Last week’s debate in Nevada was all about the debut of Mike Bloomberg. Tuesday night had a completely different focus: Slow down Sen. Bernie Sanders.
That’s exactly what the other six candidates on stage tried to do. From attacking his comments on Cuba to the usual stabs about Medicare For All, everybody had a word for Sanders.
Here’s a round-up of some of those moments, as well as other memorable interactions from what was, seemingly, the most heated debate between candidates.
Sanders gets front-runner treatment
Despite there not being one stand-out moment of Sanders having to defend himself, it was obvious: He finally got the full front-runner treatment on Tuesday.
Here’s a taste from quotes at the beginning of the debate.
From former Mayor Pete Buttigieg: “If you think the last four years has been chaotic, divisive, toxic, exhausting, imagine spending the better part of 2020 with Bernie Sanders vs. Donald Trump.”
From former Vice President Joe Biden: “Bernie voted five times against the Brady Bill" and "he said we should primary Barack Obama.”
From former Mayor Mike Bloomberg: “Vladimir Putin thinks that Donald Trump should be president of the United States. And that’s why Russia is helping you get elected, so you will lose to him.”
And, from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who had mostly shied away from attacking Sanders until last night: “We need a president who is going to dig in, do the hard work, and actually get it done. Progressives have got one shot. And we need to spend it with a leader who will get something done.”
Bloomberg continues to play off sexism claims
Bloomberg had, by what most analysts said, a pretty disappointing showing in last week’s Nevada debate. But he was in the crosshairs of each candidate then. Now he was just another candidate trying to stump Sanders’ run.
But still, candidates continued to bring up alleged sexual harassment at his company and his past, which is filled with demeaning comments about women. Like last week, Warren first pushed the issue by bringing up a past complaint from a worker at Bloomberg’s company who said that Bloomberg allegedly told her to kill her baby so she wouldn’t have to miss work.
Bloomberg quickly denied ever saying that.
Warren responded by telling Bloomberg he should sign a ‘blanket statement’ that would release all women from non-disclosure agreements involving him.
“People want a chance to hear from the women who have worked for Mike Bloomberg,” Warren said. “Let us have the opportunity to have the women speak.”
Bloomberg responded by saying that he has released three women from non-disclosure agreements already. He then doubled down, saying that he’s done enough to undo his past with women and has apologized for comments.
“I don’t know what else she wants us to do,” he said of Warren.“The problem with this senator is, enough is never enough.”
Coronavirus makes its first appearance at debate
While Tuesday night was filled with candidates arguing and talking over one another, one point of unity came while discussing the coronavirus and how to contain it.
All candidates agreed that they should fund — and further fund — agencies such as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in response to the coronavirus.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar had the first opportunity to speak about the issue.
“I want to take this out of politics right now and talk to the American people because this is so serious,” she said. “I’m not going to give my website right now. I’m going to give the CDC’s website, which is cdc.gov so that people keep checking in and they follow the rules and they realize what they have to do if they feel sick.”
Biden then called on his past time as vice president when the Ebola outbreak occurred in 2014.
“I was part of making sure that pandemic did not get to the United States, saved millions of lives,” Biden continued. “No one up here has ever dealt internationally with any of these world leaders. I’m the only one that has."
Sanders got a word in, criticizing Trump for suggesting that warmer weather will eventually kill of the disease — perhaps in April.
“April is the magical date that this great scientist we have in the White House has determined,” Sanders said. “I wish I was kidding, that is what he said.”
“Whether or not the issue is climate change, which is clearly a global crisis requiring international cooperation, or infectious diseases like coronavirus, requiring international cooperation, we have to work and expand the World Health Organization, obviously we have to make sure the CDC, the NIH, our infectious departs are fully funded,” Sanders said. “This is a global problem. We’ve got to work with countries all over the world to stop it.”
Sanders comes under fire for comments about Cuba
Perhaps the most intense criticism of Sanders throughout Tuesday night was about his past comments on Cuba and its progress in certain areas under dictator Fidel Castro.
Here’s a sample of those comments, from the 1980’s: "We're very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba but, you know, it's unfair to simply say everything is bad. You know? When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?"
When pressed on the comments during Tuesday’s debate, Sanders referred to President Barack Obama, who once had kind words for Castor as well.
"Really? Literacy programs are bad?" Sanders said as the South Carolina crowd booed him. "What Barack Obama said is they made great progress on education and healthcare."
Buttitieg was the first to still condemn Sanders for the comments, saying that the senator was "making excuses."
Meanwhile, Biden defended Obama and said that Sanders took Obama’s comments on Cuba out of context.
"The fact of the matter is that (Obama) in fact does not, did not, has never embraced an authoritarian regime and does not now," Biden said. "This man said that in fact he did not condemn what they did."
Biden says he will win South Carolina
After forgettable performances in Iowa and New Hampshire, Biden finished in second in the Nevada caucuses. But it was a long second, with Sanders running away with the popular vote and nearly three times more delegates than Biden.
South Carolina is shaping up to be do or die for Biden, who is expected to win the state.
"I've worked like the devil to earn the votes of the African American community, not just here but around the country. I've been coming here for years and years," Biden said. "I don't expect anything. I plan to earn the vote."
He doubled-down on his relationship with African-American voters.
“I intend to win South Carolina and I will win the African-American vote in South Carolina,” he said.