Nevada debate slugfest: Warren, Buttigieg score

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Democratic party’s most combative debate
Mike Bloomberg (on left), joined the fray in the Democratic party’s most combative debate yet

Democratic party’s most combative debate yet

“Horse-faced lesbians.” That was one of the first barbs flayed against the Democratic presidential field’s newcomer, Mike Bloomberg, Wednesday night, in the party’s most combative debate yet.

MSNBC’s moderator started the two-hour pre-Nevada caucus debate with a question to frontrunner Bernie Sanders and newcomer Mike Bloomberg, but U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren jumped in.

“I’d like to talk about who we’re running against: a billionaire who calls women ‘fat broads’ and ‘horse-faced lesbians.’ And no I’m not talking about Donald Trump,” said Warren. “I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.”

Warren was apparently quoting from an “unauthorized” collection of Bloomberg quotes, called “The Wit and Wisdom of Michael Bloomberg” and pulled together by one of his female corporate officers and reported in the Washington Post February 15. One of the statements listed in the booklet quotes Bloomberg as calling the British royal family “a bunch of misfits—a gay, an architect, that horsey faced lesbian, and a kid who gave up Koo Stark for some fat broad.”

In one quote of the booklet, Bloomberg is quoted as characterizing a competitor as a “Cokehead, womanizing, fag.” Another says that, when asked to identify a sport that does not use balls, Bloomberg replied, “lesbian sex.”

Openly gay candidate Pete Buttigieg went after Sanders and Bloomberg, too. He said Sanders was “a socialist who thinks that capitalism is the root of all evil” and Bloomberg was “a capitalist who thinks that money ought to be the root of all power.”

“Let’s put forward somebody who actually lives and works in a middle-class neighborhood in a Midwest industrial city,” said Buttigieg, referring to himself. “Let’s put forward somebody who’s actually 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.”

Political commentators after the debate seemed to agree that Warren and Buttigieg did the best during the debate; most seemed to think Bloomberg suffered significant hits.

MSNBC talk show host Chris Matthews asked Warren after the debate why she used such a graphic quote, “horse-faced lesbians,” in going after Bloomberg.

“I think it’s important for people to know exactly what Michael Bloomberg has said and done,” said Warren.

“That moment, with you and him,” said Matthews, “whoever’s right or wrong, you or him…that is going to be replayed in every affiliate around the country …for days if not weeks.”

“I hope that is the case,” said Warren.

“Is that a disqualifying fact?” asked Matthews.

“Yes, I think it is disqualifying,” replied Warren. “How can we want to say, ‘We’ll trade our arrogant billionaire for your arrogant billionaire,’ especially when this is a man who has treated women so badly?”

Misogyny was a theme in Nevada.

Several candidates criticized Sanders –on stage and before the debate– for not doing enough to stop the threatening and anti-women attacks in social media on Nevada union workers who have criticized Sanders’ health plan. People claiming to be “Bernie’s Bros” on social media have posted hundreds of messages, warning of violent attacks on Sanders’ critics, including former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank.

Sanders said in several forums that he doesn’t want supporters who engage in violent, bullying social media threats.

During the debate, Buttigieg said Sanders has some responsibility for what people do to support his campaign, “how you motivate people to treat other people.”

“What is it about your campaign that seems to be motivating this kind of behavior?” asked Buttigieg.

Sanders suggested the so-called “Bernie’s Bros” might be part of some effort to interfere in the election.

The landscape of the Democratic presidential competition is changing quickly since the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, but Sanders has been on the top of all recent polls. The latest poll in Nevada showed him with 35 percent, a 19-point lead over the closest competitor, Warren, with 16 percent. Buttigieg was polling third with 15 percent.

In national polling, Sanders led with 32 percent, followed by Biden with 17 percent, Bloomberg with 14, Warren with 11, and Buttigieg with seven percent.

After New Hampshire, Buttigieg has been leading in the number of delegates won to the Democratic National Convention and was in second place in terms of the number of votes racked up. But the improved popularity of moderate Amy Klobuchar and the sudden rise of moderate Bloomberg have clearly cut into Buttigieg’s base. And the division of moderate voters among Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Bloomberg, and Joe Biden, coupled with a slump for Warren, seemed to help give Sanders at least the appearance of leading the field.

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