Mike Pence slammed Democratic primary candidate Michael Bloomberg on Monday for his elitist comments on American farmers — but the vice president’s snipes might be the least of Bloomberg’s worries.
The former New York mayor struggled to confront a number of controversies shadowing his campaign at his first debate in Nevada Wednesday evening, and President Donald Trump didn’t hesitate to mercilessly mock his rival for choking.
Pence throws a haymaker
Heading into Wednesday’s debate, Bloomberg had been gaining traction thanks to hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising. The billionaire had been seen as a rising threat by his Democratic rivals, who protested his efforts to “buy” the nomination, and Team Trump didn’t hesitate either to put Bloomberg’s feet to the fire as controversial comments from his past kept leaking.
In 2016, Bloomberg gave the world his bizarre idea of what farming is like at a talk with Oxford University. “It’s a process. You dig a hole, you put a seed in, you put dirt on top, add water, up comes the corn. You could learn that,” he said at the time, claiming that he could teach “anybody” to be a farmer.
In an unusually pointed rebuke, Vice President Pence responded to the resurfaced remarks by tweeting out Ram Trucks’ 2013 Super Bowl ad, “Farmer,” which features a recording of Paul Harvey’s 1978 speech praising farmers, according to the Washington Examiner — and Pence wasn’t alone. Bloomberg was widely criticized as elitist and out of touch over the remarks, which Bloomberg’s campaign claimed had been taken “out of context,” according to the New York Post.
So God Made a Farmer 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/sbXSugMNyO
— Mike Pence (@Mike_Pence) February 17, 2020
Bloomberg staggers at debate
But context didn’t save Bloomberg from an embarrassing performance Wednesday evening. There, no campaign PR could conceal what many said was the candidate’s clear lack of preparation. Despite buying his way to the front of the pack — or perhaps because that’s how he got there — Bloomberg came across as defensive, arrogant, and weak in the first real test of his candidacy.
It didn’t help that the other candidates came prepared with poisoned darts with his name on them. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) set the tone at the beginning with a blistering attack on the billionaire: “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. Democrats take a huge risk if we just substitute one arrogant billionaire for another,” she said, according to The Hill.
Bloomberg sought to defend himself from similar attacks by rival candidates who said he his obscene wealth, and success in buying his way to the debate, were emblematic of an unfair political and economic system. He managed to fluster Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders by bringing up the fact that he is a millionaire who owns three homes, according to Fox News, but overall, Bloomberg struggled to dispel an impression of elitism and choked when pushed on various controversies that shadowed his entry to the debate stage, from stop-and-frisk to nondisclosure agreements with various women.
When hammered on releasing his tax returns, Bloomberg gave a pompous reply that seemed to only accentuate his distance from the common person. “I can’t go to Turbo Tax,” he remarked of his complex returns, according to the Post.
Trump mercilessly mocks “Mini Mike”
Still, the Bloomberg campaign rushed to spin the performance as a victory, the Post noted. “You know you’re a winner when you draw attacks from all the candidates,” Bloomberg campaign manager Kevin Sheekey wrote in an email newsletter to supporters. “Everyone came to destroy Mike and it didn’t happen.”
Meanwhile, President Trump, who has routinely mocked Bloomberg over his stature, did not waste any time tearing apart “Mini Mike” over his spectacularly awful introduction to voters. According to The Hill, Trump slammed the former mayor’s showing as the “worst debate performance in human history!”
In another tweet, Trump wrote: “Mini Mike Bloomberg’s debate performance tonight was perhaps the worst in the history of debates, and there have been some really bad ones. He was stumbling, bumbling, and grossly incompetent. If this doesn’t knock him out of the race, nothing will. Not so easy to do what I did!”
Bloomberg is not on the ballot in Nevada, despite debating in the state. He is skipping South Carolina’s primary, as well, to focus on Super Tuesday contests slated for March 3.