For those who were hoping that the Nevada debate would be an opportunity for a centrist like former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to shine, there is no doubt that they are currently feeling disappointed.
Bloomberg was the Focus of Onstage Attacks
Bloomberg came under vicious attacks from both Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Warren urged the former New York Mayor to end his non-disclosure agreements with former female employees so that they can ‘tell their side of the story.’ Meanwhile, Sanders attacked him for his substantial wealth and for his record of donating to George W. Bush’s campaigns, as well as those of numerous Republican senators.
Even Barack Obama’s former Vice President Joe Biden lambasted Bloomberg for his record as New York Mayor when he introduced a “stop and frisk” policy that “targeted many black Americans.”
Warren’s Strategy in the Debate
After experiencing a disappointing start to her Democratic primary campaign, Warren was hoping for an opportunity to revitalize her fortunes, and the Nevada debate certainly did that. She took advantage of an unprepared Bloomberg who failed to produce any decent responses to her accusations of sexism. Warren even made the audience laugh when she mocked Bloomberg for claiming that he was “nice” to some women but not others.
Sanders is now the favorite to win the 2020 Democratic nomination. According to Newsweek, before the Nevada debate, ten polls released since Monday show that the Senator’s percentage of support ranges from the mid 20s to early 30s. Bloomberg’s entrance into the Democratic race has allowed Sanders to demonstrate how he is different to the former New York Mayor, with the former emphasizing that Bloomberg cannot “buy” the Democrats’ 2020 nomination. Whilst Warren proclaims her love for capitalism, Sanders portrayed himself as the only genuine democratic socialist standing in the Democratic primaries. Therefore, he has now become the man to beat as he rallies his energized, progressive base.
Moderate Voters are Desperate
Many moderates are now desperate for a candidate who can stop the progressive wing of the party from winning the Democratic nomination. Although Biden was once regarded as the man who could do that, his performance last night was mediocre at best and his results thus far in Iowa and New Hampshire have been severely underwhelming. He reminded the audience of his accomplishments as Vice President, but he was overshadowed by Warren’s and Sanders’ attacks on Bloomberg.
Buttigieg’s Bad Night in Las Vegas
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg did not have a good night in Las Vegas either. Buttigieg surprised many with his performances in Iowa and New Hampshire, and may still be the best candidate to defeat Sanders. He has impressed many with his similarities to Obama and his military background gives him a chance of tackling Trump on foreign policy issues. Nevada should have been the moment when a centrist candidate such as Buttigieg presumably should have shined.
Instead, Buttigieg got distracted with his attacks on Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. They clashed over the latter’s failure to recall the name of the Mexican President. He also focused on her Senate vote to make English the US’s national language and for voting to confirm Kevin McAleenan, Trump’s former US Customs and Border Protection commissioner, who oversaw the agency during the administration’s family separation policy. But the Minnesota Senator reminded the South Bend Mayor that she is “proud” of her work on immigration reform and disputed his attempt to characterize her as a hypocrite.
Buttigieg should have held Sanders to account for his radical policies and connected with the Nevada audience, especially as he is polling poorly in the state. The moderates were too busy fighting each other. They allowed the Vermont Senator to dominate the stage and emerge as the closest thing the party has to a credible candidate.
After Iowa and New Hampshire, the South Bend Mayor should have been the man to defeat Sanders, but instead he has only made the latter’s victory more likely. This is why the Nevada debate changed everything for Buttigieg — for the worse.