Michael Bloomberg Faces Debate Grilling From Democratic 2020 Competitors

Michael Bloomberg - Getty - H 2017
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Amid his rise in the polls, Bloomberg has a target on his back during his first debate on Wednesday night. He was "ready" for it, a campaign aide tells THR.

Coming into Wednesday night's presidential debate, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg knew he would come under attack from his 2020 Democratic rivals.

But Bloomberg may have been surprised by the intensity of the barrage he faced during the six-candidate debate, hosted ahead of the Nevada caucus by NBC News, MSNBC and the Nevada Independent.

"I'd like to talk about who we're running against," Sen. Elizabeth Warren said on Wednesday night. "A billionaire who calls women 'fat broads' and 'horse-faced lesbians' — and no, I'm not talking about Donald Trump. I'm talking about Mayor Bloomberg."

Warren continued: "Democrats are not going to win if we have a nominee who has a history of hiding his tax returns, of harassing women, of supporting racist policies like red-lining and Stop and Frisk. Democrats take a huge risk if we substitute one arrogant billionaire for another." 

Right off the bat, Sen. Bernie Sanders attacked Bloomberg for the Stop and Frisk policing strategy, which was one of his signature policies as mayor of New York City. (Bloomberg has since apologized for the policy.)

"In order to beat Donald Trump, we're gonna need the largest voter turnout in history," Sanders said. "Mr. Bloomberg had policies in New York City of Stop and Frisk, which went after African-American and Latino people in an outrageous way. That is not a way you're going to grow voter turnout."

Sen. Amy Klobuchar said that Bloomberg has been "hiding behind his TV ads." She added, "I don't think we look at Donald Trump and say, 'We need someone richer in the White House.'"

Mayor Pete Buttigieg slammed both Bloomberg and Sanders, saying they're "the two most polarizing candidates on this stage. … Let's put forth someone who is actually a Democrat. We shouldn't have to choose between one candidate who wants to burn this party down, and one who wants to buy this party out."

Bloomberg's campaign sees the attention as a good thing, a sign that his opponents fear his viability as a candidate.

The candidate is "rising in the polls" and has recently started taking heat from his rivals, so he was "ready" for Wednesday night's challenges, a campaign aide told The Hollywood Reporter.

But, Bloomberg largely pulled his punches on Wednesday, not yet attacking any of his rivals even after they criticized him and his record.