As the Democratic race heated up with Wednesday night's sometimes fiery debate in Las Vegas, Twitter also filled with reactions

By Sean Neumann
February 20, 2020 01:49 PM
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As the Democratic race heated up with Wednesday night’s sometimes fiery debate in Las Vegas, Twitter also filled with reactions.

The Democratic candidates sharpened their rhetoric with the primary season now in full-swing. As candidates begin to drop out of the race, those remaining are tossing out everything in their political playbooks to attract voters in what’s still a crowded and changing field.

Twitter’s data showed that Sen. Elizabeth Warren was the most talked about candidate following last night’s debate, with a forceful — and viral — debate performance that could offset her tepid finishes in both the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary, where she came in third and fourth.

In particular, Warren pressed the billionaire candidate Mike Bloomberg, who made his debate debut Wednesday night after launching his campaign late in 2019 and spending more than $337 million on advertising that helped him climb in national polls and qualify for the debate.

But Bloomberg’s wealth (and a litany of other controversies) made him the biggest target in what was a consistently tense debate in Las Vegas.

Democratic presidential candidates former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren
From left to right: Mike Bloomberg and Elizabeth Warren had a number of tense exchanges during Wednesday night’s Democratic debate in Las Vegas.
| Credit: Mario Tama/Getty

Bloomberg joined the debate stage with Warren, Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Amy Klobuchar and they quickly moved to criticize Bloomberg’s past support for racist “stop-and-frisk” policing policies, as well as non-disclosure agreements he has with a number of women who alleged sexual harassment against him and his eponymous business news company.

Warren led the chorus of questions about the billionaire candidate and his number of controversies throughout the night, at one point calling on him to announce live on national television that he’d release women from non-disclosure agreements so they could go public about their accusations of workplace harassment and gender discrimination against Bloomberg and his eponymous business news company.

“So, Mr. Mayor, are you willing to release all of those women from those nondisclosure agreements, so we can hear their side of the story?” Warren asked Bloomberg.

The former New York City mayor replied: “None of them accuse me of doing anything, other than maybe they didn’t like a joke I told,” as the Las Vegas crowd groaned loudly at his response.

Democratic presidential candidates former Vice President Joe Biden and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg
From left to right: Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg share a brief laugh during a mixup in Biden’s answer about transparency.
| Credit: Mario Tama/Getty

Although Bloomberg took the brunt of the criticism at Wednesday’s debate, it was heated across the board.

While piling onto the Bloomberg bashing, candidates started to go after each other. In one particularly warm moment, Biden and Buttigieg laughed when the former vice president was speaking about the importance of transparency and referenced Buttigieg’s efforts to break out of an NDA he signed with consulting agency McKinsey, where he previously worked.

Buttigieg quickly clarified that he didn’t have NDAs regarding sexual harassment allegations, as Bloomberg does, and Biden seemed to realize the potential mixup and grabbed Buttigieg’s arm in an embraced apology.

But other moments were less heartwarming.

Klobuchar and Buttigeig’s long-building tension boiled over when Buttigieg criticized Klobuchar’s inability to name Mexico’s president during a recent interview.

“Are you…are you trying to say that I’m dumb? Or are you mocking me here, Pete?” Klobuchar asked Buttigieg.

Wednesday night’s aggressive debate showed candidates like Warren and Biden — who have slipped in national polls and started off the primary season by not meeting expectations — turning to a no-holds-barred approach that lit social media up with a number of viral moments.

“I can’t wait for SNL to recap the #DemDebate,” one Twitter user wrote, as many relished in Warren’s arguments against Bloomberg in his first appearance on the national stage.

“Democrats are not going to win if we have a nominee who has a history of hiding his tax returns, of harassing women, and of supporting racist polls like redlining and stop and frisk,” Warren said Wednesday night. “Look, I’ll support whoever the Democratic nominee is. But understand this: Democrats take a huge risk if we just substitute one arrogant billionaire for another.”