Septuagenarian Democrats spill their baggage on debate stage

WASHINGTON, USA – Bernie Sanders is 78 years old. So is Michael Bloomberg. Joe Biden is 77.

The trio of septuagenarians topping the national polls for the Democratic presidential nomination tout their advanced years as the experience that is needed to serve in the White House.

But with age comes baggage and they are all toting quite a bit as they seek to take on President Donald Trump – a 73-year-old with his own closets full of skeletons.

Much of that baggage came spilling out on stage during a raucous debate in Las Vegas on Wednesday, February 19, including mentions of the heart attack suffered by Sanders in October and coronary stents Bloomberg received 20 years ago.

Vermont Senator Sanders, a self-described "democratic socialist," was accused by billionaire Bloomberg of seeking to "throw out capitalism" and replace it with "communism."

It was a line of attack trotted out already by Trump after video surfaced of a 10-day "honeymoon" trip Sanders, then a Vermont mayor, and his wife made to the Soviet Union in 1988.

"I think of communism when I think of Bernie," Trump said in a Super Bowl interview with Fox News aimed at convincing American voters that Sanders is too far to the left.

Responding to Bloomberg, Sanders accused the former New York mayor of taking a "cheap shot" and said: "Let's talk about democratic socialism, not communism."

Bloomberg's own past was in the spotlight as he made his first appearance on the debate stage since jumping into the race in November.

Bloomberg has surged in the polls by pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into television, radio and online ads, and his rivals assailed him from all sides over his lavish spending and his record on issues of race and women.

Past records under scrutiny  

Before declaring his candidacy, Bloomberg apologized for the policy of aggressive policing of minorities in New York known as "stop and frisk" and he did so again from the debate stage on Wednesday.

"If I go back and look at my time in office, the one thing that I'm really worried about, embarrassed about, was how it turned out with stop and frisk," he said. "I've apologized. I've asked for forgiveness."

Young African-American and Latino men were disproportionally targeted by stop and frisk and Sanders noted that minority voters were key to Democratic hopes of winning the White House in November.

"Mr. Bloomberg had policies in New York City of stop and frisk which went after African-American and Latino people in an outrageous way," Sanders said. "That is not a way you're going to grow voter turnout."

Bloomberg is also facing allegations that he has made sexist and sexually inappropriate comments to women in the workplace and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren tore into him over the issue.

"We are not going to beat Donald Trump with a man who has who knows how many nondisclosure agreements and the drip, drip, drip of stories of women saying they have been harassed and discriminated against," Warren said.

Former vice president Biden, whose poll numbers have been sliding, has often been mocked for his verbal fumbles, but he was largely spared Wednesday night as Bloomberg and the front-runner Sanders drew the most fire.

But Biden's decades spent in the US Senate drew a withering comment from Warren, who accused him of being too chummy with Republicans and even once supporting the re-election of Mitch McConnell, who is now the Republican Senate majority leader.

"Mitch did get re-elected," Warren said, and then "blocked nearly everything that Barack Obama tried to pass." 

According to RealClearPolitics.com, Sanders tops the national polls with 27.8%, followed by Biden with 17.8% and Bloomberg with 16.1%.

Warren is next at 12.3% followed by former South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg, 38, at 10.3%, and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, 59, at 6.4%. – Rappler.com