Seven Democrats vying to unseat President Donald Trump in 2020 appeared on the Manchester, New Hampshire, stage Friday night, just days before that state's crucial primary election.
Four candidates in the primary race were not on the stage, however: former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, ex-Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii.
But Bloomberg, the multibillionaire who arrived late to the race, became part of the discussion when Sen. Elizabeth Warren bashed him over the piles of cash he's spent on his campaign so far.
Asked why she believed she was a better fit than Bloomberg to beat Trump, Warren said, "I don't think anyone ought to be able to buy their way into nomination or to be president of the United States."
The line scored a round of applause from the crowd. And Warren added in an apparent dig at former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg as she continued.
"I don't think any billionaire ought 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 do it," she said.
Warren had previously blasted Buttigieg, who claimed victory in the Iowa caucus this week, for holding a ritzy fundraising event inside a "wine cave" — a moment that quickly went viral.
Bloomberg will not appear on any ballots until Super Tuesday. But he is rising in the polls after dumping hundreds of millions of dollars into his campaign. He even bought a 60-second Super Bowl ad, one of the priciest time slots on television.
Bloomberg has piled money into states that hold their primaries on March 3, Super Tuesday. The slate of 14 primaries includes the delegate-rich California and Texas.
Asked after the debate what kind of support he expects Bloomberg to get on Super Tuesday, Bernie Sanders advisor Jeff Weaver contended voters would oppose the former mayor's strategy of ignoring the first four nominating states and funneling money into later contests.
"I think Democratic voters are going to be sort of repulsed by that kind of politics when the time comes," he said.
His efforts appear to be paying off: Bloomberg has surpassed multiple other candidates, according to RealClearPolitics' polling average, and he is seen in betting markets as the most likely candidate to beat Trump in a general election.
Other candidates at the debate piled on Bloomberg when they got the chance.
"I can't stand the big money in politics," said Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, tore into Bloomberg's strategy as "nonsense." He called for moving the U.S. to a system of "public funding of elections."
— CNBC's Jacob Pramuk contributed to this report.