Although Bloomberg improved his performance, he still won't fly with the base
Mike Bloomberg, having been burned in Nevada, showed up more prepared in South Carolina, indicating that, if he survives, he can be a formidable opponent. Still, even that preparation didn't stop a Freudian slip that could end his candidacy. Bloomberg's other problems were that he sounded Trumpian on some things, which is not what the Democrat Party wants in 2020, and that he's still dogged by issues about racism and sexism.
Right out of the box, Bloomberg repeated the latest Russia conspiracy theory, which is that Putin wants Trump, which is why he's supporting Bernie. If he had charm, it might have worked. He doesn't, so it didn't.
Early in the debate, the moderators gave everyone on the stage the chance to call Bloomberg racist for his stop and frisk policy, an opportunity all of the candidates gleefully exploited as a way to endear themselves to blacks in South Carolina, who make up 33% of the state's population. Bloomberg, rather than defending the black and Hispanic lives his policy saved, again opted for abject, groveling apologies.
Smartly, whenever an opportunity presented itself, Bloomberg reminded people of his successes in New York City. He boasted that, during his twelve years on the job, he improved the education system, brought jobs to the city, and made more housing available. He even boasted that his anti-smoking policies (of the type that California had already adopted in the 1990s) were so successful that they inspired the world, bringing smoking rates down everywhere.
Elizabeth Warren kept trying to get traction off of the charges that he sexually harassed women, but it didn't work as well as it did in Nevada. Part of the problem was that her only authority for her latest attack was the woman who claimed that, when she told Bloomberg she was pregnant, he said, "Kill it."
Bloomberg categorically denied the accusation (although he gave himself wiggle room by saying that if the woman understood him to have said that, he apologized). His total denial in a "he said, she said" situation left Warren stymied and caused the moderators to move on.
The attack also fell flat because what was unspoken was that the Democrat Party is the party of "kill it" — meaning that every person on the stage supports unlimited abortion and denies a baby's humanity up until he's born (and sometimes not even then). Had Warren pushed the point, she would have run smack into her abortion position.
Bloomberg's worst moment on stage was when he was accused of having financially supported Republican candidates (which was not very surprising, considering that he once was a registered Republican). Bloomberg's comeback was that he funded 21 of the Democrat candidates that helped Democrats regain control of the House.
Unfortunately for Bloomberg, he made a glorious Freudian slip. Instead of saying he supported the candidates or that he donated to them, he said, "I bought ..." and then caught himself, changing it to "... got them."
Incredible. In the #DemDebate, billionaire Bloomberg boasted that he "bought" right-wing neoliberal Democrats like Nancy Pelosi— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) February 26, 2020
Then after saying "bought," he quickly corrected himself and said "I bought, uh got them" pic.twitter.com/2mcDgPPhIJ
There is no way Bloomberg can run away from that Freudian slip. It reinforces a point Warren made, which is that Bloomberg's not going to be the electable moderate because the base cannot trust him. He's a former Republican and a billionaire who buys candidates and throws black people up against walls. No matter how "moderate" he is, without the base, he cannot win.
What this means is that all of Bloomberg's boasts about his practical accomplishments — his buying gun control on a state-by-state basis, the charter schools, the housing, the cigarette control, the crime diminution, the job growth — are not likely to help in the long run against Bernie. The Democrat Party base, the engine that chooses the candidates, has moved on from practical accomplishments, even those with a leftward tinge. Instead, the base wants revolution, and that's not what Bloomberg is offering.