Wednesday's Democratic debate in Nevada was the first to feature former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and candidates had him in their sights.
Bloomberg, along with Sen. Bernie Sanders, have risen in the opinion polls in recent weeks. Bloomberg entered the race late, and is not participating in the first four nominating contests.
It was clear for the six Democrats on stage that the road to the nomination will rest on the ability to defeat Bloomberg and Sanders.
And moments into the debate, the gloves came off.
“I’d like to talk about who we’re running against, a billionaire who calls women 'fat broads' and 'horse-faced lesbians.' I’m not talking about Donald Trump. I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren said.
Sanders also went after Bloomberg.
“In order to beat Donald Trump we’re going to need the largest voter turnout in the history of the United States," Sanders said. "Mayor Bloomberg had policies in New York City of stop and frisk, which went after African-American and Latino people in an outrageous way."
Bloomberg boasted about his electability.
“I think we have two questions to face tonight: No. 1 is who can beat Donald Trump? And, No. 2, who can do the job if they get into the White House. I would argue that I am the candidate that can do exactly both of those things,” Bloomberg said.
The incoming kept coming for Bloomberg. Moments later, Warren hammered Bloomberg for his refusal to release some of his employees from their non-disclosure agreements.
"Are the women bound by being muzzled by you? You could release them from that immediately. Because understand, this is not just a question of the mayor's character," Warren said.
"We have very few nondisclosure agreements. None of them accuse me of doing anything other than maybe they didn't like a joke I told," he responded.
One of the "jokes" Bloomberg could be referring to is allegations that he discussed at a wedding about engaging in sex acts with female employees.
Bloomberg ultimately said that he would not release anyone from non-disclosure agreements.
Bloomberg's campaign manager, Kevin Sheekey, said that it took Bloomberg 45 minutes to "warm up."
"He was just warming up tonight. We fully expect Mike will continue to build on tonight’s performance when he appears on the stage in South Carolina next Tuesday," Sheekey said.
Sheekey's comments came as Warren's campaign declared victory in the debate.
"Elizabeth Warren won the debate tonight," Warren's communications director Kristen Orthman said. "She defined the discussion from the first moments, demonstrating her strength, energy, and knowledge in cornering Mayor Mike Bloomberg -- and she showed the American people exactly why she is the best candidate to take on Donald Trump.”
Sanders, who is now leading the field in recent national polls, also was targeted by the other candidates.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg called Bloomberg and Sanders "the two most polarizing figures on this stage”
"Most Americans don't see where they fit if they've got to choose between a socialist who thinks that capitalism is the root of all evil and a billionaire who thinks that money ought to be the root of all power," Buttigieg said. "Let's put forward somebody who actually lives and works in a middle-class neighborhood in an industrial midwestern city. Let's put forward somebody who's actually a Democrat."
Sanders responded to Buttigieg's swipe.
“If speaking to the needs and the pain of a long-neglected working class is polarizing, I think you got the wrong word,” Sanders said.