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Democratic Rivals Use Nevada Debate To Attack Michael Bloomberg

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg made his debut last night on the 2020 Democratic debate stage in Nevada. And here is how he introduced himself to America.

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MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: I'm a New Yorker. I know how to take on an arrogant con man, like Donald Trump, that comes from New York.

MARTIN: And here is how his rivals responded.

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ELIZABETH WARREN: 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. I'm talking about Mayor Bloomberg.

BERNIE SANDERS: Mr. Bloomberg had policies in New York City of stop-and-frisk which went after African American and Latino people in an outrageous way. That is not a way you're going to grow voter turnout.

PETE BUTTIGIEG: Let's put forward somebody who actually lives and works in a middle-class neighborhood in an industrial Midwestern city. Let's put forward somebody who's actually a Democrat.

MARTIN: That was Democratic presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg. And that was all just in the opening 10 minutes last night. So how did Bloomberg fend off his rivals, and how does his late entry complicate the Democratic field? We're going to ask Corey Ealons. He's a former communications aide for President Obama. He is in studio. Thanks for coming in, Corey.

COREY EALONS: Good to be here.

MARTIN: How do you think Mike Bloomberg did last night?

EALONS: I think he did exactly as we would anticipate he would do as somebody who's coming into the race at this particular time. If you think about it, Mike Bloomberg, as he just said, is a former mayor of New York City. So he's coming in with a sense that he's done this before. This is not a big deal. He clearly didn't prep. And if you think about it...

MARTIN: Didn't prep.

EALONS: Did not prep. This was very apparent because - and if you think about it, incumbent presidents, when they're running for that second term, that first debate is always the roughest when they're running for the reelect. That's the mindset he was in. Think about it. He issued - the campaign issued a statement afterwards saying he's just getting warmed up.

MARTIN: Yeah.

EALONS: That's exactly - they knew he was not going to do well last night.

MARTIN: So does that - I mean, does that hurt him? I mean, if this is his first impression and he didn't make a good one, then how does he pivot moving forward?

EALONS: Well, here's the deal. He is not on the ballot this week or next week in Nevada or South Carolina. So he literally had nothing to lose - literally. It's important for him to be on the stage now, rather than in the South Carolina debate next Tuesday, because it allows him to get all of this out, all of his anxiety, all of his nervousness, all of his bad moves and all of the negativity as far as the issues he's been dealing with over the past several weeks. All of that out now, he can go to the South Carolina debate next week with a clean slate to some degree.

MARTIN: He'll hope. Yeah.

EALONS: Yes. And, oh, by the way, there's that whole $400 million thing that's on his side as well. So that's going to keep him in the race as well.

MARTIN: Right. So last night, Pete Buttigieg said - and I'm paraphrasing here, but essentially - Democrats could wind up with a choice between the two most polarizing candidates, Bernie Sanders and Michael Bloomberg, especially because of that money you just noted. Is that a concern for you?

EALONS: Well, I'll tell you this, he has absolutely every right to be a candidate in this race and to spend the money that he needs to spend. For Bernie, he has built up a following over the past six years that has been consistent. But it is a real threat to the Democratic Party because you have two outsiders, one with enormous money, one with enormous following, a democratic socialist and a former Republican billionaire, that are your two biggest candidates right now. That's a problem for the Democratic Party.

MARTIN: Is there anyone you, as a Democrat, as someone who follows all this closely, who is invested - is there anyone in this field of Democratic candidates who you genuinely believe can beat Donald Trump?

EALONS: I believe Joe Biden can beat Donald Trump.

MARTIN: How? He has lost the first two contests.

EALONS: Well, I'll tell you this - when you look at where he is right now, he anticipated that he wasn't going to do well in Iowa and New Hampshire. He has put all his chips in South Carolina and thinks he's also going to do well here now in Nevada. At the end of the day, Joe Biden is banking on South Carolina and using that as a springboard into Super Tuesday. The key is going to be how much money does he have going into the - in Super Tuesday to make a spread across the country?

MARTIN: Right. And as Mike Bloomberg potentially gains traction, he could siphon off some of that money potentially.

EALONS: Exactly right. Exactly right.

MARTIN: All right. Corey Ealons, former communications aide in the Obama White House. Thank you for your time this morning.

EALONS: No problem. Good to be here. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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