Bloomberg on the defensive at Democratic presidential debate in Nevada

FILE PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg attends a campaign event at Buffalo Soldiers national museum in Houston, Texas, U.S. February 13, 2020. REUTERS/Go Nakamura

Michael Bloomberg came under heavy fire during his first Democratic presidential debate on Wednesday, with his rivals leaping to attack him as a billionaire copy of President Donald Trump and criticizing his record on race and history of sexist comments.

Bloomberg seemed nervous and hesitant as he made his debut in a contentious Democratic debate, giving voters their first unscripted look at the media mogul and self-funding former New York mayor who has surged in polls while spending hundreds of millions of his own dollars on television ads.

Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg lined up to attack Bloomberg, accusing him of trying to buy his way into the White House and saying his record as mayor and a businessman would lead the party to defeat in November.

“We’re running against a billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-face lesbians,” said Warren, a senator from Massachusetts. “And, no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump, I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.”

“Democrats take a huge risk if we just substitute one arrogant billionaire for another,” she added.

Bloomberg, who entered the race in November and is skipping the first four early voting states in February to focus on later nominating contests in March, said he did not inherit his money, but made it as a businessman.

“I’m spending that money to get rid of Donald Trump – the worst president we’ve ever had. And if I can get that done, it will be a great contribution to America and to my kids,” he said.

The debate comes at a pivotal time, three days before Nevada’s presidential caucuses, the third contest in the state-by-state race to find a challenger to Trump in the Nov. 3 election.