Nevada Debate Watch: Will Bloomberg “Flame on?” – or Flame Out?

February 19, 2020

Our Live, Public Commentary & Analysis Begins at 9 p.m. ET

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By Al Giordano

The Nevada Independent, one of the cosponsors of tonight’s debate reports this info on how and where to watch it:

The two-hour debate, which will air on NBC and MSNBC starting at 6 p.m. on the West Coast, will stream live on The Nevada Independent‘s website, NBC News NOW on OTT devices,, NBC News Mobile App, NBC News and MSNBC’s Facebook pages. It will also air live in Spanish on cable channel Universo as well as the Noticias Telemundo mobile app and website, and Noticias Telemundo’s Facebook page.

The Independent’s Jon Ralston – dean of political reporting from the Silver State, with a reputation for cutting through the BS – will be one of the debate moderators/questioners, which hopefully will raise the level of it compared to previous debates held over the last year.

Tonight brings our first look at former NY City mayor Mike Bloomberg interacting with the other candidates and taking questions on a nationally televised stage. (Subscribers, check your email inbox for our 12-page debate preview.)

We’ll power up here shortly before the debate begins at 9 ET. Remember to regularly refresh this page to see new commentary – and to log-in, if a subscriber, for full access to the backstage commentary you make that every time informs what I post here for the greater public.

8:02 p.m. ET: An hour from debate time, NBC just reported that the early votes cast now add up to 77,000 (in 2016 just 84,000 participated). And we still have more to weigh in on Saturday.

8:05 p.m. ET: I was able to put the debate on my TV by downloading the free “NBC News” app on Amazon Prime, if that works for anyone out there.

8:55 p.m. ET: In today’s newsletter I wrote that a candidate not named Mike or Bernie needs to find the “sweet spot” between them to throw a pox on both their houses. Looking at the stage positions, they are positioned, from our left to right, Bloomberg, Warren, Sanders, Biden, Buttigieg and Klobuchar. That’s a good geographic spot for Warren – between the two that will likely receive the most flak – from which to remain in the camera angle and perhaps get a word or a side-eye in edgewise when they inevitably get into their food fight.

9:04 p.m. ET: In this first interchange, I’m noticing the tone contrast between Sanders, shouty, and Bloomberg, soft spoken but with a knife. Interesting!

9:05 p.m. ET: Warren throws a jab at Bloomberg right way, quoting from his book of offensive quotations. She wants those college-educated voters back.

9:07 p.m. ET: Klobuchar: “I don’t think we need a richer Donald Trump.” One part of this that plays to Bloomberg’s advantage is that every time he is mentioned he gets to respond.

9:08 p.m. ET: Biden hits right away hard on electability, that he polls better than Trump, better than the others. Then hits Bloomberg’s record. Then comes back to beating Trump. On message.

9:09 p.m. ET: Buttigieg finds the sweet spot, “Bloomberg & Sanders… the two most polarizing figures on this stage.” Very well done.

9:11 p.m. ET: Mayor Pete is on fire! “You’re not the only one who cares about the working class!”

9:13 p.m. ET: Warren gets a question about the behavior of Bernie Bros. Drink! (Hits quickly in response and then gets back on her anti-corruption and real people stories messaging.)

9:14 p.m. ET: Sanders: “I disown those people. They are not part of my movement.” Then shifts to say his campaign’s supporters are the victims of “vicious attacks” too.

9:15 p.m. ET: Buttigieg: “Why do you think this happens particularly in your campaign.” Bernie blames it on the Russians. Drink!

9:16 p.m. ET: Buttigieg keeps hitting. “Leadership is also about how you motivate people to treat other people. Ask yourself what it is about your campaign that causes people to treat people like that”

9:17 p.m. ET: Klobuchar: We can stop sexism. “We can nominate a woman!” Zing!

Sanders is taking more fire than Bloomberg so far!

9:20 p.m. ET: Warren is hitting everybody! Buttigieg’s “is not a plan it’s a Power Point. Amy’s is a Post-It note. Bernie won’t expand his to bring people in.”

9:26 p.m. ET: Aha, I get the strategy. Warren just dragged everyone into a debate on health care policy details, her home turf. Debating 101. She may have been “off” at the last debate but she’s driving on all pistons tonight.

9:28 p.m. ET: This is so far not a good debate for Sanders or Bloomberg. The former is flustered and the latter is about as charismatic and inspiring as Tom Steyer, who nobody is missing in this debate.

9:31 p.m. ET: A lot of wounded male egos on that stage tonight!

9:32 p.m. ET: Warren laser focused on Super Tuesday voters. She really is ready to pick a fight with everyone on that stage. And each time they mention her in response she gets guaranteed more speaking time.

9:34 p.m. ET: That clinking sound you hear in the distance is the cash register ringing at Elizabeth Warren dot com. She is firing up her voters here and that will bring her money. Of the others, only Mayor Pete has done close to that tonight.

9:36 p.m. ET: Fricking Bernie. “We both have two stents.” Two chickens in every pot and two stents in every heart!

9:41 p.m. ET: Shorter Klobuchar: Welcome to the NFL Mayor Bloomberg. Wear a cup.

9:44 p.m. ET: Warren keeps hitting and hitting and at some point viewers sit back and say, “Gee, she could really hammer Trump.” It’s a telling by showing that Kamala Harris, on her best debate night, got some wind in her sails from.

9:46 p.m. ET: Elizabeth the Bloomie Hunter.

9:47 p.m. ET: Biden may find that his jumping in on the nondisclosure agreements bounces back on him if the subject doesn’t change soon.

9:48 p.m. ET: Klobuchar’s “Trivial Pursuits” cards response is a little bit much. She gets better when she segues to to “we need a president who can admit a mistake.”

9:50 p.m. ET: “Are you thinking I’m stupid, Pete?” Ouch! That leaves a mark.

9:51 p.m. ET: One of our terrific backstage subscriber-commenters just asked me how many people I think are watching the debate. I would venture a guess that more started watching it than any previous debate because Bloomberg is there. And more are watching now than when we began. This is a debate that is good for ratings.

9:52 p.m. ET: Warren defending Klobuchar, saying, “all of us have sometimes forgotten a name.” Good politics and good humanity.

9:53 p.m. ET: FWIW, I’ve known President Andrés Manuel López Obrador for 21 years, since before he ever held office. So I find it encouraging that any Americans suddenly can say his name!

9:56 p.m. ET: The “other Nate” from 538 – I peeked over there to see if they’d added up the words spoken yet (they haven’t) – but found this nugget from him:

9:59 p.m. ET: Here comes Jon Ralston! Watch out kids. Some curve balls comin’ your way!

10 p.m. ET: An hour in and Bernie has become the invisible man. Has he said anything since “we both have two stents?”

10:03 p.m. ET: Ralston asks a tough policy question on mining minerals needed for safe energy on public lands and somebody ate her Wheaties tonight!

10:06 p.m. ET: From 538…

10:12 p.m. ET: Mayor Pete again, “if we nominate one of the two most polarizing men on this stage.” He’s like a pit bull. And as a big brother to a real life pit bull, that’s a high compliment.

10:15 p.m. ET: Joe Biden is not having a particularly bad night or good night based on his own performance, but the cracks in Bloomberg opened tonight by others benefit him nonetheless.

10:17 p.m. ET: Bloomberg, on redlining, beginning the statement with “since I worked on Wall Street,” is perhaps not the most fortuitous introduction to many voters seeing him for the first time.

10:20 p.m. ET: Sanders a bit red-faced there, which likely caused many viewers to reference back to the “two stents” statement.

10:23 p.m. ET: Mayor Pit Bull hits on the “polarizing” buzz word again. Like him or dislike him, he is very skilled at this.

10:26 p.m. ET: Elizabeth Warren, erased by the media, left for dead politically, is crowbarring her way back into this race. It’s a great narrative going forward if it’s really happening, but we won’t know until Super Tuesday.

10:30 p.m. ET: I don’t really get why Bloomberg doesn’t just say, “yes, go ahead and tax me two cents on the dollar.” There’s no downside to him doing that and plenty of upside if he did. I think Warren Buffet already did so.

10:31 p.m. ET: Warren: “Democrats are worried… about gambling on a revolution.” Then she hits Biden, Klobuchar and Buttigieg. She’s betting they address her directly buying her more speaking time in response.

10:39 p.m. ET: Kind of a softball lobbed over the plate to Buttigieg there by asking about Bloomberg’s money. I’ve gone over the months from not taking him seriously to imagining him as a nominee or president. He’s got mad skills. First among them is he takes no attack on him – and he’s taken some fire tonight – personally, an acknowledgement that he knows he’s made it into the big leagues, something some of the others could learn a trick from.

10:45 p.m. ET: One of our backstage counselors just asked this question: “Al, of the non Bloomberg/Sanders candidates, do you see one really breaking out? Pete and Warren seem to be strong but is it enough? I am so ready for a non divided field.” Great question, and one I’m sure a lot are wondering tonight. My thoughts on that: I think any of the four of them could still do that, but the clock ticks faster on Biden and Klobuchar than it does on Warren and Buttigieg, because the latter two have built national campaign infrastructures and fundraising bases that can withstand a few more losses and still survive into the finals, whereas Biden and Klobuchar need a much quicker bout of good luck at the polls to stay alive.

10:46 p.m. ET: FINALLY, somebody – Amy Klobuchar does it – hits Sanders on voting against Ted Kennedy’s 2007 immigration reform bill. It would have passed if he and a handful of other Democratic caucus members hadn’t voted against it. The failure of that bill to pass sowed the seeds that sprouted Donald Trump and his damn wall.

10:48 p.m. ET: Chuck Todd is a dimwitted stopped clock who just got touched by the hour. By getting all five others to say “let the convention process work” and get them on the record, he just screwed Sanders’ strategy royally. It’s good to have them all on the record, and it should assuage some who were worried Warren might throw in with Sanders in July. Those of us who know, know she won’t. But it was good to get that out on the record well in advance of the convention. It helps keep Sanders from doing what he did in 2016 (when, paradoxically, he said the “super delegates” should push him ahead of Clinton!)

10:54 p.m. ET: The voters may prove me wrong, but I think Mike Bloomberg has had a very bad night that will stop or slow his momentum. That closing statement about “I’m not asking for your money” was so tone deaf. But I’ll wait for post-debate data to see if my sense is borne out by the data.

10:58 p.m. ET: Who’s doing the yelling? Is it animal rights people again? Are they clothed?

10:59 p.m. ET: Sanders doubling down on his anti-immigrant vote? Calling immigration reform “slavery?” Really? Heh. A nice cherry atop tonight’s cake.

11:01 p.m. ET: A question for our backstage panelists: Should I put up the next straw poll in the morning? And if so should the deadline be before Nevada finishes voting Saturday morning? Or should I wait until those results are in? I can see reasons for either path.

11:05 p.m. ET: I just switched over to CNN’s post game show, and, oh, look, they have a new panelist named Andrew Yang!

11:10 p.m. ET: Andrew Yang says, “We know Bernie will underperform if the nominee in key swing states.” Oh, snap. And people thought Yang would throw the Yang Gang behind Sanders. Guess not.

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