Democrats back out hunting for votes after bruising debate

DEMOCRATIC presidential candidates hit the campaign trail on Thursday after a bruising debate that saw billionaire Michael Bloomberg take a pummelling from his rivals.
“Worst debate performance in history!” crowed President Donald Trump of the former New York mayor’s first debate appearance since joining the race in November.
Bloomberg, who has surged in the polls behind hundreds of millions of dollars of spending on television, radio and online ads, was the target of unrelenting attacks all night from the other five candidates on the Las Vegas stage.
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is battling front-runner Bernie Sanders for the party’s left-wing, delivered some of the most piercing barbs at the 78-year-old media magnate as she seeks to revive her sagging campaign.
“I’d like to talk about who we’re running against: a billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians,” Warren said just minutes into the televised debate.
“And no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump,” she said. “I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.
“Democrats are not going to win if we have a nominee who has a history of hiding his tax returns, of harassing women, and of supporting racist policies,” said Warren, who finished third in the Iowa caucuses and fourth in the New Hampshire primary.
Sanders, the senator from Vermont who has been topping national polls, lashed out at Bloomberg’s vast wealth at a time of “grotesque” income inequality in America.
“Mike Bloomberg owns more wealth than the bottom 125 million Americans,” the 78-year-old self-described democratic socialist said. “That’s immoral.”

US presidential hopeful Mike Bloomberg (L), the former mayor of New York, joined his fellow Democrats on stage for the first time for their ninth debate of the party’s nomination process on February 19
Bloomberg appeared to be rocked by the ferocity of the attacks and
Bloomberg appeared to be rocked by the ferocity of the attacks and found himself on the defensive when pressed to explain sexual harassment claims against him and employees, his delay in releasing his taxes and more.
The three-time New York mayor recovered somewhat in the second half of the debate as he sought to highlight his roles as problem solver, successful businessman, city manager and philanthropist.
But overall it was a rocky performance for a candidate who chose to unconventionally skip the first four nominating contests and make a splash on “Super Tuesday,” when 14 states hold primaries.
– ‘Debate implosion’ –
Nevada, where the debate was held, will be the next state to vote, holding caucuses on Saturday, followed by South Carolina a week later.
US President Donald Trump delivers remarks at a Keep America Great rally in Phoenix, Arizona, on February 19, the same day Democratic White House hopefuls held a contentious debate in Las Vegas
David Axelrod, who served as chief strategist for Barack Obama’s two presidential campaigns, said Bloomberg’s “debate implosion” was good news for Sanders although Warren’s strong performance keeps her challenge alive.
Sanders and Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, will be hoping to build in Nevada and South Carolina on their strong performances in Iowa and New Hampshire while former vice president Joe Biden will be looking to rebound from his dismal showing in the first two voting states.
Buttigieg and Biden both took shots Wednesday night at Sanders and Bloomberg.
“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,” Buttigieg said.
Biden, who has seen Bloomberg cut into his support among moderate Democrats, criticized Sanders over immigration policy and gun reform, but it remained to be seen whether it will help him in Nevada and beyond.
Bloomberg at one point managed to push back forcefully against Sanders, saying if he is the Democratic nominee, “we will have Donald Trump for another four years.”
Trump dismissed Bloomberg’s performance, calling him “stumbling, bumbling and grossly incompetent.” “If this doesn’t knock him out of the race, nothing will,” he tweeted.
Democratic presidential hopefuls Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Bernie Sanders participate in the ninth Democratic primary debate of the 2020 cycle in Las Vegas, Nevada
A Washington Post-ABC News poll out Wednesday showed Sanders with a commanding double-digit lead nationally, at 32 percent. Sagging former front-runner Biden was second at 16 percent, followed by Bloomberg at 14 and Warren at 12.
For Warren and fellow candidate Senator Amy Klobuchar, the debate was a critical chance to convince voters that they belong in the race as it goes national.
As Democrats trained fire on one another, Klobuchar reminded candidates that their real opponent was the Republican in the White House.
“We have not been talking enough about Donald Trump,” she said.
AFP