The Democratic presidential contenders begin a frantic dash for votes after a fiery debate featuring a volley of attacks on big-spending billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who was making his debut on the national debate stage.
The top six Democratic presidential candidates faced off in Las Vegas in the most combative debate of the election and days before the high-stakes caucuses in Nevada.
It was the first debate for Mike Bloomberg, and the former New York mayor’s rivals in the Democratic race for president immediately took aim – attacking him for his legacy on racist policing and reports of sexist comments and discrimination at his companies.
In the first minutes of the debate, the Vermont senator Bernie Sanders argued that Bloomberg’s legacy of stop-and-frisk made it impossible for him to broaden the Democratic party’s coalition and defeat Donald Trump.
The former New York City mayor, who has been rising fast in polls since he joined the race in November, seemed uncomfortable and hesitant at times in his first debate. He defended his record and argued he had the best chance of beating Republican President Donald Trump in the Nov. 3 election.
Rivals Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg all leaped at the chance to go after the media mogul, who has surged in polls by spending hundreds of millions of dollars out of his own pocket on an advertising blitz.
They criticized Bloomberg, who has been accused over the years of sexist comments, for his treatment of women as well as his support while mayor of “stop-and-frisk” police policies that ensnared disproportionate numbers of blacks and Latinos.
The candidates also accused Bloomberg of trying to buy his way into the White House and said his record as mayor and businessman was not good enough to beat Trump.
“Democrats take a huge risk if we just substitute one arrogant billionaire for another,” said Warren, a senator from Massachusetts who had her most aggressive debate.
Nevada’s caucuses are the third contest in the state-by-state race to find a challenger to Trump. South Carolina holds its primary on Feb. 29.
Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has a town hall meeting and a fundraiser scheduled in Los Angeles, and Bloomberg has a morning event in Utah.