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Why the Democratic debate sounded like a WWE match

The Democratic debate in South Carolina was upended by a booing and cheering audience stacked with donors and VIPs.

Why the Democratic debate sounded like a WWE match
[Photos: Flickr user Gage Skidmore (Biden) (Sanders) (Steyer) (Warren) (Bloomberg); Chuck KennedyPete for America/Flickr]
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The monumental impact of Mike Bloomberg’s wallet has completely upended the Democratic primary in recent weeks, spending over half a billion dollars to blanket the country with ads on TV, online, and billboards. And tonight, the former NYC mayor was able to jolt the Democratic debate in South Carolina, where the audience at Gaillard Center Performance Hall was made up of quite a few loud and boisterous Bloomberg supporters who cheered almost every policy or accomplishment touted by their candidate and vigorously booed even the most anodyne comments made by his progressive rivals Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

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Questions about whether the Bloomberg campaign paid supporters to fill the audience dominated Twitter all night, though the campaign insisted that wasn’t the case:

Voters who wanted a guaranteed ticket to the debate had to pay thousands of dollars as a sponsor—the prices of which range from $1,750 to $3,200 each to attend multiple “First in the South” events, according to WCSC. Tickets are first distributed to organizers, which were the Democratic National Committee, the Black Caucus Institute, CBS, and Twitter, and then to the campaigns.

Some voters were outraged: “At the end of the day, it’s still a money game,” Peter Davis told WCSC. “Whoever has the most gets to attend these kinds of events that should be public and easily accessible.”

The loud responses renewed calls from some observers to scrap a live audience for such debates, since it distracts from the candidates’ answers and lets loud supporters drown out the responses of those they oppose.