in New York, Biden pivoted back to his attacks of the practice.

“Let’s get the order straight. And it’s not whether he apologized or not,” he said. “It’s the policy. The policy was abhorrent. And it was a fact of violation of every right people have.”

Warren attacked Bloomberg by accusing him of “willful ignorance” of the stop-and-frisk impact on communities of color.

When the moderators questioned whether Sanders was being transparent about his health records, he pivoted to note that Bloomberg also had two stents in his heart, suggesting that he was not as healthy as he suggested.

But Buttigieg responded by attacking Sanders for failing to be transparent about his health but added that he was “delighted” that the senator was in “fighting shape” and pivoted back to attacking Sanders for failing to explain how he would pay for his healthcare plan.

Klobuchar attacked Sanders for failing to release the records from his physical and called for Bloomberg to release his tax returns.

After Bloomberg said he was working on it, Warren said that perhaps the billionaire should pay his accountants overtime to get it done and then launched into an attack of his record with women, calling him to free former employees from non-disclosure agreements.

Sanders attacked Bloomberg by reminding Democrats that he supported former President George W. Bush for president in 2004 and donated to Republicans.

Biden reminded voters that Bloomberg did not support Obama for president.

After the moderators switched topics, Buttigieg then jumped to attack Klobuchar for failing to remember the name of the Mexican president.

“Are you trying to say that I’m dumb?” Klobuchar replied. “Or are you mocking me here, Pete?”

As Klobuchar tried to make an argument for her experience as the Senator of Minnesota, Buttigieg compared her to failed presidential candidate Walter Mondale, also from Minnesota.

The NBC debate moderators took a break, which led to a series of questions on Nevada-focused issues before the fight resumed.

Sanders hit Bloomberg for contributing to a “corrupt political system” that allowed the wealthy to escape high taxes.

Bloomberg hit Sanders for being one of 99 other senators that allowed him to operate in the system.

“I was thinking there was going to be a boxing rematch on Saturday in Vegas, and those guys should go down there,” Klobuchar replied, referring to an upcoming boxing fight in the state.

Sanders continued, attacking Bloomberg for a “grotesque and immoral distribution of wealth and income,” which prompted Bloomberg to call Sanders a communist.

“We’re not going to throw out capitalism,” he said. “We tried. Other countries tried that. It was called communism, and it just didn’t work.”

Sanders continued to attack Bloomberg for his wealth until the former New York City mayor reminded him that the Vermont senator owns three houses.

“What a wonderful country we have. The best known socialist in the country happens to be a millionaire with three houses,” he said.

Buttigieg then flattered Sanders by saying he “was into Bernie before it was cool” in high school, but then immediately pivoted to attack his healthcare plan and raising taxes to pay for it.

When Warren got time, she attacked Biden and Klobuchar for being “eager to be liked by Mitch McConnell” and Buttigieg for “taking money from big donors and changing his positions.”

Buttigieg used his time to attack Bloomberg for opposing raising the minimum wage and trying to buy the election while Sanders was “trying to burn the house down.”

He also criticized Klobuchar for voting to confirm Trump’s nominee for Customs and Border Protection.

As Klobuchar and Buttigieg bickered back and forth, debate moderator Chuck Todd intervened.

“Guys, guys, we are at the end here. We are at the end here,” he said. “I’ve got to let that one go.”


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