Mike Bloomberg Might Skip Future Debates, 'Serious Doubt' He Can Handle Trump, Says Expert

Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg is reeling from a difficult debate night in Nevada, having been hammered by his fellow competitors in his first public head-to-head with the rest of the presidential hopefuls and casting doubt on whether he is a formidable opponent to President Donald Trump.

So far, Bloomberg has been riding the wave of his nationwide advertising campaign, positioning himself as a moderate Democratic politician who can take on and defeat President Trump. But his first direct exchange with his opponents may have dented his pitch, Ryan Enos, a political scientist at Harvard University, told Newsweek.

"Trump has shown his talent to bully and intimidate," Enos explained. "Bloomberg cast himself as a tough New Yorker who will handle Trump. His performance last night cast serious doubt on that claim.

"Bloomberg might decide just to stay out of the debates in the future," Enos said. "His opponents need the free advertising that debates provide, he does not. In that sense, his wounds were self inflicted and he might not make that mistake again."

Enos added Bloomberg—who officially enters the running on March 3 for Super Tuesday—"looked truly awful and unprepared for attacks that were obviously coming."

The billionaire former New York mayor came into the debate after multiple revelations about past racist and misogynistic comments, including questions regarding non-disclosure agreements signed by female employees at his company who alleged sexism and misogynistic behavior.

His fellow contenders did not pull punches, illustrating concern among Democratic lawmakers, officials, and voters that the former Republican is using his "obscene" wealth—as described by Sen. Bernie Sanders—to buy his way into the race.

Bloomberg elicited groans from the crowd when defending questions about his company's use of NDAs from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, for example. "None of them accuse me of doing anything other than, maybe they didn't like a joke I told," Bloomberg said.

Bloomberg struggled in Nevada but it is still early days for his campaign.

"Before we count him out, we should remember how sloppy Trump first appeared and how he, nevertheless, found the right appeal to win the primary, despite never really changing his style," Enos said.

Asked to comment, the Bloomberg 2020 team sent Newsweek a statement from campaign manager Kevin Sheekey describing the former mayor as "the grownup in the room."

"You know you are a winner when you are drawing attacks from all the candidates," Sheekey said. "Everyone came to destroy Mike tonight. It didn't happen. Everyone wanted him to lose his cool. He didn't do it."

Sheekey called Bloomberg "the leading alternative to Bernie Sanders" and noted it took the billionaire three months "build a stronger campaign than the rest of the field had built in more than a year."

"He was just warming up tonight," Sheekey added. "We fully expect Mike will continue to build on tonight's performance when he appears on the stage in South Carolina next Tuesday."

Mike Bloomberg, Donald Trump, Nevada, 2020 election
Presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg is pictured during the Democratic primary debate at Paris Las Vegas on February 19, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Mario Tama/Getty Images/Getty