Is Elizabeth Warren versus Billionaires

Aggressive Democrats' TV debate : The US, its billionaires and arrogance

Nobody spares nobody. The confrontation is tough, aggressive, personal, hysterical, hurtful. In the end, even the closing words of former US Vice President Joe Biden have to be interrupted because loud roars began in the auditorium. Was it really six politicians who belong to the same party and should be united in the ultimate goal of replacing the incumbent President Donald Trump? On Wednesday evening (local time) during the TV debate of the US Democrats in Las Vegas, doubts arose not only once.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren warned against "replacing one arrogant billionaire with another arrogant billionaire." This meant New York's former mayor Michael Bloomberg and Donald Trump. Pete Buttigieg, the surprise winner from Iowa and surprise runner-up from New Hampshire, suspected Bloomberg and Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator, to be no real Democrats. Bloomberg accused Sanders of trying to introduce communism to America. He in turn countered with a reference to Denmark, where people are very happy in a democratic-socialist system.

It was difficult to separate sound arguments from rehearsed swipes in this heated and heated atmosphere. Bloomberg was undoubtedly at the center of the action, although the multibillionaire knew how not to laboriously refute reproaches, but simply to let them ricochet off. Changing subjects is often more effective than defensive.

Bloomberg's central point, to which he kept coming back: Only he could beat Trump. Sanders is a somehow un-American socialist, Warren a light socialist, Buttigieg too inexperienced, Amy Klobuchar, a Senator from Minnesota, likewise, Biden had run out. He himself, on the other hand, Bloomberg, was mayor of New York, the multicultural city par excellence, for twelve years, earned a fortune from his own fortune on Wall Street, he does not accept donations and is therefore independent.

[NOW NEW: With the “Twenty / Twenty” newsletter, our US quartet Christoph von Marschall, Anna Sauerbrey, Juliane Schäuble and Malte Lehming will accompany you on your way to the presidential election once a week from next Thursday. You can already register for free here:]

The television debate was the toughest test so far for this man, who had only announced his candidacy at the end of November and will therefore enter the race on “Super Tuesday” at the beginning of March, when there will be votes in 14 states. Bloomberg focuses on big states like California and Texas and has already spent tens of millions of dollars on advertising. It pays off. In a US-wide survey before the television debate, he was second behind Sanders in the Democratic field of applicants.

So close in content that they have to aggressively distance themselves

The dynamics of this debate took place on several levels. Sanders and Warren compete for first place among the left applicants. Bloomberg, Buttigieg, Klobuchar and Biden vie for leadership among moderate voters. That explains the vehemence with which Buttigieg took to the field against Klobuchar. In terms of content, they are so close that they have to aggressively differentiate themselves from each other in order to be able to develop an independent profile.

In the duel Sanders against Bloomberg, on the other hand, which the primaries could amount to, the main issue is who has the better chances against Trump. Sanders is vulnerable. His program is radical, which scares off many. But Bloomberg is also vulnerable. As Mayor of New York, he was responsible for the racist "stop-and-frisk" tactics used by the police, which targeted blacks and Latinos. He is also accused of sexism.

Bloomberg is already leading the moderates - what will happen to Biden?

Bloomberg had spent weeks preparing for the debate with coaches. They had apparently recommended that he act as presidential as possible in order to underpin the argument that he was eligible for election. The somewhat paradoxical effect of the various attacks on him was that they reinforced the impression that Bloomberg was already number one among the moderates.

The latest figures confirm the trend. Bloomberg leads moderate Democrats and senior voters, ranking second behind Sanders for small-town and non-academic whites. Only within the black electorate does Biden, Barack Obama's longtime vice-president, lead by a large margin. His last hope is a comeback in the South Carolina primary in just over a week.

Will Sanders manage to switch from attacker to defender?

Sanders, on the other hand, could expand the position of the front runner next Saturday at the Caucus in Nevada. The role change, from attacker to defender of the lead, is unfamiliar to him. The smaller the field of competitors, the more brightly their positions are illuminated.

America is divided. Are the Democrats now also splitting? Trump enjoys a poll high, the Republicans are united behind him. The great job of the Democrats is to mend all of the cracks that have opened between them at the end of these often agonizing primary elections.

Now new: We give you 4 weeks of Tagesspiegel Plus! To home page