You’ve seen him on TV. And Instagram. And Snapchat. And during the Superbowl. New York mayor, Mike Bloomberg, is everywhere. He’s spent almost half a billion dollars to make sure of it.
But there’s one place that the presidential hopeful should have avoided. Stepping on the Democratic debate stage in Las Vegas on Feb. 19 was the worst decision Mr. Bloomberg and his campaign could have made.
Six days later, on a new debate stage in South Carolina, Bloomberg chuckled as he told the audience, “I really am surprised that all of these, my fellow, uh, contestants up here I guess would be the right word for it, given nobody pays attention to the clock, I’m surprised they show up because I would’ve thought after I did such a good job in beating him last week that they’d be a little afraid to do that.”
That was not the first time one of the New York mayor’s jokes have fallen flat.
Minutes into the Las Vegas debate, Senator Elizabeth Warren launched a targeted attack against Bloomberg by bringing up a series of allegations leveled by women who worked for the former CEO of Bloomberg L.P. She demanded that he release these women from their non-disclosure agreements and allow them to tell their stories. Bloomberg responded that the worst he has done is tell a couple of “jokes” — a defense that did not resonate well with myself or the audience, who went on to boo him.
From there, Bloomberg’s performance only went downhill. When other candidates like Senator Bernie Sanders attacked him for putting in place an inherently racist “stop-and-frisk" policy in New York City, he failed to defend himself. Although it is important for politicians to be able to apologize for past mistakes, Bloomberg’s awkward apology was weak in light of his opponent’s eloquent and well-planned attacks.
The worst part for the mayor, though, was not just his performance, but who was watching. The Nevada debate drew in a record near 20 million viewers — more than some major awards shows. The only feasible explanation for this increase in viewership is that people wanted to see Mayor Bloomberg in action for his first-ever presidential debate, likely seeking a bit of clarity in this turbulent primary season. The debate was certainly enlightening, but not in Bloomberg’s favor.
"I definitely think that the debate revealed his flaws to the public," junior AIMS and Spanish double major, Theo Hargis, explained, "It made me realize that the hundreds of millions of dollars he has put into quick advertisement isn't going to work on everyone. You can't just spend that much money in that short of a period and expect it to work out. There's more to being president than that."
After watching the debate, I had one big question. It was no secret that every other candidate was out to destroy Bloomberg – so shouldn’t he have prepared for these attacks? It turns out that he did. In fact, Bloomberg held mock debates before the Nevada debate in which he had campaign advisers play the roles of the other candidates to prepare.
Clearly, however, these mock debates weren’t enough. Bloomberg came into the debate as an elusive and powerful unknown but left as a ridiculed failure.
To make matters worse, this was his one chance. Yes, if you look at his second debate, it's clear that Bloomberg improved considerably. He was still no Abe Lincoln, but at least he was able to respond to criticism and attack his opponents with some degree of conviction. However, not only had viewership dropped for this debate, but the image of the mayor as just another Donald Trump was already set in stone.
This is the opinion of Veronica Backer-Peral, a sophomore film and television production, history and computer science triple major from Pasadena, CA. Tweet comments @LALoyolan or email firstname.lastname@example.org.