BOSTON (CBS) – Move over, “Thrilla in Manilla,” Bill Lee vs. the Yankees, the Taiwan Parliament, Richard Burton v. Elizabeth Taylor in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.” Make room for Wednesday night’s Democratic presidential candidates’ debate in Las Vegas on the list of all-time wildest donnybrooks.
OK, there were no actual punches landed, and no one was visibly drunk the way Burton and Taylor were. But at long last the veneer of collegiality and the reluctance to engage fell away from this race, kicked to the corner in a melee of at-times Three Stooges-like eye-gouging and sucker punching.
Where to even begin?
Amy Klobuchar’s Minnesota Nice and Pete Buttigieg’s Hoosier Hospitality brands were cast aside with a series of spats that would make a Honey Badger proud. Perhaps it was payback from Buttigieg for the Klobucharge that snatched a New Hampshire victory away from him.
But their mud wrestling was kid stuff compared with the drubbing Michael Bloomberg received and, amazingly, seemed wholly unprepared to deal with. Hard to believe all that money couldn’t buy better answers to attacks on his admittedly “out of control” stop-and-frisk policy, misogynistic statements, and affinity for non-disclosure agreements.
Luckily for Bloomberg, he is not on a ballot for another twelve days and has ample dough to bury his beatdown with another blizzard of ads. Watch for him to even use a bite or two from this debacle, especially when he said he was “the only one on this stage who has started a business,” asking the others: “Is that fair?”
No one refuted him.
Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders took some hits too, from all sides, mostly on his unpriced Medicare for All plan. Look for Bloomberg’s claim that “I don’t think there’s any chance of Sen. Sanders beating President Trump. You don’t start out by saying ‘I’ve got 160 million people I’m gonna take away the insurance plan that they love,” coming soon to a commercial break near you.
And be honest – would you want Sen. Elizabeth Warren furious with you in a dark alley, or a well-lit debate stage? Not me. In what felt like catharsis from a campaign that has at times seemed curiously and uncomfortably buttoned-down, Warren let it rip on everyone, surely energizing her supporters if nothing else.
The time for playing it cute is evidently past, and if you liked Wednesday night’s bench-clearing brawl, you’ll love next Tuesday night’s South Carolina debate airing on WBZ-TV. But the happiest candidate in Vegas wasn’t on that stage. After watching the enemy forces kneecap each other, the Trump campaign could hardly hide its glee.
“Unfortunately for Democrats,” Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel wrote, “what happened in Las Vegas won’t stay in Vegas.”