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Democrats at debate criticize the candidate who isn't there: Mike Bloomberg

Democrats at debate criticize the candidate who isn't there: Mike Bloomberg
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Democrats at the 2020 primary debate in New Hampshire on Friday night dinged former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergBiden's great challenge: Build an economy for long-term prosperity and security The secret weapon in Biden's fight against climate change Sanders celebrates Biden-Harris victory: 'Thank God democracy won out' MORE, hinting he was using his vast personal wealth to try to buy the Democratic Party’s nomination.

Bloomberg, who is skipping the New Hampshire primary and three other early contests even as he blankets the airwaves with ads for his presidential campaign, was not on stage Friday night. 

But his presence was felt during one question during the debate.

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“I don’t think anyone ought to be able to buy their way into a nomination or to be president of the United States,” said. Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThomas Piketty says pandemic is opportunity to address income inequality The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation Disney laying off 32,000 workers as coronavirus batters theme parks MORE (D-Mass.) when asked about Bloomberg’s candidacy. “I don’t think any billionaire out to be able to do it, and I don’t think people who suck up to billionaires in order to fund their campaigns ought to be able to do it.” 

Bloomberg wasn't eligible to be on stage on Friday under the Democratic Party's rules for the debate, but he could be on stage soon given a rule change by the Democratic National Committee that will no longer require that candidates hit a donor limit to be on stage.

The former New York City mayor is self-funding his campaign. 

“It’s a funny thing. There are millions of people who can desire to run for office, but I get if you’re worth $60 billion and you can spend several hundred millions on commercials, you have an advantage. That is nonsense,” added Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersIn defense of incrementalism: A call for radical realism Thomas Piketty says pandemic is opportunity to address income inequality Trump will soon be out of office — but polarization isn't going anywhere MORE (I-Vt.). 

Bloomberg's advertising effort has focused on key primary states like California and Florida and general election swing states. 

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“I can’t stand the big money in politics,” said Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: YouTube suspends OANN amid lawmaker pressure | Dems probe Facebook, Twitter over Georgia runoff | FCC reaffirms ZTE's national security risk Democrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff YouTube temporarily suspends OANN account after spreading coronavirus misinformation MORE (D-Minn.). “People don’t look at the guy in the White House and say, ‘Can we get someone richer?’ I don’t think they think that. They want to have someone they can understand.”

Transparency over campaign financing has taken a central role in the crowded primary field. Several 2020 Democrats have renounced taking donations from corporate-backed super PACs, while Sanders and Warren have eschewed high-dollar fundraisers altogether.

“If we want to change America, you’re not going to do it by electing candidates who are going out to rich people’s homes begging for money,” said Sanders.

However, former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete Buttigieg'Biff is president': Michael J. Fox says Trump has played on 'every worst instinct in mankind' Buttigieg: Denying Biden intelligence briefings is about protecting Trump's 'ego' Biden's win is not a policy mandate — he should govern accordingly MORE defended his campaign’s efforts to tap into funds from high-dollar donors, saying the Democratic Party should not refuse resources heading into the fight to unseat President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden adds to vote margin over Trump after Milwaukee County recount Krebs says allegations of foreign interference in 2020 election 'farcical'  Republicans ready to become deficit hawks again under a President Biden MORE

“We are going into the fight of our lives,” he said. “We need to go into that fight with everything that we’ve got.”