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

Here’s the wine cave everyone hit Buttigieg over

Buttigieg has consistently taken heat for having closed-door fundraisers with big dollar donors — including in tonight's debate. 

The Associated Press reported last week that Buttigieg dined privately with donors on Sunday at a winery owned by a billionaire couple.

The Hall Rutherford wine caves is in California's Napa Valley and has a chandelier with “1,500 Swarovski crystals, an onyx banquet table to reflect its luminescence and bottles of cabernet sauvignon that sell for as much as $900,” the AP reported

The AP said the event was not listed on Buttigieg’s public schedule and reported that the mayor has raised more than $50 million so far this race. 

Fact check: Did Warren’s campaign benefit from big-ticket fundraisers?

When Sen. Elizabeth Warren attacked Democrats who rake in top dollars in pricey fundraisers, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg claimed that her campaign wasn’t as pure as she claimed.

“Senator, your presidential campaign right now, as we speak, is funded in part by money you transferred, having raised it at those same big ticket fundraisers you now denounce,” Buttigieg said.  

He’s right. Warren transferred more than $10 million from her Senate campaign coffers to underwrite her presidential bid, giving her a healthy leg up on fundraising when she became a presidential contender. Warren did fundraising dinners right up until she easily won her 2018 Senate re-election bid.

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell organized a fund-raising dinner for Warren last year at a fancy steakhouse in Philadelphia with $120 cheesesteak, The New York Times reported in September.

The vibe has turned

After a mostly genial first hour, the candidates are starting to exchange plenty of jabs — and a few haymakers.


Candidates have attacked President Trump 30 times in the first 90 minutes

The attacks on President Trump flew fast and frequent in the first ten minutes of the sixth debate. Ninety minutes in and the president has been targeted 30 times, here's how the attacks break down.

And here's how many attacks were directed at Trump in the previous debates:

See the latest Trump attack numbers on our sixth debate attack tracker.

Sanders' team throwing 'wine cave' shade


Castro campaign again swipes at Buttigieg over 'privilege'

Warren and Buttigieg clash over campaign donations

In one of the standout moments of the night, Warren hit Buttigieg directly about how he is financing his campaign, specifically knocking him for hosting close-door fundraisers — particularly one that took place in California in a wine cave. 

She noted that she ran grassroots campaign and talks to ordinary voters, and that meeting with big-ticket donors makes a candidate out of touch with ordinary issues. 

“I do not sell access to my time,” she said. 

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Buttigieg hit back, saying it’s important to raise money to beat Trump and such party “purity tests” diminish the importance of the election. He also took a jab at Warren’s net worth, saying it’s several times more than his. 

Klobuchar then jumped in, saying she did not come to the debate to hear that argument, and pivoted to how Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has killed several bills that the Democratic-controlled House passed.

Klobuchar leading all candidates in talking time, Yang and Steyer talking the least

More than an hour into the sixth debate and Klobuchar has eclipsed Warren as the leader of the talking time race. See the latest on candidate talking time in the debate here

Biden won’t commit to second term

Biden — who would be 82 years old on Election Day in 2024 — was asked if he would commit to running for a second presidential term if he wins the 2020 election.

“No,” he said. “I’m not willing to commit one way or another."

“Let’s see where we are,” he added.

Politico reported earlier this month that Biden had been signaling to aides that he would only serve one term if elected.

Still, his refusal to say that he’d commit to serving two terms is a surprising admission. Politics watchers have pointed out that the fueling of questions over a one-term presidency — especially by Biden himself — could very easily make Biden a lame-duck president if he were elected.

Warren turns an age question


Tom Steyer calls China a 'frenemy'

The candidates are talking tough on China, but it’s Steyer who offers the most memorable answer. 

After Buttigieg's response, Steyer pushes against the idea of isolation of China and ties his answer to the need to work together on climate change. 

“We have to work with them as a frenemy, people who disturb us, who we disagree with, but who in effect we are linked with in a world that is ever getting closer,” Steyer says.