Five chancers are rolling into Las Vegas tonight with one objective: to rob the ninth richest man in the world blind.
Despite (we think) winning the first two primaries, Bernie Sanders is not the biggest target ahead of the ninth Democratic debate in the theater of the Paris casino. No, that honor falls to former New York mayor and current shortest candidate Michael Bloomberg, who takes the stage for the first time tonight after buying his way into contention.
His quintet of opponents will each deploy a different approach in trying to sweep his little legs from under him. Let’s call them Ocean’s Five.
There’s Bernie, the old hand, who’s been railing against billionaires for yonks and now has the perfect foil. Pete the new kid will portray Bloomberg as just another old timer whose moment has passed. Liz Warren, the brains, can dine out on the mayor’s history of unsavory remarks about women. Joe Biden, the explosives (or was that implosions?) expert, is a man with nothing to lose who can call Bloomberg’s bluff about his friendship with Obama. And Amy Klobuchar, the muscle, hopes to pummel Mike out of the moderate lane by questioning his electability in the states that matter most.
Bloomberg has snuck into contention in the Democratic primary in an unorthodox fashion: he’s skipped the first eight debates and first four primaries, pinning his chances on the 14 states that vote at the start of March on Super Tuesday. Until this, he enjoyed the benefit of being relatively unscrutinized by both the media and his opponents. That’s all changed now, with journalists and social media warriors dredging up unfashionable comments that Mike made about the ‘stop and frisk’ policy, as well as a whole litany of sexual harassment allegations at his company Bloomberg LP. Plus the gang sharing the spotlight tonight will be slavering at the thought of booting the box out from underneath Bloomberg.
The biggest winner this evening will likely be the moderate candidate who presents the most plausible alternative to Sanders at the top of the field. The smart money’s on Klobuchar. Based on previous debate performances, she’s better prepared for a smash-and-grab than either Biden or Buttigieg. But what if the gamble of staying out of the fray for so long pays off for Mike? Perhaps after Super Tuesday, Democrats will be facing up to the prospect of Bloomberg or bust.