December Democratic debate live updates: Seven candidates face off in Los Angeles

The smallest number of candidates yet will spar onstage at Loyola Marymount University starting at 8 p.m.
Image: Seven Democratic presidential candidates will take the stage in a debate sponsored by PBS Newshour and Politico  in Los Angeles on Thursday night.
Seven Democratic presidential candidates will take the stage in a debate sponsored by PBS Newshour and Politico in Los Angeles on Thursday night.Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

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NBC News provided up-to-the-minute coverage of the sixth Democratic presidential primary debate at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

The debate, hosted by PBS NewsHour and Politico, featured the most intimate group of candidates to date. Just seven of the leading candidates took the stage, including frontrunners former Vice President Joe Biden, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, as well as lower-tier candidates Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, and billionaire activist Tom Steyer.

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Live Blog

Andrew Yang and Donald Glover host pop-up shop

The Yang Gang recently added the support of actor and musician Donald Glover, who hosted a pop-up event with the candidate in Los Angeles on Thursday. 

A variety of items were for sale with Yang campaign references, including limited-edition sweatshirts signed by Yang and Glover that sold for $1,000 each, according to NBC’s Priscilla Thompson. Money raised with the sales are going to Yang’s campaign.


How Elizabeth Warren plans to regain lost ground in high-stakes debate

Booker: 'It's a shame' debate won't reflect party's diversity

Poll tells tale of two different Democratic parties

It’s become a tale of two very different Democratic Parties: the Washington Democrats who are fighting President Trump through impeachment, and the 2020 presidential Democrats who rarely bring up impeachment on the campaign trail or at debates unless asked about it.

And the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll underscores this Democratic divide. In the poll, 45 percent of Democratic primary voters say the party’s main focus right now should be making the case that Trump should be removed from office, versus 46 percent who say the focus right now should be on defeating Trump at the ballot box next November.

The impeachment-first Democrats disproportionately consist of African Americans, seniors and women without college degrees. And Joe Biden is the top presidential choice for many of these voters. 

The focus-on-November Democrats, on the other hand, are disproportionately white and younger voters, and their presidential preference is essentially tied among Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

In some ways, this Democratic divide isn’t too surprising, with candidates like Biden believing that Trump is the existential threat to the country.

“Folks, let me tell you something, the single most important thing we have to accomplish, the single most important thing we have to accomplish is defeat Donald Trump,” Biden said in May at his kickoff rally in Philadelphia.

Sanders and Warren, on the other hand, believe the current economic and political system — not Trump — is the existential threat.

"I'm running for president to take on a corrupt system and get our economy working for everyone. I'm serious about delivering real change — and a lot of powerful people know it," Warren said in a speech last week.

Ahead of debate, Sanders's team 'riding wave of momentum

Castro, Booker not on stage, but present in campaign ads

They couldn’t get the needed polling numbers to be on the debate stage, but former Housing Secretary Julián Castro and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey made sure they would be seen Thursday. 

The two released ads for television and social media hours before the debate got underway. Booker’s ad is part of a $500,000 TV and digital advertising buy and will be seen during the debate.

“I won’t be on tonight’s debate stage, but that’s OK because I’m going to win this election anyway,”  Booker says in his 30-second ad, which is running on cable television in 22 markets. 

Castro spent $50,000 on an ad that includes a clip from a recent Iowa event in which he called for more input from voters of color in the Democratic nominating process by ending Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status.

“Telling you the truth at a time when you have a president who won’t,” Castro says in his 30-second spot, which will run in Iowa. His campaign did not know what time the ad would air.

Booker, Castro and six other candidates sent a letter Saturday to Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, asking him to lower the polling and fundraising thresholds they must meet to be onstage in the party’s January and February debates. 

Castro is the only Latino candidate in the race, and Booker is one of two African Americans running for president now that California Sen. Kamala Harris has dropped out (the other candidate being former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick). Andrew Yang is the only person of color on stage for this month’s debate. 

Democratic debate in December: Everything you need to know

It almost didn't happen at all, but now seven candidates are set to take the stage on Thursday night at the Democratic presidential primary debate in California.

A union picket line had been announced for outside the venue, leading all of the candidates to declare they would rather miss the debate than cross it. But the union worked out a tentative deal with the contractor on Monday, and now the debate is on.

Here's what you need to know.