"The vulnerabilities of a candidacy built on TV ads are exposed on live TV," said Politico of the former New York City mayor's disastrous debut on the Democratic debate stage Wednesday night. Yet as Politico's John F. Harris notes, Bloomberg deserves credit for rescuing the debates. "Michael Bloomberg may have bought his way on to the debate stage in Las Vegas Wednesday night but the rest of us are in his debt," says Harris. "These once-every-couple-weeks rituals had become so familiar that watching til the end was a chore. Anyone interested in the future of the Democratic Party had no trouble sticking through all two hours of this latest one. It was raucous and occasionally rude—also substantive and relevant to the choice Democrats are in the midst of making. At a minimum, it was free of artifice. The former New York mayor’s presence—on the stage, and in polls which have shown him steadily rising thanks to a historic flood of self-financed advertising—seemed to pluck chords of visceral resentment and disdain from rivals that can’t be feigned."
American TV viewers were the real winners of Wednesday's debate: "Holy sh*t that was wild, right?" says Colby Hall. "Like all great miniseries, the first half-dozen episodes of set-up finally paid off, as this particular episode finally exploded in the dramatic climax viewers needed. The characters involved featured familiar archetypes: the aging QB, the super informed straight-A student(s), the life-hacking know-it-all millennial, the crotchety yet avuncular guy and the polarizing rich guy. The best thing that can be said about this debate is that it served as a perfect tease for the next episode."
Wednesday's debate was like a pay-per-view boxing fight: "Las Vegas has hosted many memorable fights. Evander Holyfield vs. Mike Tyson. Muhammad Ali vs. Larry Holmes," says Lorraine Ali. "Wednesday it was Amy vs. Pete, socialists vs. capitalists, and everyone vs. billionaire Michael Bloomberg during a contentious Democratic debate that had more in common with a pay-per-view fight — or perhaps a Real Housewives scrum — than a deliberation on issues and policy."
MSNBC moderators lost control of a messy night: "It’s inevitable that political candidates would become more heated as the pressure ramps up for them to make the case for themselves as the best nominee to beat Donald Trump (a phrase repeated ad nauseum throughout the debate, thanks to (Michael) Bloomberg’s dependence on it)," says Caroline Framke. "What wasn’t inevitable was the way the night’s debate hosts — a mix of reporters and anchors from MSNBC, Telemundo, and the Nevada Independent — quickly lost control of the proceedings in the process. The rhetorical punches of the debate’s first hour may make for attention-grabbing headlines, but it was also a failure on the part of those tasked with steering the conversation in a coherent direction. Give or take those couple of spotlight (Elizabeth) Warren moments, letting the candidates talk over each other in their haste to tear each other apart led to precious few enlightening moments. Instead, the first hour saw the MSNBC hosts in particular letting the candidates talk over and through one another, each trying to one up the other without much intervention at all."