Former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg on Thursday made light of his first appearance on a 2020 debate stage, joking about the reception he received from the other candidates after his uneven debut.
“So how was your night last night?” he said to the crowd of 600 at a rally held in an event space in Salt Lake City Utah.
Voting has already begun in the Beehive State, culminating on Super Tuesday in early March – when 16 states will hold primary contests.
Under fire from nearly all his primary challengers during the two-hour debate Wednesday night on everything from his political history and wealth to criticism he’s faced about workplace confidentiality agreements, Bloomberg compared the experience to being a Utah football fan “in Provo during the ‘Holy War’,” a reference to the intrastate college football rivalry between the University of Utah and Brigham Young University.
“If we choose a candidate who appeals to a small base, like Senator Sanders, it will be a fatal error,” he said, warning against candidates with “pie in the sky promises and proposals that will bankrupt the country.” Bloomberg’s top aides downplayed his performance last night in Las Vegas, looking ahead to next week’s debate in South Carolina ahead of the primary there, where Bloomberg will be on the ballot.
“Many of them are professional politicians for decades, and many of them have been debating throughout the year,” Bloomberg aide Howard Wolfson told ABC News. “I think he was definitely better in the second half from the first.”
"He was just warming up tonight,” campaign manager Kevin Sheekey said in a statement following last night’s debate. “We fully expect Mike will continue to build on tonight’s performance when he appears on the stage in South Carolina next Tuesday."
Bloomberg may be less reliant on debate performances than the other candidates: The self-funding billionaire has spent more than $300 million on television and digital advertising since entering the race, according to his latest campaign filing.
“You've all heard the slogan ‘Mike will get it done,’ and if you haven't, I've wasted an awful lot of money here,” he said Thursday, noting his campaign slogan.
Progressives critical of Bloomberg’s performance continued to attack him on Thursday for a video he tweeted out from the debate, that appeared to edit and extend an exchange he had with other candidates.
“I’m the only one hear that’s ever started a business, is that fair?” Bloomberg asked, as the video pans to close-ups of the other candidates over the sound of crickets.
“It’s tongue in cheek. There we obviously no crickets on the debate stage,” spokeswoman Galia Slayen said in a statement to ABC News about the edited and extended video clip.
Bloomberg will travel to California Thursday before returning to New York City, and has no additional public events scheduled before the next debate in Charleston, South Carolina next Tuesday.