Sharp tone matched high stakes in Nevada Democratic debate

Bloomberg had a bad night, but will it matter?

Democratic presidential hopefuls, from left, former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, former Vice President Joe Biden, Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota prepare for their debate at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel on Wednesday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)
Democratic presidential hopefuls, from left, former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, former Vice President Joe Biden, Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota prepare for their debate at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel on Wednesday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)
Posted February 19, 2020 at 11:39pm

I don’t have a bad Las Vegas-themed pun, just a few thoughts after Wednesday night’s Democratic tussle.

Show time: The sharp tone of the debate matched the high stakes. Candidacies are on the line. Aspirations are hanging in the balance. And a second term for President Donald Trump is staring the Democratic Party in the face. We’ve come a long way from the first debates last June.

Who was spared? Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s unwillingness to confront Bernie Sanders will be her undoing. In one early response, she attacked former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former Vice President Joe Biden. She also brutalized former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg on his company’s nondisclosure agreements with women. Some 90 minutes into the two-hour debate she talked vaguely about not gambling on a revolution while attacking the other opponents by name. Warren continued to avoid going directly after Sanders, the front-runner in the race and the biggest threat to her candidacy.

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Who saw? Bloomberg didn’t do well, but will it matter? I don’t think anyone who watched the debate could objectively say the former mayor had a good night. Bloomberg’s best moments were when he wasn’t a part of the conversation. But will it matter? Only a small percentage of Democratic primary voters will have watched the debate. A few more will see news coverage. But Bloomberg is likely to continue to spend tens of millions of dollars projecting another image, one that will be seen by more voters.

Too late? Voters are already voting. Some voters in Nevada have already voted. Some voters in California have already voted, and it’s not even Super Tuesday yet. Even if there was a game-changing moment Wednesday night, those votes have already been cast and can’t be changed.

Unity: I still believe Democrats will be united in November. I know it’s hard to believe after a debate like Wednesday night, but I think we are consistently underestimating Trump’s ability to unify and energize the Democratic Party. That doesn’t mean there will be a consensus nominee soon, or even before the convention in Milwaukee in July. But Democrats are determined to block Trump from another four years.

Nathan L. Gonzales is an elections analyst for CQ Roll Call.

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