In the most explosive Democratic primary debate this cycle, six candidates savaged each other on stage from the Las Vegas Paris Theatre with three days to go until the Nevada caucuses on Saturday.
Here are the highlights from Wednesday night’s most momentous debate yet.
The Knives Come Out For Bloomberg
Last night was former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s first on-stage primetime performance facing the other candidates since jumping into the crowded race just a few months ago..
Until recently, Bloomberg has avoided the harsh criticism that comes with mounting a competitive presidential bid while running on a strategy to avoid campaigning in the early states. While the rest of the field sparred through Iowa and New Hampshire, Bloomberg dropped millions building up his name and reputation in the nationwide primaries slated to vote on March 3 dubbed “Super Tuesday.”
Now, as the New York billionaire makes his debate debut while surging in the polls, a series of reputation-destroying revelations have emerged, opening the door to rival candidates to hit on the media mogul.
Leftist Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont naturally kicked off the night with their condemnation of Bloomberg as an out-of-touch one-percenter who championed controversial policing strategies in as mayor and has a long history of making sexist comments towards women.
“I’d like to talk more about who we’re running against,” said Warren standing next to Bloomberg. “A billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians. I’m not talking about Donald Trump. I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.”
Moments later, Warren challenged Bloomberg to release dozens of women from non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) who accuse Bloomberg of operating a hostile work environment for female workers.
Bloomberg rolled his eyes as Warren began to light into him with another round of attacks on his record with women.
“I hope you heard what his defense was. ‘I’ve been nice to some women,'” Warren said. “What we need to know is exactly what’s lurking out there. He has gotten some number of women, dozens, who knows, to sign non-disclosure agreements both for sexual harassment and gender discrimination in the work place,”
“So, Mr. Mayor, are you willing to release all of those women from those non-disclosure agreements so we can hear their side of the story?”
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) February 20, 2020
Bloomberg offered a weak defense, adding that the agreements were consensual.
“We had a very few non-disclosure agreements,” Bloomberg said. “None of them accused me of doing anything other than maybe they didn’t like a joke I told. They’re agreements between two parties that wanted to keep it quiet and that’s up to them. They signed those agreements and we’ll live with it.”
Warren kept pushing to twist the knife already sunk in.
“When you say they signed [NDAs] and they wanted them, if they wish now to speak out and tell their side of the story about what it is they alleged that’s now okay with you? You’re releasing them now on television tonight?” Warren pressed. “Are the women bound by being muzzled by you?”
“They signed the agreements and that’s what we’re going to live with.”
Sanders and the other candidates on stage focused on the former New York mayor’s record on policing while pointing out that he was once a Republican.
“In order to beat Donald Trump we’re going to need the largest voter turnout in the history of the United States,” Sanders said in his opening remarks. “Mr. Bloomberg had policies in New York City of stop and frisk, which went after African-American and Latino people in an outrageous way. That is not a way you’re going to grow voter turnout.”
Candidates Criticize Bloomberg’s Wealth
Bloomberg was the clear boogieman on stage as the billionaire businessman other candidates have characterized as trying to buy the White House.
“Democrats take a huge risk if we just substitute one arrogant billionaire for another,” Warren slammed.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar charged Bloomberg with being too similar to Trump as a longtime New York billionaire who once switched parties.
“I think we need something different from Donald Trump,” Klobuchar said. “I don’t think we look at Donald Trump and say we need someone richer in the White House.”
True to form, Sanders also chastised Bloomberg’s billions when NBC’s Chuck Todd asked about the senator’s past comments that billionaires should not exist.
“We have a grotesque and immoral distribution of wealth in income. Mike Bloomberg owns more wealth than the bottom 125 million Americans. That’s wrong. That’s immoral. That should not be the case,” Sander said.
“Mayor Bloomberg, should you exist?” Todd asked in response to Sanders. “Have you earned too much?… Should you have earned that much money?”
“Yes, I worked very hard for it,” Bloomberg said. “And I’m giving it away.”
— CNBC (@CNBC) February 20, 2020
Bloomberg Blasts Candidates for Promoting Communism
In one of Bloomberg’s few strong moments, he ripped on the candidates promoting far-left socialist programs as supporting “communism.”
“I can’t think of a ways that we make it easier for Donald Trump to get re-elected than to listen to this conversation. This is ridiculous,” Bloomberg said when asked whether he supported programs advocated by self-described socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. “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.”
Michael Bloomberg to Bernie Sanders:
"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." pic.twitter.com/8hFMPI38MX
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) February 20, 2020
Bloomberg Calls Sanders a Hypocrite: ‘You Own Three Homes’
While criticizing the socialist senators on stage for advocating a communist state, Bloomberg labeled Sanders a hypocryte for preaching radical wealth distribution while being a millionaire who owns three homes.
“What a wonderful country we have,” Bloomberg said. “The best-known socialist in the country happens to be a millionaire with three houses. What did I miss here?”
Sanders explained his multiple residencies.
“I work in Washington, house one. Live in Burlington, house two. Like thousands of Vermonters, I have a summer camp. Which tax haven is your home?” Sanders said.
Buttigieg: ‘Let’s Put Forward Someone Who’s Actually A Democrat’
Buttigieg warned Democrats that Bloomberg and Sanders were too polarizing within the party to unite a broad coalition to defeat Trump in November, reminding the audience that Sanders is a registered independent and Bloomberg has been far from a loyal Democrat.
“We could wake up two weeks from today, the day after Super Tuesday, and the only candidates left standing will be Bernie Sanders and Mike Bloomberg, the two most polarizing candidates on this stage,” Buttigieg cautioned. “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… Let’s put forward somebody who’s actually a Democrat.”
“Sanders and Bloomberg. The two most polarizing figures on this stage… 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."#DemDebate pic.twitter.com/EmAxERW2xu
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) February 20, 2020
Warren Goes On Offense In Health Care Battle
Warren didn’t pull any punches on health care. After tearing down Bloomberg for half the debate, Warren laid into the other candidates’ health care plans on stage, arguing they were not enough to fix a broken system.
“We need to get everybody’s health-care plan out here,” Warren said. “Mayor Buttigieg really has a slogan that was thought up by his consultants to paper over a thin version of a plan that would leave millions of people unable to afford their health care. It’s not a plan, it’s PowerPoint.”
Warren then turned on Klobuchar.
“Amy’s plan is even less. It’s like a Post-It note: insert plan here.”
Warren also even took a quick shot at Sanders’s plan for single-payer medicine that is nearly identical to hers, calling it merely a “good start.”
Elizabeth Warren on Pete Buttigieg’s Health Care plan: “It’s not a plan, it’s a PowerPoint.”
On Amy Klobuchar’s: “It’s like a Post It note. Insert plan here.”
— Benny (@bennyjohnson) February 20, 2020
“I must say I take personal offense since Post-It notes were invented in my state,” said Klobuchar.
Buttigieg Calls Klobuchar Dumb
Buttigieg called out Klobuchar for recently not knowing the name of the Mexican president in a recent interview with Telemundo.
“You are on the committee that oversees border security. You’re on the committee that does trade. You’re literally part of the committee that’s overseeing these things and were not able to speak about literally the first thing about the politics of the country to our south,” Buttigieg said.
“Are you trying to say that I’m dumb?” Klobuchar asked. “I said I made an error. People sometimes forget names.”
WATCH: Sen. Klobuchar to Buttigieg: "Are you trying to say that I'm dumb?" pic.twitter.com/74F0zRxQKv
— NBC News (@NBCNews) February 20, 2020
Warren came to Klobuchar’s defense.
“Let’s be clear, missing a name all by itself does not indicate that you do not understand what’s going on and I just think that’s a mistake,” Warren said.
Klobuchar: ‘I Wish Everyone Was As Perfect As You, Pete’
While the two clashed over experience, Klobuchar finally snapped at Buttigieg while he spoke in Spanish.
“I wish everyone was as perfect as you, Pete,” Klobuchar said arguing that unlike the mayor of a mid-size Midwestern city, she has been “in the arena” fighting policy battles on Capitol Hill.
“You’ve memorized a bunch of talking points and a bunch of things,” she said.
“Maybe leading a diverse city that was facing ruin doesn’t sound like the arena to you,” Buttigieg responded. “I’m used to senators telling mayors that senators are more important than mayors, but this is the arena too. You don’t have to be in Washington to matter.”
WATCH: Sen. Klobuchar to Buttigieg: "I wish everyone were as perfect as you, Pete. But let me tell you what it's like to be in the arena."
Buttigieg responds: “You don’t have to be on Capitol Hill for your work to be significant.” pic.twitter.com/bM80LcUzl0
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) February 20, 2020