Bloomberg faces searing attacks at free-for-all Democratic debate in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS — The Democratic presidential debate Wednesday night kicked off with fireworks, as every person on stage not named Mike Bloomberg attacked the former New York City mayor, who was participating in his first presidential face off.

The first hit at the NBC/MSNBC two-hour debate here came from frontrunner Bernie Sanders, who rippedBloomberg for his record as mayor. Bloomberg promptly hit back, telling the senator he cannot beat President Donald Trump.

Sanders slammed Bloomberg for the controversial “stop and frisk” policing policy his administration used, “which went after Latino and African American people in outrageous ways,” he said, adding that Bloomberg’s record “is not going to” increase voter turnout.

Bloomberg hit back immediately, saying, “I don’t think there’s any chance of the senator beating President Trump.”

“You don’t start out by saying I’ve got 160 million people, I’m going to take away the insurance plan they love,” Bloomberg added — a reference to Sanders’ “Medicare for All” proposal.

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Next to swing at Bloomberg was Elizabeth Warren, who took aim at the mayor’s past critical statements about women.

“I’d like to talk about who we’re running against. A billionaire who calls women ‘fat broads’ and ‘horse-faced lesbians,’ and, no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump,” Warren said. “I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.”

“Democrats are not going to win if we have a nominee who has a history of hiding his tax returns, of harassing women, and of supporting racist policies like redlining and stop and frisk,” she added. “Democrats take a huge risk if we just substitute one arrogant billionaire for another.”

Amy Klobuchar took her shot next.

“I’ve been told many times to wait my turn and to step aside,” she said. “And I’m not going to do that now, and I’m not going to do that because a campaign memo from Mayor Bloomberg said, this morning, that the only way we get a nominee is if we step aside for him,” she said.

“I think we need something different than Donald Trump. I don’t think you look at Donald Trump and say, we need somebody richer in the White House.”

Moments later, Pete Buttigieg offered his criticism for Bloomberg, but broadened it to also include Sanders.

“Let’s put someone forward who is actually a Democrat,” Buttigieg said. The remark was a reference to Sanders being a self-described “democratic socialist” and to Bloomberg having previously been a Republican and an independent.

“We shouldn’t have to choose between one candidate who wants to burn this party down and one who want to buy this party out,” Buttigieg said.”And most Americans don’t see where they fit if they’ve got to choose between a socialist who thinks that capitalism is the root of all evil, and a billionaire that thinks power, that money ought to be the root of all power.”

Feb. 20, 202001:31

After the opening round of Bloomberg bashing wrapped up, candidates turned their ire on one another

Warren helped kick off the free-for-all by ripping the health care proposals of two of her competitors.

“Mayor Buttigieg really has a slogan that was thought up by his consultants to paper over a thin version of a plan that would leave millions of people unable to afford their health care. It’s not a plan, it’s a PowerPoint,” Warren jabbed.

Klobuchar’s plan, she added, “is even less.”

“It’s like a Post-it note,” she said. “Insert plan here.”

Moments earlier, Buttigieg hit Sanders over the recent spat the senator’s supporters had with an influential union in Nevada.

“As a matter of fact, you’re the one who is at war with the Culinary Union right here in Las Vegas,” Buttigieg said.

Tensions between Sanders and Nevada’s powerful culinary union exploded last week after it publicly criticized his campaign’s push for “Medicare for All.” The union then said it had comer under “vicious” attacks from Sanders supporters.

Sanders put the topic right back in Buttigieg’s corner, retorting that, “We have more unions’ support than you have ever dreamed of.”

“We have the support of unions all across this country,” he said.

Buttigieg also attacked Sanders for not releasing enough information about his health, citing his October heart attack.

“Under President Obama the standard was that the president would release full medical records, do a physical and release the readout. I think that’s the standard that we should hold ourselves to as well,” he said.

Tensions between Buttigieg and Klobuchar — the two Midwesterners who have both geared their campaigns to appeal to centrist Democrats and disillusioned Republicans and who have lashed out at each other in increasingly personal ways also bubbled over, once again.

“You’re staking your candidacy on your Washington experience. You’re on the committee that oversees border security, you’re on the committee that does trade, you’re literally part of the committee that’s overseeing these things and were not able to speak to literally the first thing about the politics of the country to our south?

The criticism was a reference to Klobuchar, earlier this week, having not been able to recall the name of the president of Mexico.

“Are you trying to say that I’m dumb? Are you mocking me here, Pete?” Klobuchar replied.

The field, however, eventually returned to attacks on Bloomberg, with Warren taking the lead and hitting the ex-mayor once again on past comments he’s made about women. The Washington Post reported earlier this week that multiple women had alleged that Bloomberg made profane, sexist comments and that they had signed nondisclosure agreements about the comments.

That exchange prompted Warren to deliver, arguably, the most memorable lines of the evening.

“I hope you heard his defense. I’ve been nice to ‘some women.’ That just doesn’t cut it,” she said. Bloomberg was seen rolling his eyes while Warren spoke.

She then requested that Bloomberg, on the spot on national television, release the women making the allegations from their nondisclosure agreements and she demanded to know how many there were. Bloomberg repeatedly declined to answer.

Feb. 20, 202004:06

He also stumbled through his defense on the entire topic, saying that, “None of them accuse me of doing anything other than maybe they didn’t like a joke I told.”

He said that “there’s agreements between two parties that wanted to keep it quiet” and releasing the accusers from their nondisclosure agreements is “up to them.”

Warren then accused Bloomberg of having “muzzled” the women and compared the situation to Trump, who has also come under scrutiny for entering into nondisclosure agreements with women who had alleged suspect behavior.

“This is also a question about electability. We are not going to beat Donald Trump with a man who has, who knows how many, nondisclosure agreements and the drip, drip, drip of stories of women saying they have been harassed and discriminated against,” Warren said.

Biden used the moment to pile on Bloomberg, too.

“Let’s get something straight here, it’s easy. All the mayor has to do is say, ‘you are released from the nondisclosure agreement.’ Period,” Biden said. “If they want to…they should be able to release themselves. Say yes.”

Wednesday night’s debate came as several polls out this week have showed Bloomberg surging nationally into the runner-up position behind Sanders.

As a result, the two campaigns had increasingly painted the contest for the Democratic nomination as a two-man race.

But it has been Bloomberg more than anyone who, amid his rise in the polls, had faced blistering attacks, even before Wednesday night’s debate, including over “stop-and-frisk” and past comment’s he’d made about the LGBTQ community.

A senior Bloomberg campaign official told NBC News before the debate that they assumed that “everyone attacks us” on Wednesday night.

Live Updates From the Democratic Debate in Nevada

Photo: BRIDGET BENNETT/AFP via Getty Images

Democratic candidates took the stage Wednesday night at the Paris Theater in a final effort to make their case before Nevada caucuses on Saturday. Even before the debate began, the campaigns were taking shots at each other — dominated mostly by shots at the contest newcomer, Michael Bloomberg. In the early moments of the debate, the billionaire’s presence appeared to invigorate the other candidates. Below is everything you need to know about the ninth debate as it comes in.

Warren goes for Bloomberg from the jump

Aware of the opportunity for a big shot to boost her disappointing performances in New Hampshire and Nevada, the Massachusetts senator came for the new candidate immediately. Warren said that she lamented the presence of a billionaire in politics who has called women “fat broads and horse-faced lesbians,” informing the crowd she was talking about Michael Bloomberg, not the president. She added that the country is at a “huge risk of substituting one arrogant billionaire for another.”

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The Democratic candidates for president take the stage in Las Vegas for the latest debate. Follow along with our live blog. 

Bloomberg, Sanders spar over taxes, billionaires

Bernie Sanders slammed Michael Bloomberg’s wealth in an extended debate over taxes and what he described as the “grotesque level of income and wealth inequality” in the United States.

“That’s wrong, that’s immoral,” Sanders said, noting that Bloomberg’s wealth vastly overshadows the earnings of virtually all Americans.

The back-and-forth was ostensibly over the nation’s tax code, and a desire from Sanders and Elizabeth Warren to raise taxes on the wealthy. Bloomberg said he was proud of the money he has earned – “I work very hard for it,” he said – and added that he strongly opposed the tax proposals supported by the liberal wing of the party.  

“I can’t think of a way to make it easier for Donald Trump to get reelected than listening to this conversation,” Bloomberg said in an exasperated voice. Bloomberg said the country had tried “communism” and that it “just didn’t work.”  

Mostly glossed over in the exchange: That Bloomberg has spent hundreds of millions of dollars of his own money to raise his profile in Super Tuesday states.

– John Fritze

Bloomberg asked about redlining

Joe Biden delivered a criticism of Mike Bloomberg but those unaware of his reference wouldn’t have known that’s what he was doing. It took the moderator to bring out the attack.

In a question about how his policies would affect small, minority-owned businesses, Biden brought up the discriminatory housing practice known as “redlining.”

It wasn’t redlining, but the greed of Wall Street, that caused the 2008 financial crisis, Biden said. That was an allusion to comments Bloomberg made in 2008 in which he said the crisis was started because banks were pressured to end redlining.

Asked by the moderator about that comment, Bloomberg called the idea that redlining caused the crisis exactly wrong. He added that he’s been on the record opposing redlining, a practice that is still going on in some places “and we’ve got to cut it out.”

Maureen Groppe

In promoting Green New Deal, Sanders calls climate change ‘moral issue’

Bernie Sanders defended his Green New Deal as the only real solution to the “existential threat” posed by climate change.

“This is a moral issue, my friends,” he said. “We have responsibility of making sure that the planet, we leave our children and grandchildren, as healthy and habitable.”

The plan, criticized by Republicans and moderate Democrats as a radical plan that would threaten the economy, has been a signature policy of Sanders and other progressives.

Most Democrats on the debate stage are not on board with the Green New deal though they support aggressive steps to reduce carbon emissions that lead to climate change, starting with the defeat of President Donald Trump who has questioned the science behind climate change and has called for expanded oil drilling and mining.

“Let’s be real. The deadline is not 2050. It’s not 2040. It’s not 2030. It’s 2020,” said former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. “Because if we don’t elect a president who actually believes in climate science now We will never meet any of the scientific or policy deadlines” to combat global warming.

Ledyard King

Warren’s campaign said they had the best hour of fundraising

Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s campaign stated they had the “best hour of fundraising” of her campaign so far after the first hour of Wednesday’s debate.

The campaign says they have a goal to raise $7 million before Saturday’s Nevada caucuses.

During the halfway point, she was also the most tweeted about candidate.

Savannah Behrmann

Sanders: Bloomberg’s Republican past should not be forgotten

Michael Bloomberg’s policies targeting communities of color and his non-disclosure agreements with a number of women over potential harassment claims at his company are bad enough, according to Bernie Sanders.

But that’s not the only reason he’s a bad choice to take on Donald Trump in November, Sanders said.

The Vermont senator went after Bloomberg on his political past as a Republican who endorsed President George W. Bush in 2004 and gave a small fortune to Republican causes for years,

And, “maybe we can talk about a billionaire saying that we should not raise the minimum wage, or that we should cut Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid,” Sanders said.

Bloomberg switched to the GOP to run for mayor but later switched in the middle of his tenure to run as an independent. He became a Democrat in 2018 and started funding Democratic candidates and causes.

– Ledyard King

Warren comes to Klobuchar’s defense

A question to Amy Klobuchar about her failure to identify the president of Mexico in a recent interview led to a back-and-forth with Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren coming to her female colleague’s defense.

Klobuchar said she had “momentary forgetfulness” that doesn’t reflect what she knows about Mexico and how much she cares about it.

Buttigieg countered that Klobuchar is staking her candidacy on her Washington experience and she failed to name Mexico’s president when she’s on the Senate committee that oversees trade and border security

“Are you trying to stay that I’m dumb? Are you mocking me?” Klobuchar asked Buttigieg. “People sometimes forget names.”

Warren jumped in to agree that forgetting a name happens to everyone and doesn’t by itself “indicate that you don’t understand what’s going on.”

– Maureen Groppe

Bloomberg put back on heels over women in the workplace

Michael Bloomberg came under rapid fire from the rest of the field over his past comments about women and the way women have been treated at his company in an exchange that will almost certainly be seen as a key moment in the debate.

Bloomberg said his company, Bloomberg LP, had “no tolerance for the kind of behavior the Me Too movement has exposed.”

But Elizabeth Warren quickly followed up, pressing Bloomberg on how many women who worked for him were subject to non-disclosure agreements and unable to talk about harassment and abuse in the workplace.  

“I hope you heard what his defense was: ‘I’ve been nice to some women,’” Warren said. “The mayor needs to stand on his record.”

Warren – and then Joe Biden – urged Bloomberg to release women from the non-disclosure agreements on stage, which Bloomberg declined to do. Warren described the women as being “muzzled” by the NDAs.

“They decided, when they made an agreement, that they wanted to keep it quiet for everyone’s interest,” Bloomberg said.

– John Fritze

Klobuchar defends prosecutorial record

Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s prosecutorial record was questioned during Wednesday’s debate when moderators asked her why black voters should trust her given some of her past cases that have recently been drawn to light.

Specifically, Klobuchar had to defend her record regarding the case when an 11-year-old girl was killed by a stray bullet while doing homework at her dining room table in 2002. 

Klobuchar’s office put Tyesha Edwards’ alleged killer, a black teen at the time, behind bars for life.

New reports from the Associated Press show that Myon Burrell, the alleged killer, may have been wrongfully convicted.

Klobuchar said that all evidence from the case, old and new, should be reviewed. 

She also continued that she has to “earn” the vote of African American voters across the nation, but has done so in her community.

Savannah Behrmann

Bloomberg: ‘I’ve asked for forgiveness’ on stop-and-frisk

Michael Bloomberg, who has been on an apology tour for his controversial ‘Stop-and-Frisk’ policing program that targeted minority communities in high-crime neighborhoods in New York City, became defensive on the debate stage. 

Both Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren went after the former mayor, saying its efforts to go after community of colors proved to be a mistake that unfairly persecuted the city’s most vulnerable residents.

“The policy was abhorrent,” said Biden, who added that the program only stopped after President Barack Obama sent monitors to stop the program.

“When the mayor says that he apologized, listen closely to the apology,” Warren chimed in. “This isn’t about how it turned out, this is about what it was designed to do to begin with…. If you want to issue a real apology, then the apology has to start with the intent of the plan as it was put together and the willful ignorance day by day by day of admitting what was happening even as people protested in your own street.”

Bloomberg responded that the policy was already in place in some form before he became mayor and that the number of deaths per year in the city dropped from 650 to 300 due in part to Stop and Frisk.

But he said the city went overboard.

“I’ve asked for forgiveness, but the bottom line is that we stopped too many people,” he said. “But there is no great answer to a lot of problems and if we took off everybody that was wrong on this panel, everybody that was wrong on criminal justice at some time in the careers, nobody else would be up here.”

Ledyard King

Sanders, Bloomberg spar over heart health

A battle that broke out earlier this week on the campaign trail between Bernie Sanders and Michael Bloomberg over their heart health made an appearance on the debate stage. Sanders was asked whether his decision to withhold additional medical records despite suffering a heart attack in October undercut his vow for transparency.

Sanders noted that he had released some documents and tried to quickly shift attention to Bloomberg, who had two coronary stents placed in 2000 after a positive stress test. Bloomberg fired back that the operation was 20 years ago.

Sanders suggested that Bloomberg follow him around on the campaign trail for several days and “see how you’re doing compared to me.”

 – John Fritze

Candidates address attacks on Culinary Union members from ‘Bernie bros’

The candidates got heated over recent attacks from some of Sen. Bernie Sanders most vocal supports, known as “Bernie bros”

Pete Buttigieg claimed Sanders was “at war with the [Nevada’s] Culinary Union” after some of the Vermont Senator’s supporters reportedly threatened members for criticizing Sanders’ “Medicare for All” plan.

“We are all responsible for our supporters and need to step up,” he said, continuing that the attacks are a reflection of what Sanders leadership is drawing out of them. 

Sanders responded that his campaign has “have more union support than you have ever dreamed of” while addressing the “Bernie bros” attacks.

“If there are a few people who make ugly remarks, who attack union leaders, then I disown those people. They are not part of our movement,” he said. 

However, he said that this isn’t an issue specific to his campaign, telling the other candidates to look at the attacks members of his campaign have faced, especially those towards African American women. 

The Culinary Union represents 60,000 housekeepers, porters and bartenders working in Las Vegas casinos. At the top of the union’s presidential asks is to maintain the robust health care plans members have fought hard to negotiate and win. 

The union announced last week that it would not endorse a candidate ahead of the caucuses this Saturday. 

– Savannah Behrmann

Sanders defends Medicare for All

Sanders, asked if Nevada’s powerful Culinary Union’s criticism of his health care plan is correct, had a simple answer.

“No,” Sanders said.

The union fears workers that under Medicare for All they would have to give up their hard-fought health care benefits for coverage that might not be as good.

Sanders promised never to sign a bill that would give them worse benefits.

“We will only expand for them, for every union in America for the working class of this country,” Sanders said.

The union has circulated flyers saying Medicare for All would “end Culinary Healthcare” but chose not to endorse any of the candidates who offer an alternative approach.

Elizabeth Warren, who backs a version of Medicare for All, went after the more moderate plans of her competitors. She dismissed Pete Buttigieg’s “Medicare for all who want it” proposal as a powerpoint plan. Amy Klobuchar’s health care proposal, Warren sniffed, is nothing more than a post-it note.

Klobuchar said she took personal offense at that because “post-it notes were invented in my state.”

Maureen Groppe

Debate takes sharp turn, reflecting state of race

The first moments of the Democratic debate in Las Vegas have been far sharper than any other so far in the race of the Democratic nomination – for good reason.

Michael Bloomberg has hit Bernie Sanders as too liberal to win in the general election. Elizabeth Warren attacked Bloomberg and described Amy Klobuchar’s health care plan as a “Post-it note.” Pete Buttigieg called Sanders and Bloomberg the two most polarizing figures on the stage.

“Can I just say I take personal offense because Post-it notes were invited in my state,” joked Klobuchar, who represents Minnesota in the Senate.

“You don’t put your money on a number that’s not even on the wheel,” Klobuchar fired back on health care, arguing that the Medicare-for-All plans supported by Sanders and Warren were unrealistic.

The sharp elbows underscored the sea changes taking place in the presidential campaign, compounding the long-running divide in the party between the more centrist candidates like Joe Biden and Buttigieg and liberals like Sanders and Warren. Not only is Bloomberg rearranging that narrative with his first appearance on stage — and his momentum in polling — but the race has become more defined by Sanders’ narrow win in New Hampshire and his virtual tie with Buttigieg in Iowa.

That means several of the candidates – including Bloomberg and Sanders – are suddenly targets for the rest of the field. Others, including Biden and Klobuchar, are battling for a performance that would allow them to place in the Nevada caucuses this weekend.

– John Fritze

Warren: Democrats should not nominate Bloomberg because of racist, misogynistic actions

The first big shot at Michael Bloomberg came from Massachusetts  Sen. Elizabeth Warren who slammed the former New York City mayor.

Democrats should not nominate someone who is “hiding his tax returns of harassing women and of supporting racist policies like redlining and stop and frisk.” Or a ““billionaire who calls women fat broads and horseface lesbians.”

Warren, who is trailing in the polls, came out fiercely, saying it would be a mistake to nominate Bloomberg because “Democrats take a huge risk if we just substitute one billionaire for another.” a reference to Trump

Blomberg, who has apologized for the ‘Stop-and-Frisk’ policing policy that targeted neighborhoods of color in New York, emphasized his electability.

“I think we have two questions to face tonight. One is, who can beat Donald Trump. And number two, we can do the job as they get into the White House,” he said. “I would argue that I am the candidate that can do exactly most of those things. I’m a New Yorker, I know how to take on an arrogant con man like Donald Trump comes from New York.”

Ledyard king

Buttigieg goes after Sanders and Bloomberg

Pete Buttigieg, in his first chance at-bat, said the party is facing the prospect of the only candidates being left standing after Super Tuesday being Bernie Sanders and Mike Bloomberg – whom he called the two most polarizing figures on the stage.

Most Americans will feel left out if forced to choose between a socialist who thinks capitalism is the root of all evil and a billionaire who thinks money is the root of all power.

“Look, 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,” Buttigieg said. “We can do better.”

Maureen Groppe

Bloomberg vows to take on ‘arrogant, con-man’ Trump

Michael Bloomberg, who has repeatedly taken fire from President Donald Trump since entering the race for the Democratic nomination, delivered some of it back to the president on the stage early in the debate.

Saying he was speaking as a “New Yorker,” Bloomberg said he knew how to “take on arrogant con man like Donald Trump.”

“I know how to run a complicated city, the biggest, most diverse city in this country,” Bloomberg said. “I’m a philanthropist who didn’t inherit his money, but made his money.”

In the early moments of a debate that started off far more feisty than the previous exchanges between the candidates, Bloomberg has been forced to both introduce his campaign and explain during the debate why he is best qualified to beat Trump, should he win the nomination.

-John Fritze

Sanders is given first chance to whack Bloomberg

The first question of the ninth debate was about former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was making his first appearance on the stage.

Bernie Sanders, who is leading in the polls, was asked why he’s a better candidate to beat President Donald Trump than Bloomberg, who is pitching himself as a centrist.

Sanders said beating Trump will require the largest voter turnout in history and Bloomberg can’t do that because of his past support for the controversial “stop-and-frisk” police strategy.

Sanders that “went after the African American and Latino people in an outrageous way.”

By contrast, Sanders said, he’s bringing together people of all races and backgrounds around and agenda that works for all everyone and “not just the billionaire class.”

– Maureen Groppe

Bloomberg speaks, slams Sanders

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg made his debut remarks in a Democratic debate by slamming Sen. Bernie Sanders, suggesting that the Vermont senator could not build a winning coalition to take on President Donald Trump.

Bloomberg said Sanders couldn’t win by basing his campaign largely on a health care plan that he said would force millions of Americans to switch off their private coverage.

“That’s just not a way that you go and start building a coalition,” Bloomberg said in his first remarks on the debate stage.

If Sanders wins the nomination, Bloomberg said, “We will have Donald Trump for another four years.”

– John Fritze

Mobile billboards in Vegas celebrate Trump 

LAS VEGAS – The Republican National Committee has bought a mobile billboard that will roam the Strip during tonight’s Democratic debate.

Rolling up and down Las Vegas Boulevard from 5-10 p.m., the board will attack Democrats and celebrate President Donald Trump.

A graphic on the billboard shows a chair being thrown at Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez. The image references the 2016 Nevada State Democratic Party convention, where Bernie Sanders supporters allegedly threw chairs.  

Another graphic touts Trump’s economic performance in the White House, showing the president in a thumbs-up pose.

The Republican National Committee has bought a mobile billboard that will roam the Strip during tonight’s Democratic debate.The Republican National Committee has bought a mobile billboard that will roam the Strip during tonight’s Democratic debate.
The Republican National Committee has bought a mobile billboard that will roam the Strip during tonight’s Democratic debate.

“President Trump has delivered to Nevada,” the sign reads, offering a list: “Record low unemployment rates… More than 125,000 jobs … A $1,300/year tax cut to Nevada workers and families.”

“President Trump has delivered for Silver State and Nevadans have no interest in a socialist agenda,” Trump Victory spokesman Keith Schipper said in a statement.

The mobile billboard even has a name: “DNC’s Big Rig.”

Ed Komenda 

Who is Obama’s best bud?

Do you have President Barack Obama on your debate bingo card?

He could be a popular topic given how often he’s come up lately in the Democrats’ nominating contest.

A lot of that is driven by ads from former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg touting Obama’s past praise for Bloomberg.

The ads are so convincing — and ubiquitous — that former Obama aides have said they’ve been asked when Obama endorsed Bloomberg. The ads have also annoyed some of those aides because Bloomberg didn’t endorse Obama in 2008 and gave what they saw as a sub-par endorsement in 2012.

“Welcome to the debates, Mike. We have a lot to catch up on about Barack Obama’s record,” tweeted former Vice President Joe Biden Wednesday.

The video that accompanied that tweet included Bloomberg’s past criticisms of Obama’s signature health care law and his record on climate change — among other clashes.

Pete Buttigieg, whose campaign has encouraged comparisons with Obama’s 2008 run, could bring up Obama with an attack on Bernie Sanders.

Buttigieg tweeted out Wednesday an article in The Atlantic about how close Sanders came to challenging Obama in the 2012 primary.

“Barack Obama was an excellent president,” Buttigieg tweeted. “What’s disappointing is that someone in this race would suggest otherwise.”

Maureen Groppe

Expect to hear more about Medicare for All

While there’s been no shortage of discussion about health care in the previous eight Democratic debates, expect it to come up again tonight.

That’s because Medicare for All may be the best chance the center-left Democrats have of slowing Bernie Sanders’ momentum in Nevada.

Sanders’ costly and controversial plan worries the powerful Culinary Union, the state’s largest labor organization. The union fears workers would have to give up their hard-fought health care benefits for coverage that might not be as good.

The union has circulated flyers saying Medicare for All would “end Culinary Healthcare” but chose not to endorse any of the candidates who offer an alternative approach.

Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Joe Biden will likely look for opportunities on stage to criticize Sanders’ plan and plug their proposals to improve health care coverage.

Expect Sanders to argue that Medicare for All would help unions by taking health care off the table during contract negotiations.

Meanwhile, a group comprised of major drugmakers, insurance companies and private hospitals, is saying a pox on both your houses.

Partnership for America’s Health Care Future launched a new ad around the debate that criticizes the approaches of both Sanders’ and the more moderate Democrats.  The ad says the proposals would result in higher taxes and lower-quality care.

Maureen Groppe 

Biden slips further in polls and among oddsmakers

Hours before the debate in Las Vegas, a new national poll is cutting into Joe Biden’s core argument that his electability and broad appeal makes him the Democratic presidential nominee best suited to defeat Donald Trump.

The former vice president’s support among “Democratic-leaning” registered voters dropped from 32% in the same Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted in January to 16% in the poll released Wednesday. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders now leads with 32% (up 9 points from January), with former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg (14%) and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (12%) nipping at Biden’s heels.

The poll was conducted from Feb. 14-17 of 408 Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters, and it has a margin of error of plus or minus 6 percentage points.

One Oddsmaker doesn’t think much of Biden’s chances to win the nomination either.

Bovada, an online sports gambling site, puts his odds at +775, meaning someone who bets $100 on the former vice president to win the nomination would receive a payout of $775. On Jan. 1, Biden was the favorite at +200.

Sanders is now the favorite at +125, (he was +350 on Jan. 1) with Bloomberg close behind at +200. Warren has plummeted from +450 to +6600, well behind 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton who comes in at +2000, the same as Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

Although Biden is not expected to do very well in Saturday’s Nevada Caucuses, one poll shows him leading the Feb. 29 South Carolina primary where he has invested time and resources truing to woo the state’s racially diverse electorate.

The poll, released by the University of Massachusetts Lowell’s Center for Public Opinion, found that 23% of likely voters in South Carolina’s Democratic primary support Biden compared to 21 percent for Sanders. Billionaire Tom Steyer, who will not be on Wednesday’s debate stage, is third with 13%.

The poll of 400 voters has an adjusted margin of error of plus or minus 7.5 percent.

Ledyard King

‘2020 The Musical’ 

LAS VEGAS –  Hours before the Democratic debate will unfold in a nearby Strip theater, Carol Dunitz stood outside Paris Las Vegas dressed like Uncle Sam.

She toted a sign with a message for passing tourists to see: “Dump the Trump in 2020.”

An Ann Arbor, Michigan, native with a doctorate in speech and theatre, Dunitz is the writer of “2020 The Musical,” a collection of 20 show tunes about dissecting political topics of the times: Global warming, reproductive rights and criminal justice reform among them.

Dunitz travels to all Democratic debates, promoting her musical and talking politics with anyone who cares to chat.

“Bloomberg or Sanders,” Dunitz said of her candidates, though her choice often changes.

Former New York City mayor has a chance, because “he’s more centrist,” Dunitz said. “That’s why the powers that be like him.”

– Ed Komenda 

Se Habla Español

While many candidates are running Spanish language ads in Nevada it’s unlikely you’ll hear much Spanish on stage tonight.

Pete Buttigieg is the only candidate left who speaks Spanish.

The first candidate to speak Spanish at a debate was former Rep. Beto O’Rourke who, at the first debate last June, answered a question about tax rates in Spanish. Former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker also threw in some Spanish that night. Booker’s best bilingual performance came in September when he was asked whether more Americans should follow his vegan diet.

“First of all, I want to say, `no,’” Booker responded. “Actually, I want to translate that into Spanish. `No.’”

One of Buttigieg’s Nevada ads translates the phonetic pronunciation of his name – Boot-edge-edge – into Spanish: Bt-ech-ech.

Buttigieg’s uncommon last name is Maltese and his Nevada ads emphasize that he is the son of an immigrant.

Likewise, Bernie Sanders, whose father immigrated from Europe, reminds voters of his immigrant roots in one of his Nevada ads.

About three in ten Nevadans are Latinos and nearly two in ten residents are foreign-born, according to the U.S. Census.

Maureen Groppe 

Get ready for attacks on Bloomberg

There appears to be no shortage of beefs that other Democratic candidates have with former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Let’s start with the fact that Bloomberg didn’t become a Democrat until 2018.

“I don’t endorse Republicans,” former Vice President Joe Biden tweeted Wednesday in response to a Bloomberg video showing Biden’s past praise for the former mayor.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren last week said Bloomberg “should not be the leader of our party” because of comments he made in 2008 about the financial crisis. Bloomberg said the crisis was started because banks were pressured to end the discriminatory housing practice known as “redlining.”

Warren and other Democrats have also accused Bloomberg of trying to buy the nomination through the unprecedented hundreds of millions of dollars he’s already spent. And she’s charged him with overseeing, as mayor, “a program that surveilled and tracked Muslim communities in mosques, restaurants, and even college campuses.”

Shortly before the debate, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders circulated a video of comments Bloomberg made in 2012 about decreasing benefits or raising the eligibility age of Medicare and Social Security.

“Let’s have some austerity for billionaires,” Sanders says at the end of the video.

Bloomberg, in his first appearance on the debate stage, could also get asked about:

  • His refusal to release women from confidentiality agreements they’ve signed relating to allegations of a hostile work environment at his company;
  • His past descriptions of transgender people as “he, she, or it” and dress-wearing men who enter girls’ locker rooms.
  • His past support for the controversial “stop-and-frisk” police strategy.

But Bloomberg isn’t shying from battle. His campaign has circulated a video criticizing the harassing “energy” of some of Sanders’ supporters. His aides are also warning that it’s almost too late for Democrats to coalesce behind an alternative to Sanders to stop him from getting the nomination.

– Maureen Groppe

As debate stage gets older, candidates tangle over health

Questions about age and health generally have rumbled below the surface as the candidates vie for the Democratic presidential nomination. Even when Bernie Sanders, 78, suffered a heart attack in October, his quick return to the campaign trail quieted any public concerns.

But when asked Tuesday during a CNN town hall whether he would provide more of his medical records, the Vermont senator demurred.

“I think we have released a detailed medical report, and I’m comfortable on what we have done,” he told moderator Anderson Cooper.

Wednesday’s debate crew is not only smaller (seven candidates in the last one versus six) and less ethnically diverse (no minorities this time) but older as well.

Gone are entrepreneur Andrew Yang, 45, and businessman Tom Steyer, 62. Arriving is former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg, 78. That means four of the six candidates on stage (Bloomberg, Sanders, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren) will be at least 70.

On Wednesday, Sanders’ national press secretary, Briahna Gray, told CNN that questions about the Vermont senator’s health were “reminiscent” of those raised about other candidates, “questioning where they’re from, aspects of their lineage, etc.” 

“None of the same concern is being demonstrated for Michael Bloomberg, who’s the same age as Bernie Sanders, who’s suffered heart attacks in the past,” she said.

In a statement, Bloomberg campaign manager Kevin Sheekey said it was an “absolute lie that Mike had heart attacks” and called Gray’s claim “completely false.”

Sheekey said Bloomberg, 78, had two coronary stents placed in 2000 after a positive stress test. Bloomberg released a letter from his doctor Stephen Sisson in December saying he was in “outstanding health” and in “great physical shape.” 

“There are no medical concerns, present or looming, that would prevent him from serving as President of the United States,” Sisson wrote. 

In a Twitter post Wednesday, Gray said she “misspoke” about Bloomberg having a heart attack and said Bloomberg “underwent the same stent procedure as Bernie.” 

Bloomberg’s heart procedure was a preventive measure, whereas Sanders’ was conducted after the candidate had a heart attack.

Ledyard King and Nicolas Wu

Democrats set to debate for ninth time but with one new face

WASHINGTON – Five familiar faces and one new one take the Democratic debate stage tonight in Las Vegas.

That should generate a lot of fireworks as the returning candidates, who feel like they’ve been put through the paces from the past eight debates and months of campaigning, get their first chance to test former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg. 

Bloomberg is making his first appearance, despite the fact that he is not on the ballot in Nevada, which caucuses Saturday.

But while Bloomberg is skipping the first four states to vote in Democrats’ presidential nominating contest, he is spending heavily across the country. 

That earned him enough support in polls to qualify for the debate after the Democratic National Committee last month changed the entry rules that had included donor requirements. Bloomberg, who has already spent more on advertising than President Barack Obama spent on ads during his entire 2012 re-election campaign, is self-funding his bid.

The next-richest Democrat in the contest, activist Tom Steyer, will not be in the debate. He failed to win at least one delegate in Iowa or New Hampshire or show support of 10 percent or more in four qualifying polls. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii also did not qualify.

The candidates getting their first chance to spar with Bloomberg are Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana. 

The two-hour debate begins at 9 p.m. ET. 

There are five moderators: NBC anchor Lester Holt, “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd, NBC News Chief White House Correspondent Hallie Jackson, Noticias Telemundo Senior Correspondent Vanessa Hauc and Jon Ralston of The Nevada Independent.

2020 candidates on the issues: A voter’s guide to where they stand on health care, gun control and more

Interactive guide: Who is running for president in 2020?

The calendar: When are the 2020 presidential election primaries?

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Las Vegas Democratic debate could get fiery with Michael Bloomberg in

Barbershops Targeted to Improve Health of Black Men

( – Black men with high blood pressure could benefit from a research study beginning this month to check their vitals while they are getting a haircut at a barbershop.

Previous research in Texas and California has shown barbershops can successfully support preventive medical care, leading Vanderbilt University Medical Center researchers to begin a pilot research clinical trial for black men, who are traditionally less likely than white men to have regular preventive checkups with their doctor.

“Hypertension is called a ‘silent killer’ because most people have no clue they have it until they have their blood pressure taken. There are no symptoms until the day they have their stroke or heart attack or develop kidney disease,” said David Harrison, MD, director of VUMC’s division of Clinical Pharmacology and principal investigator for the study.

“One of the main challenges we face is that people have to take off work, come see a doctor, deal with traffic and try to find parking — all of which are disruptive to their life — so they stop taking their medicine and coming for appointments. Meeting people where they are makes it easier for them to get their blood pressure checked and discuss their medications.”

The Vanderbilt study is a collaboration with the Cedars-Sinai Smidt Heart Institute in Los Angeles, as well as UCLA, CVS HealthNashvilleHealth and My Brother’s Keeper in Nashville.

“Initiatives like this harness the power of community to transform health,” said Sen. Bill Frist, MD, founder of NashvilleHealth. “The collaborative approach among Nashville’s academic, nonprofit, public health and business leaders will take innovative care directly to the patient in a trusted, accessible environment. These are the very unique health solutions that will change lives for the better.”

The new study is modeled after several pioneering studies led by the late hypertension specialist Ronald G. Victor, MD, who was the first to scientifically prove that hypertension health care provided in convenient neighborhood settings could have a positive impact on the black community, which has higher rates of hypertension, hypertension complications and death.

Victor’s most recent study, published in 2018 in The New England Journal of Medicine, showed 60% of participants across a network of 60 barbershops brought their high blood pressure into normal ranges within six months.

In Nashville, patrons from eight local barbershops who have uncontrolled hypertension will be invited to enroll in the study, where they will meet with a study pharmacist in the barbershop on a regular basis for six months. A study physician will also be available for patrons who require additional support.

Because barbers are often seen as mentors and have longstanding relationships with their regular patrons, researchers hope their advocacy for the project will lead to earlier identification of hypertension.

“The relationship between the barber and client lends a level of credence to endeavors of health and wellness that cannot be found anywhere else,” said Jarod Parrish, PharmD, the study’s pharmacist. “This model will help tear down barriers of entry for the African American community, such as the distrust in the health care system due to historical injustices, and will show that, when trusted, the health care system can deliver life-altering results.”

According to Jamal Stewart, owner of Masters Barbershop, one of the project’s eight participating Nashville barbershops, the project is important for helping to fill a gap in health care that affects many of his clients.

“I chose to participate in this project because I can see a true need for hypertension awareness,” said Stewart. “A considerable amount of people in our community are unaware of their condition. I am looking forward to the healing process by giving people a chance to educate themselves and the tools to combat hypertension.”

This research is supported by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (grant UL1TR001881-03S2).

A serious conversation about mental health, autism, chronic diseases

by Renee P. Aldrich, For New Pittsburgh Courier

Not the blustery wind nor the residual dampness from the daylong rain of the previous day could keep away a crowd of more than 50 from engaging in a “Conversation about Health and Your Sense of Self.”

The Jan. 25 event was held at the Spartan Community Center in Hazelwood.

African Americans suffer disproportionately from most chronic diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. But mental illness is at the forefront of the disorders, of which African Americans are impacted in greater numbers than Caucasians.

During the event, a number of people came together to tackle the topic of mental illness. They included the Primary Health Care Service locations in Homewood, the Hill District and Hazelwood, East Liberty Health Center, Hillman Cancer Center and Matilda Theiss Center, to name a few. A panel discussion, moderated by Mario Brown, director of Health Sciences diversity programs at the University of Pittsburgh, featured a conversation with survivors like Rita Gregory (breast cancer), and Greg Tot (prostate cancer). Candace Bey, another panelist, shared her journey through childhood trauma, which led to a mental health diagnosis. Along with Beth Simon of the Hillman Cancer Center, each panelist gave an impassioned story of what they went through, what their fears were in dealing with their disease or diagnosis, and how they progressed through.

They encouraged the audience to face their personal fears, seek screenings, and be proactive in their own health care. Simon gave the audience an overview of indicators of colorectal cancer. She discussed screening guidelines, told audience members what the test consisted of and how important it was to find polyps (abnormal tissue growths) early before they can turn into cancer.

Additionally, there were special presentations on illnesses that don’t often get attention. Jamie Upshaw, of Autism Urban Connections Inc., shared how there are a lack of resources for African American families who had autistic children. She then revealed that her own son’s diagnosis was the impetus behind her push to start her own organization.

“When I was seeking answers, resources and help for my child and our family, and there was none, I knew I couldn’t be the only one, and I didn’t want any other family to go through what we went through, so I started my organization to be that link to resources for other families,” Upshaw said.

Terri Shields, of Jada House International, shared her battle with Lupus and how her denial almost kept her from getting the help she needed, thereby almost causing her death. Shields now is an advocate and strong proponent of understanding autoimmune diseases and managing systems to have a higher quality of life.

Johnnie Geathers, a mental health therapist at Familylinks, gave a stirring presentation about men and mental health. Sharing that the stigma around mental health was bad enough, it even had a deeper connotation for men. He said in his speech, “We need more Black male therapists, counselors, case managers and social workers in general. Men need to see other men in these fields, which can help create a comfort zone and allow them the freedom to seek the help they need.”

An essential highlight of the day was the keynote talk by Steven Evans, M.D., surgical oncologist at the Hillman Cancer Center. Dr. Evans’ talk was not a clinical overview of breast cancer, which is his specialty, nor was it a stream of statistics and pre-packaged information about the disease. Instead, it was a poignant discussion of how to move past the pain of a cancer diagnosis. With transparency and emotion, he talked of the loss of his wife to colorectal cancer. And with biblical references, he showed the audience that above all, it is faith that would carry them through either a diagnosis of their own, or that of a loved one.

“I stopped by today to encourage you and let you know that while a diagnosis of cancer can be and is a defining moment,” you are not to give up, he said. You’re to find your way through the dark moments.

Dr. Evans also talked about families having multiple cancer incidences, sharing that this is not uncommon.

Dr. Evans is known for singing to his patients prior to their surgery. On this day, he decided to conclude his talk by breaking out in song, bringing the audience to their feet.

Representatives from Softer Side Seminars, Jada House International, the Hazelwood Family Center, Center of Life, Autism Urban Connections and Fountain of Life Church collaborated to host the event.

(ABOUT THE TOP PHOTO: JAMIE UPSHAW started Autism Urban Connections Inc., after her son was diagnosed with autism.—Photo by Courier photographer Dayna Delgado)

DCCC Employs Innovative Game Plan to Increase New Democratic Majority

Campaign Arm of House Dems Expanding Access to Ballot thru Legal Victories   

 “[We] know that voting is an essential right and that expanding access to ballot is good for our democracy,” said Cheri Bustos, who in her role as DCCC chairwoman, heads what serves as the sole official campaign arm of the Democrats in the House of Representatives. “This legal strategy is only more urgent as Republicans have been emboldened by President Trump’s baseless and dis-proven claims of voter fraud. We are working to remove barriers to the ballot box and throughout the cycle we are going to keep pushing this work forward. That means devoting serious resources to engaging voters, inspiring them and then making sure they turn out to vote in November.”

By D. Kevin McNeir, Washington Informer Editor@dkevinmcneir  

      With several Democratic presidential hopefuls bowing out of the race following lackluster results in Iowa and New Hampshire, those who remain have set their sights on scoring big in primary elections or caucuses in Nevada, South Carolina and the delegate-rich “Super Tuesday” showdowns (March 3) in their bid to challenge the Republican incumbent, Donald Trump, for control of the White House and Congress.

But their ultimate success, both in the primaries and General Election, may rest on the ability of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee [DCCC] – the official campaign arm of the Dems in the House – to rack up enough victories in pending or future voting rights litigation awaiting rulings in courtrooms throughout the U.S. so that voters backing the Democratic agenda can cast their ballots free of recent voter suppression tactics fueled by Republican legislators in Congress.

Cheri Bustos, who in her role as DCCC chairwoman, heads what serves as the sole official campaign arm of the Democrats in the House of Representatives, says their mission remains clear: to support Democratic candidates every step of the way, up and down the ballot, in their efforts to both fortify and expand the newly-forged Democratic Majority.

“[We] know that voting is an essential right and that expanding access to ballot is good for our democracy,” she said. “This legal strategy is only more urgent as Republicans have been emboldened by President Trump’s baseless and disproven claims of voter fraud. We are working to remove barriers to the ballot box and throughout the cycle we are going to keep pushing this work forward. That means devoting serious resources to engaging voters, inspiring them and then making sure they turn out to vote in November.”

Bustos notes that when it comes to the litigation, winning ballot access and similarly-related lawsuits which protect early voting days yield positive consequences well beyond the current election cycle of 2020, particularly for Blacks – still disproportionately disenfranchised despite both record-breaking numbers of Blacks elected to Congress and the landmark, two-term victory of Barack Obama as the nation’s first African American president. Thus, their efforts serve as critical civil rights work with the Democratic party leading the way.

     Initiatives Launched to Foster Dems’ Success in 2020  

Last Spring, the DCCC unfolded a multi-million dollar program, “March Forward,” which began with 60-plus field organizers in battleground states across the U.S. ahead of November 2020 – the earliest they’ve ever begun to engage Democratic coalitions as they attempt to take grassroots organizing to the next level. Following on the program’s positive results in 2018, field managers receive training in communications, digital, research and field tactics – all aimed toward executing more modern campaign strategies.

Since its inception, March Forward looks bring more Americans, in cities big and small, into the Democratic Party while continuing the DCCC’s heralded “Cycle of Engagement” – a program designed to foster greater voter registration drives within communities of color.

Bustos says March Forward continues to be an important step in the path to solidify and increase the Democratic Majority.

“As Democrats, we’ve always drawn our strength from the people we fight for each and every day… and our first major investment of the 2020 cycle [March Forward] puts boots on the ground in dozens of communities across America,” she said. “Whether it’s tackling the high cost of health care or fighting for fair wages, we believe in an America where everyone has the opportunity to succeed.”

As an example of their hard work, the DCCC recently celebrated a legislative victory in South Carolina, just ahead of the upcoming State primary, which opens access to the ballot for nearly one million unregistered voters, 400,000 of whom they estimate to be people of color.

A spokesperson for the DCCC said the next several weeks should be viewed as crucial in the organization’s year-long efforts to both solidify and increase the Democratic Party’s base of voters of color.

Late last month, Bustos, along with House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) and DCCC General Counsel Marc Elias, held a press conference during which they highlighted a legislative victory that should be celebrated by all Americans.

A collaborative effort initiated by the South Carolina Democratic Party and the DCCC recently led to the elimination of South Carolina’s requirement – one which they deemed as unconstitutional – that potential voters provide their full nine-digit Social Security number when registering to vote.

The lawsuit served as part of an eight-figure investment from the DCCC and DSCC in their collective battle to fight voter suppression laws across the country.

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The Bernie Bamboozle

 The Gantt Report

By Lucius Gantt

      No disrespect to Independent Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders but I disagree with his suggestion that all “billionaires” are basically alike and that wealthy, qualified Americans should not be allowed to participate in Presidential elections.

I say political candidate money doesn’t care who contributes it, doesn’t care who receives it and doesn’t worry about who benefits from the dollars.

Well, Bernie Sanders suggests that it’s a bad thing for the electoral process if so-called billionaires invest their own money to promote their own attempt to win an elected office.

Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Oprah Winfrey are said to be billionaires. Are they bad people? Would Oprah be a bad candidate for President?

Perhaps, but not necessarily because she has a lot of money.

Bad people make bad Presidents!

To suggest that all billionaires are like President Donald Trump is ludicrous and ridiculous.

Bernie rants and raves because one of his opponents, former New York Mayor and wealthy businessman Mike Bloomberg, has a ton of money and has been spending hundreds of millions of dollars on campaign advertising

Democratic Presidential candidates should be promoting themselves and their plans and their proposals and not taking pot shots at each other.

Don’t let Bernie Sanders, Mike Bloomberg or any other Presidential candidate trick you, trap you, hoodwink you or bamboozle you with lofty ideas about Medicare for all, free college and reduction of educational debts.

Government programs cost money and Presidents don’t make or pass appropriation bills. Congress passes appropriation bills. The President signs or vetoes money bills, unless you’re like Trump who takes money from designated sources, like the military, and uses it to build useless walls.

Remember, Bernie Sanders is an Independent running for President in the Democratic Presidential Primaries. Even if Sanders is victorious in the primary elections, will Democrats and/or Republicans in Congress vote to pass all of Bernie’s legislative proposals?

I think not. That won’t happen in a Hollywood movie!

Don’t believe the candidate hype. Candidates will always say what they think voters want to hear.

Usually, it will take substantial tax increases to fund the grand ideas proposed by Presidential candidates. I don’t mind paying higher taxes for better health care but you may not want to pay the government another dime to do anything without knowing exactly what you will get in return.

Another thing is how Presidential candidates go back 10, 20 or 30 years to find something distasteful that their opponents may have done to use.

Black people have to understand that all “major” candidates in the major political parties are in the loop.

People you love like Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar have prosecuted African Americans that shouldn’t have been charged. None of the Presidential candidates have hired Blacks in decision making and purchasing positions. None support reparations for Black families that were victimized by America’s slave trade. All Presidential candidates are in the loop. At the end of the day they will endorse each other but they won’t endorse their Black supporters.

Candidates care more about getting elected than they care about you.

My advice to you is take your time when evaluating candidates. Historically, Presidential campaigns have been permeated with false promises to African American citizens.

Candidates that look good from afar are oftentimes far from looking good.

Too many times we’ve had to go to voting booths to chose a fox or a wolf and no mater who we choose, Black people still end up in the canine dog house!

Time will tell the difference between Presidential contenders and Presidential pretenders!

And, FYI, only two candidates that I know have spent money on advertising with Black media outlets at the time this column was written, Donald Trump and Mike Bloomberg. Others are merely talking loud and saying nothing about how much they love Black voters.

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A Democrat to ‘make the trains run on time’?: Don Pittis

Whether in a business bureaucracy or in government, there are few higher compliments than saying someone is a safe pair of hands.

The characterization does not imply that the person so described is perfect; it simply means they have proven themselves to be one of that rare and valuable group in any organization that tends to not drop the ball.

As U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg heads into his first chance to debate tonight, he has many strikes against him. Like the current U.S. president, he is a plutocrat — an even richer multibillionaire who has run in the past as a Republican.

But as the U.S. seems mired in confusion under the unpredictable stewardship of U.S. President Donald Trump, it may be that Bloomberg’s greatest political asset will be the public impression that, by whatever means, he will bring order to the chaos, particularly when it comes to economic growth.

Tyrannical efficiency?

The prospect of some kind of tyrannical efficiency to ensure the U.S. economy is on stable footing going forward might not persuade supporters of current Democratic front-runner Bernie Sanders. He has called the stop-and-frisk policies Bloomberg defended during his tenure as New York mayor racist, saying they caused “African Americans and Latinos to live in fear and humiliation.” 

Bloomberg’s candidacy has unleashed a storm of outrage from the left of the Democratic Party, which declares he is using his personal wealth to buy power.

There are also self-described moderates who reject him. Among some who have said they will support whichever Democratic candidate wins the nomination, Bloomberg remains a deal-breaker.

“I have given it very serious thought, and while I would happily vote for Elizabeth Warren, grudgingly vote for Joe Biden or Amy Klobuchar, or secure an entire bottle of Southern Comfort to get sufficiently hammered to vote for Pete Buttigieg, I will not vote for Mike Bloomberg in November if he is nominated,” wrote Ryan Cooper in an article in The Week titled “Mike Bloomberg is Not the Lesser of Two Evils.”

To those who feel the U.S. is now so close to the kind of social transformation proposed by candidates like Warren and Sanders that they can taste it, Bloomberg — who previously killed a hike in minimum wage despite currently running in favour of one  — is a would-be destroyer of dreams.

A recent New York Times commentary saying “Bloomberg Is Right About the 2008 Financial Crash” threw the candidate into the middle of a ferocious debate that highlighted how he blamed the government’s liberalized mortgage rules for the 2008 credit crisis, rather than predatory lending and absurd derivatives created by irresponsible financial institutions.

Pile-on in Vegas

Perhaps at tonight’s Democratic debate he will try to extricate himself.

No one will be surprised if the Las Vegas bun fight — for which Bloomberg just qualified after a rule change to allow self-financed candidates to participate — is a pile-on by all the other candidates, pointing out not just his similarities to Trump, but the idea that the presidency is not for sale to the highest bidder.

Bloomberg is joining fellow 2020 candidates on the debate circuit, including from left: former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former vice-president Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Seen as a candidate ultimately in favour of the existing system that made people like him rich, Bloomberg clearly identifies with the markets chronicled by the Bloomberg News agency that he forged to dominate other leading business-information services.

There is no question that in business, he was a success.

Stable genius

Despite the fact that unemployment has reached some historic lows and markets have risen from peak to peak under Trump, for some, the feeling persists that all is not well in the United States — a place where a book titled with the Trump self-description A Very Stable Genius is understood to mean the exact opposite.

There is a theory that at times of uncertainty what the electorate wants are not specific solutions to its specific problems, but rather a leader with a strong hand.

“It looks for the man on the horse — the strong man,” pollster Frank Graves once told me.

That was the theory that brought rightist governments, including Italy’s Benito Mussolini, to power. Amidst the chaos of the 1920s, popular lore now has it that Mussolini was seen as the leader with a firm hand who could “make the trains run on time.”

Despite many articles in which the authors are falling over themselves to deny that fascism was a success in making Italian trains efficient, the term persists in the collective imagination as the idea that strong leaders create efficiency and success.

But as with the title of that Stable Genius book, the expression comes with a second meaning, reminding us to beware what we wish for.

For those who have watched Trump and his administration dismantle the structure of global trade, discredit venerable U.S. institutions, such as the FBI, the foreign service and the Justice Department, and generally disrupt the conventions of the White House, it is tempting to imagine a new pair of safe, business-proven hands on the tiller.

Then New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg with New York Police Department Commissioner Ray Kelly at an Aug. 12, 2013, press conference in the wake of a court ruling declaring the ‘stop and frisk’ policy unconstitutional. The controversial policing practice was brought in under Bloomberg’s predecessor, Rudy Giuliani, but he defended it during his tenure as an effective way to drive down the crime rate. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Those hands have built up a giant corporation from scratch. As a three-term mayor, they brought increased order to the pandemonium of New York City, including its transit system — although some say at too high a cost for the city’s minorities. And they have conjured support for an economic green transition to fight climate change.

But should the power of the U.S. presidency end up in such seemingly safe hands, Democrats may feel they will not get many important changes that they thought were finally within their grasp, from health care to greater equality and fairness.

So the fear remains that they might instead end up with a candidate more concerned with business efficiency and the welfare of people like himself than someone worried about the hopes of ordinary voters.

And perhaps right on schedule, tonight’s debate will reveal more.

Follow Don on Twitter @don_pittis

668 people reacting

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is featuring Barack Obama in his campaign ads despite years of criticizing and distancing himself from the former Democratic president.

Bloomberg has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on ads promoting his candidacy, including one spot in which Obama praises him. On Tuesday, Bloomberg released another ad, titled “Difference,” pairing the two as “a great president and an effective mayor” involved with “leadership that makes a difference.” 

While Obama hasn’t endorsed a candidate in the Democratic race, being featured in Bloomberg’s onslaught of ads has led some to believe he has thrown his support behind the billionaire former Republican, who endorsed George W. Bush in 2004.

“The power of saturation advertising. Someone at my gym in California asked me why Barack Obama chose Bloomberg over the rest of the field,” David Plouffe, Obama’s former campaign manager and White House adviser, tweeted last week.

David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to Obama, told the Wall Street Journal he had “fielded numerous calls in recent days from political operatives and some elected officials asking if Obama had endorsed Bloomberg.”

“It’s jarring to see all these Bloomberg ads that suggest Obama has endorsed him, especially considering how … perfunctory his endorsement of Obama was back in 2012,” wrote Tommy Vietor, a former Obama spokesman.

Bloomberg didn’t endorse Obama in 2008 and announced his support late in the 2012 race, saying Obama would be better than Republican challenger Mitt Romney on climate change. The editorial in which he announced the endorsement, however, was critical of Obama.

“As president, he devoted little time and effort to developing and sustaining a coalition of centrists, which doomed hope for any real progress on illegal guns, immigration, tax reform, job creation and deficit reduction,” wrote Bloomberg. “And, rather than uniting the country around a message of shared sacrifice, he engaged in partisan attacks and has embraced a divisive populist agenda focused more on redistributing income than creating it.”

“Twenty-twelve Bloomberg basically attacked Obama in that column for supporting all of the policies that 2020 Bloomberg now supports,” noted Dan Pfieffer, who also advised Obama. “What a world!”

Bloomberg and former President Barack Obama. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News: photos: James H. Wallace/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP, AP)Bloomberg and former President Barack Obama. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News: photos: James H. Wallace/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP, AP)
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former President Barack Obama. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News: photos: James H. Wallace/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP, AP)

In 2016, Bloomberg criticized Obama for not doing more to heal racial division in the country.

“I would argue that today we are more segregated, in America certainly, than we were, in terms of race, than we were a dozen years ago, and yet we’re just finishing up eight years with our first black president,” Bloomberg said at an event at Oxford University. “‘Why are we more separated than we were before?’ is the question you’ve got to ask yourself. Why during the Obama administration didn’t we pull together? Ask the president. That’s his job really to pull people together.”

In 2010, Bloomberg called Obamacare “a disgrace” that would do “absolutely nothing to fix the big health care problems.”

Other Democratic presidential candidates have tied themselves to Obama, particularly in South Carolina, where the African-American vote will be critical in the Feb. 29 primary. Joe Biden, who served as Obama’s vice president for both terms, often invokes their White House as a defense against attacks on the Washington status quo. In December, Sen. Elizabeth Warren released an ad narrated by Obama, in which he praises her.

“Elizabeth understands what I strongly believe: that a strong, growing economy begins with a strong and thriving middle class,” Obama said in the spot. 

Warren and other candidates in the race, including current frontrunner Sen. Bernie Sanders, have criticized Bloomberg for attempting to buy the nomination. Critics of the former mayor point to his record on race, including his administration’s policies such as stop-and-frisk and surveilling Muslims, as well as 40 sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuits filed against him and his company, as disqualifying him from the nomination.

Since announcing his candidacy in late November, Bloomberg has risen to second in some national polling and leads in some Super Tuesday states.

Read more 2020 coverage from Yahoo News:

Pete Buttigieg finds enthusiasm, skepticism in California…

SACRAMENTO — Looking to jump-start his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination in a state where he has yet to break through, Pete Buttigieg rallied thousands Friday evening in California’s capital.

Buttigieg said the state, the biggest prize on the presidential primary calendar, would be a proving ground for his surging campaign.

“So much depends on what happens next,” said the former mayor of South Bend, Ind. “And so much depends on what happens when the future-oriented, forward-looking, racially diverse, justice-minded state of California has its say.”

The crowd cheered enthusiastically for his promise to appoint a secretary of education who valued public education and broke into a few chants of “President Pete.”

Many of those who came to the downtown Cesar Chavez Plaza, however, said they were still deciding between several candidates in a race where the top tier has yet to narrow. They said they were drawn to Buttigieg, 38, as a force for change in politics and someone who could potentially unify the country.

“It is refreshing to have a younger person go for it, rather than it just being all old men,” said Susan Nash, 18, a student from Granite Bay (Placer County) who is also considering voting for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. She was one of the younger members of a crowd that was largely older and white.

Buttigieg is trying to carve a moderate path to the Democratic nomination, arguing that he could win back disaffected Barack Obama voters who supported Donald Trump in 2016.

Despite top-two finishes in the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire, polling suggests that Buttigieg is struggling to build momentum in upcoming contests in Nevada and South Carolina, as well as key Super Tuesday states like California and Texas, where he faces a far more diverse electorate.

In California, which has already mailed out ballots for the March 3 primary, Buttigieg was in a distant fourth at the end of last month, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average. Surveys generally have shown him picking up only half the 15% support he would need to win delegates in California, though most of those polls predate the Iowa and New Hampshire voting.

Buttigieg was introduced Friday by Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, who endorsed him this week. Aside from her backing, his institutional support in the state is thin — no California members of Congress or state legislators have endorsed him.

West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, who interviewed Buttigieg with crowdsourced questions at Friday’s event, asked the candidate about his weakness with African Americans and other nonwhite voters. Buttigieg said they they had suffered under Trump’s presidency more than any other group and that he would appeal to them with an economic empowerment plan to close the racial wealth gap.

“The only way to win the African American vote is to deserve it,” he said.

Kim Smallwood, 50, came from San Francisco to attend the rally. She said more black voters like her would come around to Buttigieg once they found out who he was.

Smallwood was originally a Joe Biden supporter, but said she was turned off by what she felt was a weak response to Trump’s attacks on his son’s business dealings in Ukraine. She said Biden also appeared to take African Americans’ votes for granted. She said she thought Buttigieg could win by appealing to more moderate voters like her family in Missouri and help Democrats regain control of the Senate.

“The more he speaks, the more I’ve heard him say, the more I think he’s what he need,” Smallwood said.

Earlier in the day, Buttigieg held fundraisers in San Francisco and Palo Alto. The San Francisco event, a breakfast at the National LGBTQ Center for the Arts, was briefly interrupted by three protesters who were quickly ushered out, according to a pool report.

The protesters were part of an activist group of “young queer people of color” organized by the Democratic Socialists of America and San Francisco Rising Action Fund, which rallied outside the fundraiser to accuse “Wall Street Pete” of listening to wealthy donors instead of working-class voters.

A handful of LGBT protesters also appeared outside the Sacramento rally to argue that Buttigieg, who would be the first openly gay person to be elected president, isn’t liberal enough on key issues. Guillermo Riesgo, 38, a health professional from Sacramento, said Buttigieg was “co-opting the queer community for his own benefit.”

“What we need is health care,” he said. “It’s not our goal to have a president who is a member of our community.”

Alexei Koseff is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: Twitter: @akoseff