As bad as former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg’s performance on Wednesday night was, he will not have to face the voters for nearly two weeks. Before his appearance on the ballot on Super Tuesday, the Nevada and South Carolina results will be in, and the same six candidates will debate. Nevertheless, the perception that Bloomberg might not be the savior center-left Democrats were looking for could well change the dynamics in the race before March 3.

There are likely very few Bloomberg supporters who will defect to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), given that Bloomberg is positioning himself to stop Sanders, and Sanders loathes everything Bloomberg stands for (e.g. billionaire self-satisfaction, capitalism). Likewise, Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) dissection of Bloomberg’s weaknesses is not likely to benefit her directly, which is precisely why her decision to go to war with him rather than chip away at Sanders’s support made little strategic sense. While Warren got some good press and might have derived some satisfaction in beating up on a billionaire, she is unlikely to win any of the voters she shook loose.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) had a shot to win over some Bloomberg voters, but her obvious loathing of former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg got the best of her, distracting her from presenting herself as a better “stop-Sanders” candidate and undercutting her pitch to be the party’s uniter.

The two big winners here seem to be former vice president Joe Biden and Buttigieg. Both took the fight to Bloomberg, not so much on his billionaire status but on his policy positions and lack of Democratic (big "D") values.

Biden slammed Bloomberg for calling Obamacare a “disgrace” and for his stop-and-frisk policy. (“[It’s] not whether he apologized or not. It’s the policy. The policy was abhorrent. And it was in fact a violation of every right people have.”) Biden adeptly contrasted his own views with Bloomberg’s positions on redlining (the abolition of which Bloomberg seems to blame for the financial crisis) and China. Biden needed to reassure donors, retain African American support and present himself as the better friend of working Americans; he did all three.

Buttigieg also made hay out of Bloomberg’s (and to some extent Sanders’s) troubles. He began and ended with the same argument. In his first answer he told the audience: “We could wake up two weeks from today, the day after Super Tuesday, and the only candidates left standing will be Bernie Sanders and Mike Bloomberg, the two most polarizing figures on this stage.” He ended as he began: “If you look at the choice between a revolution or the status quo and you don’t see where you fit in that picture, then join us. ... We shouldn’t have to choose between one candidate who wants to burn this party down and another candidate who wants to buy this party out.” Tweaking both Bloomberg and Sanders, he declared that he was the only one who had been a Democratic mayor.

In short, both Biden and Buttigieg presented themselves as the Democrats who are seeped in Democratic policy and values and best-equipped to stop Sanders and then beat President Trump. Each effectively said: Bloomberg’s a phony Democrat; I’m a real Democrat and don’t have Bloomberg’s baggage.

In the Nevada and South Carolina races, where Bloomberg will not be on the ballot, Biden (with strength among non-college-educated and nonwhite voters) and Buttigieg (with strength among college-educated voters) hope to consolidate support and improve their position as the savior of the party from the threat of a Sanders nomination and general-election debacle. Playing off a weaker-than-usual performance from Klobuchar and a disastrous Bloomberg outing, they likely helped themselves. We will find out Saturday whether they made a big enough impression with voters to shift a significant number of votes.

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