World’s 12th richest person has to do better than this if he wants to challenge Trump
New York billionaire Mike Bloomberg has appeared on the presidential campaign trail for the first time alongside his Democratic rivals.
The former Republican had a rocky debate debut alongside five other presidential candidates in Las Vegas, writes Ian Woods:
Poor Mike Bloomberg. That’s not a word normally associated with the 12th wealthiest person on the planet.
But not only did his first debate performance fail to match the slickness of his many campaign ads, he also got quite a kicking from his rivals.
The ganging up was predictable. And maybe his lacklustre debate performance should have been expected too; after all, the other Democrats have honed their arguments over many months.
But how much sympathy can one have for a man who skipped the slog of attending endless events, meeting voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, in favour of a late entry in the race via a blitz of expensive advertising?
His presence intensified the debate, but often at his expense. Answers he would have prepared were not well delivered.
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Las Vegas is a city built for gamblers. The latest Democratic debate was staged here because Nevada is the third state to go to the polls on Saturday.
Mr Bloomberg won’t even be on the ballot because he left it so late to join the race. That means we won’t have any accurate measure of the former New York mayor’s performance.
His campaign should be relieved, because he did nothing on stage to justify his boast that he is the strongest candidate to take on Donald Trump.
“Mini Mike” as Mr Trump refers to him didn’t use a box to stand on, as the president had cheekily predicted.
If he had, the blows he took from Elizabeth Warren may have sent him sprawling.
Senator Warren, in danger of spiralling out of the race, came armed with a few zingers about Mr Bloomberg’s wealth and some of his past comments about women.
She compared him to Mr Trump, and challenged him to free former female employees from their non-disclosure agreements so they can talk about why they left his company.
He rolled his eyes. That wasn’t a good look.
Her performance was so strong that her campaign claimed that there was surge of donations throughout the debate.
She will need it. Bernie Sanders put in another strong performance, befitting his new status as the front runner.
And Pete Buttigieg, who did surprisingly well in Iowa and New Hampshire, gave another articulate performance which disguised his limited political experience running South Bend, Indiana.
But he is entering more hostile territory; his support among black and Hispanic voters is much lower.
What of Joe Biden? The former vice-president is hanging on, hoping that South Carolina will deliver a win to reinvigorate his campaign.
He seemed more energised than past performances. Senator Amy Klobuchar squabbled with Mayor Pete, who mocked her for not knowing the name of the president of Mexico in a TV interview. Her brief resurgence is likely to prove temporary.
Some of these candidates will be forced out of the race after Super Tuesday on 3 March, when around a third of delegates are up for grabs, including big states like California and Texas.
But you can be sure that Mr Bloomberg has the resources to carry on until the end.
His campaign manager Kevin Sheekey claimed: “Everyone came to destroy Mike tonight. It didn’t happen. Everyone wanted him to lose his cool. He didn’t do it. He was just warming up tonight.”
But he will need sharper performances on live television if he wants to have a showdown with that other billionaire; the one who is already in the White House.