‘Arrogant billionaire’: Bloomberg lashed in Vegas
BILLIONAIRE blow-in Michael Bloomberg has been furiously targeted in the first real public test of his three-month presidential campaign as the leading Democratic candidates traded blows in the most fiery debate of the primary season.
Mr Bloomberg, a latecomer to the Democratic race and former Republican New York mayor who has so far relied on his vast fortune to make a record political ad buy rather than running a traditional campaign, was slammed as "an arrogant billionaire" with a record of sexual harassment.
"I'd like to talk about who we're running against, a billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians," candidate Elizabeth Warren said in the opening moments of the Las Vegas debate.
"And no I'm not talking about Donald Trump, I'm talking about Mayor Bloomberg."
Mrs Warren warned that it would be impossible to beat US President Donald Trump '"if we have a nominee who has a history of hiding his tax returns, of supporting racist policies like red-lining and stop and frisk".
"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," she said.
It had been 11 years since Mr Bloomberg was last on a debate stage, the last time being when he was running for his third term as New York mayor, a position he held from 2002 to 2013.
Even before he is officially on the ballot for the early March, Super Tuesday vote, Mr Bloomberg - who is the world's 12th richest person - has spent close to $A675 million ($US450 million) on his campaign, approaching the $A900 million ($US600 million) Trump spent in the entire 2016 race, and is polling in the top four nationally.
He said the Democratic contest was about two questions: "Who can beat Donald Trump, and number two who can do the job if we can get to the White House?".
"I'm spending that money to get rid of Donald Trump, the worst president we have ever had," he said, arguing that his record as a businessman worth $A96 billion established his credentials as a manager and leader.
Mr Bloomberg has been repeatedly accused of trying buy his way into the White House and challenged on his scratchy record with women and people of colour.
Upstart candidate Pete Buttigieg, a former midwest mayor who currently holds the most delegates after battling for first place in the two first primary contests with the frontrunner socialist candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders, said Democrats needed to "wake up as a party" or they risked a two way battle between "the two most polarizing figures on this stage".
He also took a shot at the loose politics of both Mr Bloomberg - who was a Republican mayor of New York - and Mr Sanders, who is a registered independent.
"Let's put forward somebody who's actually a Democrat," he said to cheers.
"We shouldn't have to choose between one candidate who wants to burn this party down and another candidate who wants to buy this party out."
Mr Sanders, who has taken a commanding lead in national polling with a 12 point lead averaged across all polls, said he was the best candidate to beat Mr Trump.
"In order to beat Donald Trump we are going to need the largest voter turnout in the history of the US," Mr Sanders said.
He said Mr Bloomberg's record of the controversial "stop and frisk" regime in New York, which unfairly targeted black and Hispanic people, would not encourage more participation.
"That is not away you are going to grow voter turnout," he said.
Mr Bloomberg said Mr Sanders' core election promise to throw out private health insurance for free government healthcare could not win the ballot.
"I don't think there's any chance of the senator beating Donald Trump," Mr Bloomberg said.
"You don't start out by saying I've got 160 million people, I am going to take away the insurance system that they love."