Bloomberg is flopping [UPDATED, HE FLOPPED]

That’s how it looks to me 45 minutes into the debate. He is being hammered by the other five candidates and his answers are neither well delivered nor likely to persuade his audience. He is making Joe Biden, who is much better in attack dog mode than as a putative frontrunner, look sharp by comparison.

I’ll have more to say about the debate when it has concluded.

Well, the debate has finally concluded. It was only two hours long, but felt like three.

Bloomberg flopped. He was better in the second hour, when the debate was more about policy than about him. Even then, however, Bloomberg didn’t impress.

For those who didn’t watch the debate, Bloomberg’s woes began early on when he came under fire for New York City’s policing practices while he was mayor. Bloomberg’s line was that he initially used stop and frisk because his predecessor used it, as did other police departments across the country. Later, he realized this policy was problematic, so he curtailed it and apologized.

Biden responded that Bloomberg only curtailed the policy because of efforts by the Obama-Biden administration to stop it. Bloomberg didn’t deny this. His only response was to repeat that he apologized.

If anything, Bloomberg looked even worse when Warren challenged him to allow women who sued him, but settled their cases and signed non-disclosure agreements, to talk about their allegations. There was no answer that would have worked well with a Democratic audience, but Bloomberg tried to make it sound like he was doing the women a favor by not asking them to violate their agreements. The rest of the candidates took turns heaping deserved ridicule on this response.

Is Bloomberg still viable after his performance tonight? Perhaps Bloomberg’s money will keep him afloat, but I’m having great difficulty seeing how he becomes a realistic contender after tonight.

Bloomberg’s flop will raise the hopes of the other challengers to the new frontrunner, Bernie Sanders. But which members of the trailing field will truly profit from this debate?

I’m sorry to report that Elizabeth Warren turned in a strong performance. Past solid performances haven’t helped her, but I think tonight’s was a notch above those. I can imagine her finishing second to Sanders in Nevada, in which case, unfortunately, her campaign will be off of life support.

Biden was very strong in the first hour when he was attacking Bloomberg. In the second hour, when he had to talk about policy, he was back to being Uncle Joe.

Maybe minority group members still like Biden, and it can only help him that Bloomberg did so poorly. However, when Biden debates, his weaknesses are still there for all to see.

Pete Buttigieg is the best natural debater, and natural politician, in the field. A small city mayor doesn’t do as well as he did in Iowa and New Hampshire without being gifted.

Buttigieg’s gifts were on display again tonight. His main targets were Amy Klobuchar and Bernie Sanders in that order. Buttigieg’s exchanges with Klobuchar were probably the most contentious I’ve seen in any of the debates this cycle.

Buttigieg got the better of them, I think, but I wonder if this was the best use of his talents. Finishing out of the money but ahead of Klobuchar in Nevada isn’t going to help him much. Perhaps he feels he can knock her out of the race. But it seems unlikely that her support would go to him as tough as the two have been on each other.

Buttigieg’s biggest challenge is connecting with minority group voters. He doesn’t solve that problem by fighting with Klobuchar, and I don’t think he made any headway on it tonight.

The mask came off of Klobuchar a little bit in this debate. Under fire from Buttigieg, she seemed to be on the verge of losing it at times. I don’t think she helped herself tonight.

Sanders was Sanders. We’re at the point when he can mail these over-the-top performances in. I wish he would.

It was a good night for Sanders because Bloomberg flopped and because the field is less likely to shrink than it might have been before the debate started. However, a Warren revival, were it to occur, would not be in Sanders’s interests.

But by far the biggest takeaway of the night is the likely bursting of the Bloomberg boomlet. However low the expectations might have been, Bloomberg fell far short of meeting them.

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