WASHINGTON – There appears to be no shortage of beefs that other Democratic candidates have with former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
At the Las Vegas debate, Bloomberg was on defense all evening – the target for virtually every other candidate on stage – and had to answer for his previous positions on health care, policing policies that disproportionately affected black New Yorkers and his company’s treatment of its female employees.
Bloomberg said his company, Bloomberg LP, had “no tolerance for the kind of behavior the Me Too movement has exposed.” But Sen. Elizabeth Warren quickly pressed the former New York mayor on how many women who worked for him were subject to non-disclosure agreements and were unable to talk about harassment and abuse in the work place.
Warren said the women were being “muzzled” by Bloomberg and she encouraged him to release the women for those agreements on stage.
“I hope you heard what his defense was: ‘I’ve been nice to some women,’” Warren said. “The mayor needs to stand on his record.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders argued that beating Trump would require the largest voter turnout in history and Bloomberg can’t do that because of his past support for the controversial “stop-and-frisk” police strategy that had a disproportionate impact on black communities in New York.
Sanders said the policy, which Bloomberg apologized for again on Wednesday, “went after the African American and Latino people in an outrageous way.”
Though his competition sought to put Bloomberg’s back against the wall, the former Republican landed several blows of his own – describing Sanders and Warren as too left to beat Trump.
“I can’t think of a way to make it easier for Donald Trump to get reelected than listening to this conversation,” Bloomberg said during a fight over imposing higher taxes on the wealthy, which he said he opposes.
In a zinger at Sanders, Bloomberg said: “What a wonderful country we have. The best known socialist in the country happens to be a millionaire with three houses.”
The Las Vegas forum was the ninth Democratic debate but the first to include Bloomberg.
“Clearly, Bloomberg should have skipped this and all debates,” tweeted longtime political analyst Stuart Rothenberg.
Even before the debate began, former Vice President Joe Biden seized on the fact that Bloomberg didn’t rejoin the Democratic Party until 2018 – after switching to the GOP to run for mayor.
“I don’t endorse Republicans,” Biden tweeted Wednesday in response to a Bloomberg video showing Biden’s past praise for the former mayor.
While Bloomberg is skipping the first four states to vote in Democrats’ presidential nominating contest – including Nevada where the debate was held – he is spending heavily across the country.
That earned him enough support in polls to qualify for the debate after the Democratic National Committee last month changed the entry rules that had included donor requirements. Bloomberg, who has already spent more on advertising than President Barack Obama spent on ads during his entire 2012 re-election campaign, is self-funding his bid.
Warren last week said Bloomberg “should not be the leader of our party” because of comments he made in 2008 about the financial crisis. Bloomberg said the crisis was started because banks were pressured to end the discriminatory housing practice known as “redlining.”
Warren and other Democrats have also accused Bloomberg of trying to buy the nomination. And she’s charged him with overseeing, as mayor, “a program that surveilled and tracked Muslim communities in mosques, restaurants, and even college campuses.”
Shortly before the debate, Sanders circulated a video of comments Bloomberg made in 2012 about decreasing benefits or raising the eligibility age of Medicare and Social Security.
“Let’s have some austerity for billionaires,” Sanders says at the end of the video.
But Bloomberg isn’t shying from battle. His campaign has circulated a video criticizing the harassing “energy” of some of Sanders’ supporters. His aides are also warning that it’s almost too late for Democrats to coalesce behind an alternative to Sanders to stop him from getting the nomination.