A circular firing squad in Las Vegas as Michael Bloomberg comes under ferocious attack

A lot of money has been lost in Las Vegas over the years. Michael Bloomberg may have set a new record. It may have been the most expensive day of his life.

So far in his short campaign, the former Mayor of New York - who was on the debate stage for the first time - has spent $300 million on TV advertising.That may have all gone up in smoke last night as he came under sustained assault.

Bloomberg is the late entry in the Democratic nomination battle, fuelled by his almost limitless money. He is, after all, the ninth richest person on the planet, ten times as wealthy as President Trump. And he has vowed to spend whatever it takes to be the next president.

Then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg formed Mayors Against Illegal Guns in 2006 with then-Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. Credit: AP

So he was the obvious target and Senator Elizabeth Warren was the first to attack, accusing Bloomberg of using crude and sexist language worthy of Trump.

In her opening comment, she launched this nuclear-tipped missile: “I’d like to talk about who we’re running against: a billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians.

"And no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump. I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.”

And that was just the start of the fiery two hour confrontation.

The tycoon was also attacked for racist policies he oversaw while mayor in New York, and for a failure to release his tax returns.

The bottom line is that Bloomberg came into the debate as a clear contender for the nomination, but he left a wounded and diminished man. Whether that poor performance is survivable is not clear, but it’s certainly evidence that money alone can‘t buy the presidency.

Bernie Sanders also came under fierce criticism from his rivals for being too radical to win the November election and for failing to explain how his vastly ambitious programmes would be paid for.

Bloomberg had been a clear contender for the Democrat nomination. Credit: AP

This was more like a circular firing squad than a civilized party debate. The true winner was not on the stage, but fundraising in California. If Donald Trump was watching he would certainly have been delighted.

His prospects of winning a second term have gone up. It will still be a titanic battle across a divided country.

But if I was in a casino in Las Vegas today, and could place a bet on who will be the next president of the United States, I would put some money on Bernie Sanders, a little more on Donald Trump, and none at all on Michael Bloomberg.