The Democratic National Committee’s debate Wednesday night in Las Vegas featured the most heated attacks by candidates on each other so far, just three days out from the Nevada Democratic caucuses.
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg often was the main target in his first appearance on the debate stage, facing questions about his crime-fighting policies in that city, his wealth and his plans for America’s future.
Bloomberg was the final candidate to qualify for the debate after a national poll Tuesday from CNN showed him at 19 percent, meaning he met the DNC threshold of 10 percent or more support in four national polls.
That performance put him second behind Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at 31 percent. Bloomberg had been prevented from participating in previous debates where the DNC required candidates to have a certain number of individual donors. The billionaire is self-funding his campaign and has reportedly already spent more than $400 million.
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Wednesday afternoon showed Sanders with a commanding lead nationally at 27 percent. Former Vice President Joe Biden fell from 26 percent and leading last month to a distant second at 15 percent.
Bloomberg came in at 14 percent, the same as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, with former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 13 percent.
Of the top eight Democratic candidates left, only Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and California businessman Tom Steyer did not qualify for the Nevada debate.
Wednesday night’s debate began with Sanders attacking Bloomberg about his “stop and frisk” policing policy as NYC mayor, as well as Bloomberg’s views on health care and fossil fuel.
Buttigieg went on to call Bloomberg and Sanders “two of the most polarizing” candidates on the stage, telling the crowd “I think it’s time we actually put forward a Democratic candidate.”
Biden claimed he did not think Bloomberg ran New York City “very well” and said the former mayor “threw 5 million black men against the wall” under his so-called stop and frisk policy.
On health care, Warren called Buttigieg’s ideas a “thin version of a plan” and said Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s ideas were a “Post-it Note” version of reform. Klobuchar countered, mentioning that Post-it Notes were invented by 3M in her home state.
Bloomberg continued to counter with his business experience, saying “I’m the only one here who has started a business.”
Bloomberg also went after Sanders, who reportedly owns three houses and said capitalism is “grotesque,” telling Bloomberg it was his workers and not him who made his wealth. Bloomberg responded by calling Sanders’ ideas “communist.”
The Nevada Democratic caucuses begin at noon PST Saturday. More than 36,000 participated in early voting Sunday through Tuesday, including 18,000 on the first day.