Sparks flew during the ninth Democratic presidential debate, with five veteran debaters and one newcomer facing off on stage on Wednesday.
Wednesday's debate was the first for billionaire former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who took considerable heat from the other candidates on stage over his treatment of women and defense of stop and frisk.
The debate, hosted by NBC News, MSNBC and The Nevada Independent, put pressure on Bernie Sanders to defend his position as a leading candidate in the run-up to Nevada's caucuses on Saturday, while moderates Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar — and now Bloomberg — looked to widen their bases, and Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren sought a boost after failing to meet early expectations.
Highlights from the Las Vegas Democratic debate:
- Who won the Democratic debate in Las Vegas?
- ANALYSIS: Finally, the fight Democrats have been waiting for.
- Debate rivals hammer Bloomberg over 'stop and frisk' policing in NYC.
- Warren comes out swinging and lands several punches.
Bloomberg: 'The real winner of the debate last night was Donald Trump'
Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg said Thursday morning that the person who actually won Wednesday's Democratic debate that he participated in was President Donald Trump.
“Look, the real winner of the debate last night was Donald Trump,” he said in remarks at a campaign event in Salt Lake City.
“Because I worry that we may be on the way to nominating someone who cannot win in November,” he said. “If we choose a candidate who appeals to a small base — like Senator Sanders — it will be a fatal error.”
Bloomberg said that the person who could defeat Trump would have to be someone who can attract Democrats, independents and Republicans.
“That was the coalition that propelled Democrats to success in the midterms – and it’s the coalition we will need to win in November,” he said. “That won’t happen with pie in the sky promises and proposals that will bankrupt the country.”
Bloomberg was repeatedly attacked by all of the other candidates on the debate stage Wednesday night for his record on the stop and frisk policy that was carried out while he was NYC mayor and for NDA policies at his company.
Trump responded on Twitter that he agreed with Bloomberg's assessment.
Trump mocks Bloomberg: Performance was 'worst in the history of debate'
Sanders says billionaires saw wealth skyrocket compared to average Americans. Is he right?
"We have enormous problems facing this country, and we cannot continue seeing a situation where in the last three years, billionaires in this country saw an $850 billion increase in their wealth. Congratulations, Mr. Bloomberg. But the average American last year saw less than a 1 percent increase in his or her income. That's wrong."
This is mostly true. Bloomberg's Billionaire Index reported in December that 172 American billionaires included in its ranking added $500 billion to their wealth in 2019. In 2018, Bloomberg reported that the country's 173 biggest billionaires lost 5.9 percent of their total wealth, leaving them with $1.9 trillion at the end of the year. U.S. billionaires included in the index added $315 billion to their net worth in 2017. That amounts to $815 billion in total increases, not $850 billion.
Sanders' claim that "the average American saw less than a 1 percent increase in their income" is correct. The median household income increased by 0.9 percent from 2017 to 2018, according to the Census Bureau. Family household median income increased by 1.2 percent, while single household income increased by 2.4 percent.
What's true, false and everything in between at the Democratic debate
Six candidates took the stage in Las Vegas for the ninth debate of the primary season, hosted by NBC News, MSNBC, the Nevada Independent and Telemundo.
Five of the candidates, Sanders, Biden, Warren, Buttigieg and Klobuchar, were old hats — but it was the first Democratic presidential debate for former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who immediately came under fire.
Fact check: Did Klobuchar vote to make English the national language?
Buttigieg laid into Klobuchar for supporting legislation to declare English the official langue of the U.S.
“Do you know the message that sends in as multilingual a state as Nevada, to immigrants?” he said.
Klobuchar was one of 17 Democrats to support a 2007 amendment ending a requirement for federal agencies to provide materials in languages other than English, according to The Associated Press. She disavowed this stance last week, saying English shouldn’t be the national language of the U.S.
'No Social Security or Medicare cuts' if Bloomberg elected, top adviser says
LAS VEGAS — Mike Bloomberg would oppose any cuts to Social Security or Medicare if elected president, his senior campaign adviser Howard Wolfson said here Wednesday after the debate.
Wolfson said those retirement programs would be off the table in a Bloomberg presidency, marking a shift from the former New York mayor's past positions in support of reducing benefits to lower the deficit.
"We're at a point where working people in particular are feeling squeezed about the future, where you have dislocation and job loss, you have entire industries that are contracting," Wolfson told NBC News. "And now is not the time to be putting those kinds of things on the table in context of deficit reduction. Mike has a plan to raise taxes to pay for a lot of the investments we need. But no — no Social Security or Medicare cuts."
Fact check: Did Klobuchar support the most Trump judges?
Buttigieg claimed that Klobuchar was most likely to vote for Trump judges "of the senators running for president," earning a complaint from the Minnesota senator that his numbers were wrong.
“I have opposed, not supported, two-thirds of the Trump judges, so get your numbers right, and I am in the top 10 to 15 of opposing them,” Klobuchar said.
But Buttigieg didn’t say she’d voted for Trump’s judges two-thirds of the time. He said she'd voted for Trump's judges more than any other Democrat on the stage. And that's true.
Here's the fine print of what everyone's talking about: progressive blog ThinkProgress reported nearly a year ago that Klobuchar had voted for more than 56 percent of Trump’s judicial nominees who were eventually confirmed — that may be where Klobuchar prepped her two-thirds number response.
Her campaign told NBC News on Wednesday night that those numbers are outdated and that using that same methodology, the senator has voted in favor of Trump’s judicial nominees just 33.51 percent of the time. That's still more than Sanders and Warren, who voted for Trump’s judicial nominees about 25 percent of the time by the same math.
The ninth Democratic debate, by the numbers
This was an ... active debate. The six candidates onstage took swings at one another and at President Donald Trump but mostly at new-to-the-debate-stage candidate Mike Bloomberg, who was targeted 45 of the 95 times candidates attacked one another. According to NBC News analysis, the 95 attacks mark the most times candidates have attacked one another in any of the Democratic debates.
For full numbers on candidate attacks, read our Las Vegas debate candidate attack tracker.
The debate ended with Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar topping speaking time with 16 minutes each, edging out the initial front-runner, Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Read our article about candidate talking time in the ninth debate.
One more number of note: Sanders' 13 attacks on Bloomberg, the most of any candidate in the debate.
Who won the Democratic debate in Las Vegas?
Bloomberg became a piñata, and Warren resurrected her feisty side.
The Democratic candidates formed a circular firing squad Wednesday night, with arrows flying in all directions and fights breaking out among a seemingly infinite permutation of candidates on matters from health care policy to lewd comments about women.
The debate was not only the former New York mayor's first time on a presidential debate stage; it was also the first night of his surging campaign that wasn't choreographed. The result: He faced direct criticism from rivals he has bested in recent polls. It was the most contentious evening of the nine faceoffs so far, coming three days before the Democratic candidates face the most diverse voting electorate yet in their quest to make Donald Trump a one-term president.
"It's a little bit like a presidential version of 'Survivor,'" former Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said on MSNBC after the debate.
Here's a look at who was the most aggressive, who took the toughest punches and who missed their marks over the course of the debate, which was hosted by NBC News, MSNBC, Telemundo and The Nevada Independent.
McCaskill: Las Vegas debate was 'a presidential version of "Survivor"'
Warren says she had her best fundraising day ever
Warren says Bloomberg will spend money to 'erase America's memory' of the debate
Speaking with MSNBC after the debate ended, Warren said Bloomberg will spend a bunch more money in the coming days "in order to try to erase America's memory of what happened on that debate stage."
Warren brought what many considered to be the strongest performance of the night, highlighted by her repeated tough exchanges with Bloomberg, who was making his first debate appearance.
After the debate, Bloomberg campaign manager Kevin Sheekey said in a statement: "You know you are a winner when you are drawing attacks from all the candidates."
"Everyone came to destroy Mike tonight. It didn't happen," he said, adding, "He was just warming up tonight."
Why the Nevada debate may not swing the Nevada contest
Debate watch Las Vegas: As debate comes to an end, some in Vegas feel little hope
In the last minutes of the Democratic debate, Corey Harris looked at the large screen broadcasting the event and shook his head.
"I think the Democrats are in a lot of trouble and there is still a lot of division” said Harris, 41, who watched at Layla's Palace Banquet Hall in east Las Vegas.
Harris, a stockbroker, said he's been underwhelmed by the candidates' responses to questions throughout the debate. He was hoping the debate would display a standout candidate that could beat Trump, but "I'm not impressed with anyone on that stage right now."
Barbara Gomez, 45, said she understands that while the point of a debate is to outshine the other competitors, she felt discouraged by the excessive mudslinging she witnessed tonight.
Gomez, a mother of four who works in customer service for a major airline, said she believes Warren stood out on stage as poised and intelligent. However, she did not feel any of the candidates, including Warren, appeared strong enough to win in general election after watching the debate.
"As a minority, as a woman and as an immigrant, this makes me really scared," she said. "I'm scared there's not going to be someone who can get what we currently have out."
Biden talks Bloomberg in post-debate interview
Biden in a post-debate interview with MSNBC said he told Bloomberg after the debate, "Welcome to the party, man."
He added that Bloomberg's "basic values" are still in alignment with the Republican Party and criticized him for running ads that show "he and Obama are such good buddies" when Bloomberg didn't support Barack Obama in 2008.
Immigration pits Buttigieg against Klobuchar
The Buttigieg-Klobuchar competition to be the centrist candidate flared again when Buttigieg hammered Klobuchar on immigration. As Klobuchar advocated for immigrants known as Dreamers, Buttigieg reminded her that she voted to confirm the current head of Customs and Border Protection, Kevin McAleenan, and voted in 2007 to "make English the national language."
"Do you know the message that sends in a multilingual state as Nevada?" Buttigieg asked Klobuchar.
The 2007 vote was to reverse an executive order that required federal agencies to produce materials in other languages. Buttigieg used the clash as an opportunity to brag about his work starting a municipal ID program for immigrants in South Bend, Indiana.
Klobuchar has since said her 2007 vote on the language issue was wrong. On stage, she said other Democrats voted similarly and McAleenan was "highly recommended by Obama officials." She listed other work she's done on immigration reform as someone who has been "in the arena."
"You have not been in the arena doing that work," she retorted. "You've memorized a bunch of talking points."
Candidates give their closing statements
And that's a wrap.
After one of the most fiery debates this cycle in which each candidate hit their rivals hard, those on stage tonight ended by talking about fighting for all Americans and uniting the Democratic Party to get the nomination.
Here are their closing statements, paraphrased:
Klobuchar: What unites us is much bigger than divides us. I'm the candidate who can build coalitions. I've won a lot of races, and you need someone who can govern. I passed over 100 bills. You need someone who has the heart to be president. I love the people of this country, and I ask for your vote.
Bloomberg: This is a management job, and Donald Trump is not a manager. This is a job where you have build teams. He doesn't have a team. We cannot run the railroad like that. The people we elect should have experience and they should have credentials, and then we should hold them accountable the next time they don't do the job.
Buttigieg: I am asking for your vote because America is running out of time. This is our only chance to beat Donald Trump. If you see a choice between a revolution and the status quo and you don't see where you fit in, you have a home in my campaign. We need to move us out of the toxic environment and polarization. We can't afford to lean on the same Washington playbook.
Warren: I grew up fighting. I watched my mother fight for my family after my father had a heart attack. I eventually made it through school and spent my life as a teacher. I spent years learning how working families were being hurt. I've been a politician the shortest time, but I've been the one out here fighting for families the longest time. Give me a chance and I'll go the White House and fight for your family.
Biden: I'm running because so many people are being left behind. I've been knocked down a hell of a lot. We have to provide safety and security. I'm the only one who beat the National Rifle Association, and I beat them twice. Health care has to be expanded. Obamacare has to be expanded. We have to pass immigration reform.
Sanders: All of us are united in defeating Donald Trump. We are the only major country on Earth that does not provide health care as a basic human right. We have people sleeping on the streets. Kids can't afford college or have student debt. Real change takes place from the bottom up. We need to mobilize millions of people to stand up for justice.
Sanders only one to say the candidate with the most delegates entering the convention should be nominee
Each candidate was asked whether the candidate with the most delegates entering the Democratic convention this summer should be the nominee.
Only Sanders said yes.
Every other candidate essentially said that as long as the regular convention process plays out, they're fine with the result.
But such a process could lead to a candidate with fewer delegates than the incoming leader becoming the nominee.
Candidates need to hit a certain number of delegates to secure the nomination on the initial ballot. Usually, candidates have secured that total entering the convention, and there is no issue. But in this Democratic primary, it looks possible that the leader entering Milwaukee in July will not have enough delegates because the field is so fragmented.
The process would turn into a contested convention, in which multiple rounds of delegate voting need to take place to settle on a nominee. It's happened before, but not for decades.
"Whatever the rules of the Democratic Party are, they should be followed," Bloomberg said. "And if they have a process, which I believe they do."
"The convention working its will means that people have the delegates that are pledged to them and they keep those delegates until we come to the convention," Warren followed.
Biden said the party should "let the process work its way out."
Buttigieg and Klobuchar concurred.
Sanders then diverged, saying, "The process includes 500 superdelegates on the second ballot, so I think that the will of the people should" come first.
Immigration protesters interrupt Biden's closing statement
Missing at tonight’s debate: gun control
Las Vegas was the site of the largest mass shooting in U.S. history. So it came as some surprise that gun control was not a bigger part of the debate.
Biden was the first to reference the shooting — in his closing statement.
Warren says Biden, Klobuchar are too concerned with being McConnell’s pal
Warren continued to carry a big stick when going after opponents, criticizing a few of her Democratic colleagues for their chuminess with Republicans. Klobuchar and Biden both have heralded their ability to work across the aisle, but Warren said this bipartisanship is only advocating for incrementalism and abandoning progressive values.
“Amy and Joe’s hearts are in the right place, but we can’t be so eager to be liked by Mitch McConnell that we forget how to fight the Republicans,” Warren said, also tucking in a slam aimed at the wealth of Buttigieg's donors.
Klobuchar appeared frustrated and didn’t get much out beyond, "Oh come on, you gotta be kidding me," before the debate cut to commercial while she just shook her head. Biden later noted that he’s been a target of McConnell and claimed he’s the only one on the stage who has beaten him when advocating for legislation in the Senate.
“I’ve been the object of his affection,” Biden said, noting that McConnell and Republicans have recently attacked him, his son and his family. “I don’t need to be told I’m a friend of Mitch McConnell’s. Mitch McConnell has been the biggest pain in my neck in a long, long time.”
Debate watch Detroit: Two hours later, few minds have been changed
If candidates came into tonight's debate hoping to change minds and earn supporters, they largely struck out with people watching at the Brush Street Stadium Bar & Grill in Detroit.
By the second hour of the debate, much of the bar had emptied out, the noise level from conversations had risen to a level so high it was hard to hear the TV, and few of the people remaining said they'd heard anything that impressed them enough to influence their votes.
"I'm no closer to a decision now than I was before," said Jamila Taylor, 42, a doctor who came to the debate watch party in a pink and green sweater from her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, the nation's oldest black sorority. "I heard things from each candidate that I agree with but not enough to stand out," she said.
Harry C. Todd, 57, an insurance executive and a member of the Detroit Alphas, the Detroit fraternity that sponsored the watch party, said he heard candidates "promising everything to everybody," trying to target different demographic groups with their answers to draw voters. He'd rather hear them talk about what they're going to do to build bipartisan support for important issues like clean water and good schools.
"I'm not a soundbite guy," he said. "They all want to do this great stuff, but what's your plan to work with both sides of the aisle?"
Redlining redux: facts and fiction
After a tape circulated of Bloomberg describing the end of redlining as the cause of the 2008 financial crisis and the deepest recession since the Great Depression, he disavowed the idea on the Las Vegas debate stage.
"Redlining" refers to a federal policy that first barred lending to black and Latino homeowners then, constraining the ability of those homeowners to purchase homes outside of specific neighborhoods for more than five decades.
"I was against it. ... Redlining is still a practice in some places, and we've got to cut it out," Bloomberg said.
But the idea that redlining was a positive force is not limited to Bloomberg's recorded comments. It is a widespread belief advanced during and after the Great Recession by conservatives opposed to lending regulations that required banks to track and report mortgage lending to the federal government. The reporting was intended to help address the long-term economic effects of unequal lending.
From 1934, when the nation's mortgage system began, to the mid-1970s, affordable and sustainable loans were made available almost exclusively to white Americans. Homes remain the single most valuable asset held by most American households and the source of most inherited wealth or property. So redlining has helped not only helped to fuel the widespread neighborhood and school segregation, which continue to this day, but also to perpetuate the nation's yawning racial wealth gap.
In the fourth quarter of 2019, about 74 percent of white Americans owned their homes, compared to just 44 percent of black Americans, according to census data. In 2016, the average white American household had about $147,000 in wealth.
Fact check: Did Amazon pay $0 in federal income tax in 2018?
Buttigieg said Amazon and Chevron didn’t pay anything in federal income tax in 2018.
"What we've got to do is level the playing field, where a company like Amazon, Chevron, is paying literally zero on billions of dollars in profits and it puts small businesses like the ones that are revitalizing my own city," he said.
That's true. Amazon paid $0 in U.S. federal income tax on more than $11 billion in profits before taxes in 2018. It also received a $129 million tax rebate from the federal government. Chevron also paid $0 in federal income tax on more than $4.5 billion in income in 2018. The company also received a federal tax rebate to the tune of $181 million.
Amazon and Chevron's low tax bill partially stems from the Trump administration's corporate tax cut from 35 to 21 percent in 2017. Companies have a long-standing practice of using tax deferral, a tax instrument that enables businesses to postpone paying taxes until a later year. When Trump decreased the tax rate, it allowed companies to defer more taxes. Amazon's low tax bill also stemmed from carryforward losses from years when the company didn’t bring in profits, tax credits for investments in R&D, and stock-based employee compensation.
When Buttigieg criticizes Bloomberg, he sprinkles a dig at Sanders
If you've watched closely tonight, you'll notice a common attack line from Buttigieg: Bloomberg wants to "buy the election" and Sanders wants to "burn the house down."
The most recent moment was when Buttigieg was asked whether Bloomberg's spending was good for Democrats, to which he replied that it wasn't because the former New York mayor doesn't hold Democratic values.
"I think that turning to someone like Mayor Bloomberg, who thinks he can buy this election, is no better a way to succeed than turning to someone like Senator Sanders, who wants to burn the house down," Buttigieg said.
What's going on here is Buttigieg's seeing not only Bloomberg's money as a threat but also pitching himself as a centrist who can take on Trump — a lane Buttigieg has tried to rule with an iron fist. He also sees Sanders, after a popular vote win in Iowa and a victory in New Hampshire, as his chief rival going forward.
Fact check: Bloomberg touts drop in crime rate under his watch
"When I got into office, there were 650 murders a year in New York City," Bloomberg said, defending his record on stop-and-frisk. "The crime rate did go from 650, 50 percent down to 300. And we have to keep a lid on crime."
The murder rate in New York City — not the crime rate — dropped by roughly half, going from 649 murders in 2001 (the first year he was elected) to 335 murders in 2013 (his last year in office). But it's a stretch to credit this decline to expanded use of the stop-and-frisk strategy. The murder rate was declining a decade before he took office and continued to decline after he departed after three terms — suggesting other forces were in play. The murder rate kept falling after the program was formally ended by Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2014.
Debate watch Houston: Couple on third date came for jazz, stayed for debate
HOUSTON — Michael Edwards and Kirby Avila, both 28, came to a Houston beer bar to listen to live jazz. It was their third date. But after ordering drinks, they ducked onto the patio and found dozens of people watching the Democratic debate — and they soon joined them.
Edwards, a nurse at a major Houston hospital, said he's seen what happens to people who lack health insurance, and so Sanders has his vote. Avila, a chemical industry technician, said she was still undecided. But after Warren's performance tonight, she said she's leaning toward her.
"She's so sharp, and I think it's time for a woman," Avila said.
So why trade a night listening to soothing jazz for one listening to sniping candidates? Edwards, who is black, and Avila, who is Latina, said November's election is vitally important for people of color.
"There's too much on the line," Edwards said, turning to Avila.
"Yeah," she said, holding Edwards' hand. "It's a good third date."
Google 'democratic debate' ... and you get Bloomberg's ad
A gentle reminder of just how expansive Bloomberg’s ad buys are. His campaign has prime ad real estate tonight for Google searches for the debate.
In hour two, Bloomberg's having the debate he wanted. It may not overshadow the first hour's pile-on.
Bloomberg has spent the second hour of the debate much more comfortable on stage, discussing policies around climate change, the tax code and small businesses.
He took shots at Sanders in particular, comparing his policies to "communism," which Sanders called a "cheap shot."
"I can't think of a way that would make it easier for Donald Trump to get re-elected than listening to this conversation," Bloomberg said of the proposals. "This is ridiculous. We're not going to throw out capitalism, we tried that. Other countries tried that. It was called communism and it just didn't work."
But hour two may not be the headline coming out of Wednesday night's bout. What is likely to get more attention is Bloomberg's first hour, where he got annihilated by Warren and other candidates on nondisclosure agreements and stop-and-frisk.
But Bloomberg is left with some moments that are likely to serve as clips in upcoming campaign ads. And as we know, the Bloomberg operation is more than equipped to turn those bits around into far-reaching ads.
Debate watch Las Vegas: First-time voter looks to debate for guidance
LAS VEGAS — People are trickling into the watch party at Layla's Palace Banquet Hall as the debate continues. Among them is Jasmine Campuzano, 18, who said she's been waiting for four years to cast a vote against President Donald Trump. This will be the first year she can vote.
"I wanted to make sure the person I vote for isn't a surprise later," said Campuzano, who attended the event with her mother and brother. "I want to make sure the person I vote for is what I am actually getting."
She's still not sure which Democrat will get her vote, but she's hoping to have a better idea by the end of the debate. At the moment, the high school senior said it looks like a catfight on stage and it's hard to follow.
"But I like how Elizabeth [Warren] is answering the questions," she said.
Ex-candidate Andrew Yang tweets through debate
Klobuchar wants to refocus attacks on Trump
Fact check: Did the health care industry make $100 billion in profits?
Sanders said Wednesday night that "the health care industry made $100 billion in profits."
"Somehow or another, Canada can provide universal health care to all their people," he said. "U.K. can do it, France can do it, Germany could, all of Europe can do it. Gee whiz. Somehow or another, we are the only major country on Earth that can't do it. Why is that?"
In the context of health insurance, Sanders' characterization of profits is an exaggeration. The health insurance industry earned $23.4 billion in 2018, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. The industry earned $16.1 billion in 2017.
However, a survey of some of the country's hospitals reported $91 billion of operating revenue in 2016, according to a 2017 Deloitte survey. Meanwhile two of the world's biggest pharmaceutical companies — Pfizer and Roche — reported $12.69 billion and $14.1 billion respectively for fiscal year 2019.
Bloomberg hits Sanders over his critiques of wealth inequality
The slip away from civility continued tonight as Bloomberg hit back at Sanders over his plan to restructure the American economy and tackle wealth inequality in part by giving workers more say in the companies where they work.
"Mr. Bloomberg, maybe it wasn't you that made all that money. Maybe your workers played some role in that, as well," Sanders said.
Bloomberg shot back: "I can't think of a way that would make it easier for Donald Trump to get re-elected than listening to this conversation. This is ridiculous."
He added: "We're not going to throw out capitalism. We tried that, the other countries tried that — it was called communism — and it just didn't work.”
Debate watch Las Vegas: Environmental groups quiet down for climate change answers
LAS VEGAS — When the topic switched to climate change and the environment, the room grew quiet at the banquet hall here, as those at this debate watch party honed in on candidates' responses.
Tonight’s party was hosted by the Nevada Conservation League and Chispa Nevada, an environmental group that advocates for Latino communities.
The biggest applause and cheers here came when Warren declared, “We cannot continue to allow our public lands to be used for profit.”
This is who's attacking Bloomberg the most
Mike Bloomberg emerged early in the debate as a candidate worthy of piling on. Since then, every other candidate has taken a shot, two shots, four shots, 10 shots at the former New York mayor.
An hour and thirty minutes into the debate, Bloomberg had been attacked 42 times.
This is what the attack tracker looks like:
And here's how the per-candidate attacks on Bloomberg are shaking out. Follow along our debate-night candidate attack tracker here.
Warren takes big swings at her opponents after losing New Hampshire, Iowa
Warren came ready to pick a fight at Wednesday’s debate, a week after she finished fourth in the New Hampshire primary. The primary was a tough loss for the New England politician who once led polls there. That, along with questions from pundits about her campaign's longevity, appears to have enlivened the progressive Democrat, who took more than a few swipes at her opponents.
So far she has taken particular aim at Bloomberg for his past comments about women and for having female employees sign nondisclosure agreements, but she hasn’t stopped there. Known as the candidate with a plan for seemingly everything, Warren provided policy specifics on her own health care plan, while pointing to what she deemed to be lackluster offerings of her opponents.
It remains to be seen if it’s too little too late for Warren ahead of Nevada where she has dipped in the polls and early voting has already started or if her big swings will push her to a big win in the Silver State’s caucuses on Saturday.
Warren makes a splash on Twitter
Warren is on the warpath — and Twitter is taking notice. She’s had the most tweets that mention her name, with Bloomberg in second.
Warren camp touts mid-debate fundraising
Global warming cools the debate
Maybe it was the commercial break, but a question about what the candidates would do to address climate change has yielded a less contentious stretch. Biden, Bloomberg, Warren, Klobuchar and Sanders all tout their plans.
Bloomberg gets what might be his first applause line by saying on Day 1 as president he would rejoin the Paris Agreement.
Debate watch Houston: Sanders supporters welcome the criticism
HOUSTON — Manny Lara, 24, an IT specialist, batted his hand at the screen and scoffed as Buttigieg launched yet another attack against Sanders, this time over his refusal to release his complete medical records.
“This is just gross,” said Lara, a Sanders supporter who is among more than 50 people watching the debate from the patio of a popular Houston bar.
“No man, this is good,” Jared Cress, Lara’s friend and co-worker, said. “They’re going after Bernie cause they know what’s up. They’re afraid.”
Sanders supporters here have booed or laughed with each of the attacks launched against their candidate tonight. This, said Cress, 25, is the strongest indication yet that — unlike in 2016 — their guy is the one to beat.
“Let them attack him,” Cress said. “It means he’s winning.”
Klobuchar-Buttigieg feud comes to Mexico
Buttigieg, who is fluent in Spanish, criticized Amy Klobuchar for being unable to name Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in a Telemundo interview last week. Klobuchar said her slip was momentary forgetfulness that doesn’t reflect what she knows about Mexico.
She added greetings to Mexico’s president, stumbling some as she tried to pronounce López. But Buttigieg responded that it’s something she should know as a member of a committee that oversees trade — Klobuchar serves on the Science, Commerce and Transportation Committee. Klobuchar wouldn’t give, asking Buttigieg, “are you trying to say that I’m dumb?”
Buttigieg previously had his own troubles with discussions on Mexico when he said last November that he’d be willing to send troops into Mexico to combat gang and drug violence.
The two Midwesterners have developed something of a rivalry in recent debates.
Warren then cut in to defend Klobuchar by saying that "everybody on this stage" forgets a name sometimes.
Fact check: Biden is right, Bloomberg opposed Obamacare in 2010
"The mayor said, when we passed it, the signature piece of this administration, 'It's a disgrace.' They're the exact words. 'It was a disgrace.' Look it up, check it out. 'It was a disgrace,'" Biden said.
Bloomberg did in fact call the Affordable Care Act a "disgrace" in 2010, and there's video — Biden just put it in an online ad. The former New York City mayor's health care plan includes a proposal to "build on the ACA to achieve universal health coverage."
Warren's redlining attack reflects long history of defending consumers
Warren described herself as a champion of lending equity and the opposite of Bloomberg during Wednesday night’s debate.
"When Mayor Bloomberg was busy blaming African Americans and Latinos for the housing crash of 2008, I was right here in Las Vegas, just a few blocks down the street holding hearings… Banks…were taking away homes from millions of families," she said, referencing Bloomberg's past comments on redlining.
Warren first came to national prominence while a law professor at Harvard University whose research indicated before the Great Recession that American households were drowning in unsustainable levels of debt thanks to reckless lending practices. Lending to low-income borrowers and Americans of color at the highest interest rates, regardless of credit scores or incomes, had become a go-to way for major banks and Wall Street institutions to boost profits, Warren has said. These lending practices also pushed disproportionate shares of black and Latino homeowners into foreclosure, according to the Center for Responsible Lending.
Warren’s financial research later prompted her to advocate for, and later help lead, a new federal agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The agency was created by the Obama administration in 2010. It’s oversight and regulatory powers have since been curbed by the Trump administration.
Klobuchar on how she handled police-involved shootings as prosecutor
Fact check: Why did Bloomberg's administration cut back on stop-and-frisk?
Stop-and-frisk “got out of control. And when we discovered, I discovered, that we were doing many, many, too many stop-and-frisks, we cut 95 percent of it out,” Bloomberg claimed Wednesday night.
This is false and misleading. Bloomberg championed the expansion of the policing strategy stop-and-frisk during his administration, it didn't happen without his awareness. The practice was scaled back significantly thanks to a 2013 court order declaring the policy unconstitutional, not Bloomberg’s change of heart.
Bloomberg, in his three terms as New York City mayor, expanded and championed stop-and-frisk — the strategy that gave police the authority to detain people suspected of committing a crime and lead to a practice of stopping mostly black and Hispanic men — right up until days before announcing he was running for president, according to a comprehensive timeline reported by The New York Times.
It's still anybody's debate
When it comes to talking time, it's still anybody's debate.
Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren kicked off the debate with the most time spent speaking, with a solid margin over the other candidates on stage. Deeper into the night, the hierarchy turned fuzzy as Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Mike Bloomberg took more microphone time.
Follow along with our debate-night candidate talking time tracker here.
Fact check: Is Bloomberg against raising the minimum wage?
Sanders, in a veiled shot at Bloomberg, suggested: "Maybe we can talk about a billionaire saying that we should not raise the minimum wage. Or that we should cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. If that's a way to beat Donald Trump, wow! I would be very surprised."
Bloomberg said in a 2015 interview with his own Bloomberg channel that he had “never” been in favor of raising the minimum wage. But now, as a presidential candidate, he backs raising the minimum wage to $15, according to his campaign website.
Buttigieg and Sanders spar over their personal health and health care
Buttigieg hit Sanders after the senator was asked about his health and recent heart attack. Buttigieg said he was "less concerned about the lack of transparency on Senator Sanders' health than I am about the lack of transparency on how he plans to pay for his healthcare plan."
Sanders quickly hit back, calling Buttigieg’s plan "a maintenance continuation of the status quo." Insisting that Democrats needed to be more ambitious and citing a Yale study, Sanders claimed that Medicare for All would save $450 billion a year “because we are eliminating the absurdity of thousands of separate plans” and save tens of thousands of lives.
The Yale study Sanders cited, published by noted medical journal the Lancet, was published on Saturday and concluded the Medicare for All Act would lead to 13 percent in savings in national health-care expenditures and potentially save more than 68,000 lives.
Warren assails Bloomberg over his treatment of women
Bloomberg was asked about criticism of his past comments about women he worked with. He sought to downplay the concerns, saying that women were offended by "maybe" a "joke I told."
"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."
This answer promoted Warren to immediately go on the attack.
"I heard what his defense was: 'I've been nice to some women,'" she said, pressing him to release the women from their NDAs.
Both Warren and Biden pressed Bloomberg to commit on the debate stage to releasing the women from their nondisclosure agreements.
“All the mayor has to do is say ‘you are released from the nondisclosure agreements,’” said Biden.
Nondisclosure agreements are essentially contracts between individuals or an individual and a company or organization which often bar people from speaking publicly about their experiences and observations during contact with a person, company or organization. They have become standard features of many employment agreements and have been used to shield sometimes illegal and unethical conduct from public view.
However, a nondisclosure agreement cannot legally bind a person from offering information or testimony to a law enforcement agency or regulatory body and often cannot bar participation in civil litigation.
Many people asked to sign NDAs are unaware of those facts, employment lawyers say."
Debate watch Detroit: A room goes quiet when the subject is stop and frisk
DETROIT — As Bloomberg fielded questions about his stop and frisk policy, the members of an African American fraternity watching the debate in a Detroit bar stopped their conversations, put down the beers, and tuned in to listen.
Al Elvin, 44, a corporate lawyer who is the president of the Detroit Alphas organization, the fraternity that hosted the debate party, leaned toward the TV so he could hear better.
"Oh sure. He's apologizing now!" Elvin said.
A native New Yorker, Elvin said he's so alarmed by the way the stop and frisk policy targeted young black and brown men and by some of Bloomberg’s recent comments on the policy that he wouldn't vote for Bloomberg, even if he wins the nomination.
"I've been that boy," Elvin said, referring to men stopped by police in New York City. "I've been that boy and it's not even the law here [in Detroit]. I've been through it. I have three sons and when you talk about stop and frisk, I start to think of them."
ANALYSIS: Finally, the fight Democrats have been waiting for
Democratic voters just wanted to know who could fight President Donald Trump best.
Now, after more than a year, their candidates are brawling with bare knuckles. It took that long because boxing with kid gloves was a low-risk way for the candidates to ease into the race. But that approach let Trump gather his strength.
Pressure has changed the incentives: Bernie Sanders stretching his lead in national polls, Mike Bloomberg dumping hundreds of millions of dollars into his campaign, and two contests having decided nothing. So, there is an outright brawl on stage tonight.
Democratic voters may be left wondering why the field was so willing to avoid conflict for so long.
Trump has been the focus of most candidate attacks in previous debates. Not tonight.
Mike Bloomberg has taken President Donald Trump's place as the punching bag on the debate stage at tonight's Democratic debate: 50 minutes into the debate and Trump has been attacked five times, while Bloomberg is at 29.
Get the latest numbers at our candidate attack tracker, and see how many times Trump was attacked in previous debates here:
Bloomberg the unity candidate?
In what has been at times been the most contentious Democratic debate yet, there’s one thing that gets most of the stage on the same page: going after Bloomberg.
Bloomberg battles Biden, Warren on stop-and-frisk
Bloomberg was pressed on his police department’s use of stop-and-frisk while he was mayor.
Bloomberg initially said: "Well, if I go back and look at my time in office, the one thing that I'm really worried about, embarrassed about, is how it turned out with stop-and-frisk."
He added that he believed his first responsibility as mayor was to "give people the right to live" and cut down on murders, but he said it got "out of control."
Biden cut in, saying that it’s not about whether Bloomberg apologized, it’s about the "abhorrent" policy.
Bloomberg said that if the stage couldn’t have candidates who were "wrong on criminal justice at some time in their career, there'd be no one up here."
Warren then criticized Bloomberg’s apology, saying he focused on how stop-and-frisk turned out rather than apologizing for "what it was designed to do in the beginning," saying Bloomberg was being willfully ignorant about its impact on black and brown New Yorkers.
Audible reaction from Vegas crowd as Buttigieg jabs Sanders over union support
LAS VEGAS — There was a round of “ohs” that echoed through Layla’s Palace Banquet Hall in East Las Vegas when Buttigieg criticized Sanders for being at “at war” with the Culinary Union in Las Vegas.
Last week the Culinary Union, Nevada’s largest and most politically influential union, distributed flyers that stated Sanders’ plan would “end Culinary Healthcare,” according to The Nevada Independent. The organization, which represents 60,000 casino workers, opposed Sanders’ universal healthcare plan because they said it would eliminate the health insurance the union fought to get for its members.
Two top union officials said they received threatening messages by phone, email and Twitter from Sanders’ supporters last week. Sanders condemned the attacks against union officials.
Roughly 70 people came to the banquet hall for a debate watch party. The event is hosted by Nevada Conservation League, an advocacy organization that describes itself as “the independent political voice” for Nevada’s conservation and environmental community. Organizers say they expect nearly 200 people to attend the watch party.
Early on, Sanders and Warren lead all other candidates in talking time
Thirty minutes into the debate and the tiers on talking time have emerged: Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren on the top, everyone else at the bottom.
Biden jumps in to defend Obamacare
Biden interjected in the health care debate and forcefully defended his health care plans, saying that Obama turned to him to get the Affordable Care Act passed. He also attacked Bloomberg for criticizing Obamacare.
"The mayor said, when we passed it, the signature piece of this administration, 'It's a disgrace.' They're the exact words. 'It was a disgrace.' Look it up, check it out, 'It was a disgrace.'"
This was Biden's second time speaking after several skirmishes on stage between the candidates. Biden argued that he fought for a Medicare-for-All-like public option that could be paid for by making sure people like Bloomberg paid the same tax rate as his secretary.
Biden is entering this debate wounded after poor showings in Iowa and New Hampshire and lagging in the polls, but this moment, forcefully defending Obama's signature legislative achievement, was his strongest tonight so far.
Warren burns rivals over health care plans
Warren, who supports Medicare for All, was asked directly about how she would overhaul the American health care system and hit Buttigieg over his health care plan, which she called a PowerPoint more than a plan.
She hit Klobuchar even harder, calling her plan a "Post-It note" with a line that says "insert plan here."
Buttigieg was ready with a retort, "I’m more of a Microsoft Word guy." Klobuchar pointed out that Post-It notes were invented in her state, Minnesota.
Warren not sounding out unity theme
Sanders distances himself from toxic online support
Sanders is known to have some fervent online supporters, some real and some... well, who knows. Tonight, he distanced himself from what he termed as the 0.01 percent of his support that has garnered attention for its toxic attacks.
“I disown those people,” Sanders said. “They are not part of my movement.”
Biden, Sanders mirror each others' language on any supporters' online attacks
Buttigieg goes after Bloomberg, Sanders: Let's nominate someone 'who's actually a Democrat'
Buttigieg hit Bloomberg over his wealth and his past party affiliation in his first attack on the billionaire businessman. He said it’s time for someone who actually is from a midwestern city and knows middle-class values to be the nominee. Bloomberg has been a Republican and Independent before running as a Democrat.
He also hit Sanders as divisive to which the Vermont lawmaker hit back saying that he is building a campaign of working people and giving them a voice unlike Buittgieg’s billionaire donors.
"And 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 that thinks ... 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 mid-western city. Let's put forward somebody who's actually a Democrat."
Buttigieg’s attacks on both Sanders and Bloomberg has been his strategy to carve out a moderate lane in the primary and cast himself as someone who can get realistic policies passed.
Candidates came ready to fight
Right out of the gate, candidates came guns blazing at Bloomberg. Warren started, essentially making the direct comparison between Bloomberg’s past controversial remarks and Trump’s. Other candidates joined in, like Klobuchar, Biden and Buttigieg. The haymakers were flying, punches thrown, barbs most certainly traded.
But the debate shifted once Buttigieg went after both Bloomberg and Sanders, who then entered a back-and-forth with the younger of the two ex-mayors on stage.
Bloomberg was attacked 10 times in the first 10 minutes of the debate.
Ten minutes into the debate and Mike Bloomberg has already been attacked 10 times. Pete Buttigieg, another former mayor, and Elizabeth Warren have led the attacks with three apiece, though Warren's early attack on how Bloomberg has talked about women received the largest reaction in the debate crowd. Amy Klobuchar and Bernie Sanders have also taken part.
Welcome to Nevada, Democrats
When the Democratic debate kicked off tonight, candidates spoke to voters across the country but perhaps most directly to Nevada’s 3 million residents and 1.27 million registered voters — an audience far more diverse and representative of America than voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, where the first two nominating contests took place this month.
In Nevada, where white residents do not make up the majority, about 43.8 percent of registered voters were black, Latino, Asian or Native American in 2016. White Nevada residents make up about 48.7 percent of the total population, while Latinos make up about 29 percent of the state’s residents. Another 10 percent of the state’s population is black, nearly 9 percent Asian and 1.7 percent are Native American. That demographic makeup suggests that candidates who want to win in Nevada may have to be prepared to speak about, prioritize and fund policies that may be of limited interest or concern to the overwhelmingly white voters in New Hampshire and Iowa.
In Iowa, white residents make up about 85 percent of the population, and in New Hampshire, it's 90 percent.
The crowd is rowdy in Vegas
Oohs and ahhs accompanying the many haymakers getting thrown on the debate stage — something that might encourage the candidates to keep up the direct attacks.
Klobuchar piles on to Bloomberg
Klobuchar took her first speaking opportunity to add to attacks against Bloomberg, urging him not to hide behind his TV ads and criticizing his campaign for suggesting other candidates should drop out so Bloomberg can stop Sanders from winning the nomination.
"I have been told many times to wait my turn and step aside and I’m not going to do that," Klobuchar said.
"I think we need something different than Donald Trump. I don’t think you look at Donald Trump and say we need someone richer," she said, taking another dig at Bloomberg.
Warren hits Bloomberg over 'sexist' comments, 'racist' policies
Warren came out swinging at Bloomberg in the first moments of the debate, using Bloomberg's past comments against him.
"I'd like to talk about who we're running against — a billionaire who calls women 'fat broads' and 'horse-faced lesbians,' and no I'm not talking about Donald Trump. I'm talking about mayor Bloomberg," she said.
This was a direct hit at Bloomberg’s past reported comments toward women. Warren argued that we can’t elect another billionaire.
"Democrats are not going to win if we have a nominee who has a history of hiding his tax returns, of harassing women, and of supporting racist policies like redlining and stop and frisk," she said. "Look, I'll support whoever the democratic nominee is, but understand this: Democrats take a huge risk if we just substitute one arrogant billionaire for another."
Bernie hits Bloomberg on stop and frisk in first answer of the debate
First question of the night went to Sanders, who was asked why his message of a political revolution is a better path to beating Trump than Bloomberg's message.
Sanders immediately moved to hit Bloomberg for past policies like stop-and-frisk, and pivoted to a summary of his campaign stump speech and said he will take on the fossil fuel industry, raise the minimum wage and guarantee healthcare.
Bloomberg fired back, saying he thinks there's no chance Sanders can win.
"If he goes and is the candidate, we will have Donald Trump for another four years and we can't stand that," he said.
And they're off!
Bloomberg ready for the stage
Debate watch Detroit: Local alumni of historic black fraternity still looking for a candidate to back
DETROIT — As they gathered in a sports bar near downtown Detroit to watch tonight's debate, members of the Detroit Alphas, a local chapter of the nation's oldest black fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, are sure about this: They want black voters in Detroit to show up and vote in large numbers. The fraternity has plans to work hard this year to register voters and encourage black turnout.
For now, though, most said they're still far from decided about whom they should back.
"I'm watching to see where people are going to fall on the issues that are important to me," said Chad King, 37, an IT professional and a local co-chair of the fraternity's voter education program, A Voteless People is a Hopeless People. His issues include voting rights, slavery reparations, gun rights and the wealth gap between whites and African Americans. Other members listed college affordability and health care among their priorities as well as — importantly — who could beat President Donald Trump in November.
William Lyons, 50, a director with the Detroit Public Schools police department and a former Detroit police officer, said he would vote for Mike Bloomberg for his ability to go "power to power" with Trump, but said he will be listening closely tonight to see what Bloomberg says about his stop-and-frisk policy in New York, which he thought involved racial profiling. "To me, that would be an issue," Lyons said.
Black voters are a key demographic in Michigan, where a drop in black turnout is often cited as a key reason why Hillary Clinton lost this state to Donald Trump by about 11,000 votes in 2016. The Michigan primary is March 10.
Harry Reid addresses debate audience, saying Nevada should vote first
Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., spoke at the Las Vegas debate less than an hour before it was set to begin and made the case for Nevada to be the first voting state in the Democratic primary process.
"Iowa and New Hampshire do not represent the makeup of the United States," Reid said. "We should have Nevada as the first state to vote."
Klobuchar's team previews debate
Amy Klobuchar’s campaign asserts that the Minnesota senator has had consistently strong debate performances and adds that, broadly speaking, she has never shied away from drawing contrasts with people on stage.
That could include Mike Bloomberg and Bernie Sanders. The newest addition to the debate stage, Bloomberg is going to be a target of the candidates, and, in a shot at Sanders, Klobuchar didn't shy away from raising her hand at the last debate and saying she didn’t feel that a socialist should lead the Democratic ticket. Her campaign expects her to lean into that belief, especially with her position on health care and other issues central to Nevadans.
Her campaign tells NBC News that it has every expectation she will do well tonight — and Klobuchar is one of the candidates who need to do better than expected in Nevada and beyond. The campaign added that authenticity is really important, and Klobuchar really needs to be herself this evening and have it come across in the same way that it did just over a week ago.
A source close to the senator tells NBC News that she needs another success like the New Hampshire debate, noting it would be hard to make the case of a “surge” if she has a bad night. But the campaign stresses that tonight is not a make-or-break moment for their performance come Saturday’s caucus, in part because there has already been a lot of early voting.
Biden, Warren join culinary workers' picket line
Warren says Sanders 'has a lot of questions to answer' about his supporters' online attacks
Bernie Sanders "has a lot of questions to answer" about how his supporters attacked members of a union online after they criticized his "Medicare for All" health care plan, Elizabeth Warren said Monday.
"I've said before that we are all responsible for what our supporters do, and I think Bernie has a lot of questions to answer here," Warren, a Democratic senator from Massachusetts, said in an interview in which she offered rare criticism of her fellow progressive Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont.
"I am particularly worried about what happened in the attacks on members of the culinary union, particularly on the women in leadership," Warren said. "That is not how we build an inclusive Democratic Party. ... We do not build on a foundation of hate."
Biden, Sanders tied for support of Nevada's Latino voters, Telemundo poll finds
Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., are in a statistical tie for about a third each of Nevada Latinos’ caucus vote, but about 35 percent are aligned with other candidates or are undecided, according to a Telemundo poll released Tuesday.
The Feb. 10-12 poll of 625 registered Latino voters in Nevada found 34 percent support Biden and 31 percent support Sanders.
Support for all the other candidates was in the single digits. Combined with the 12 percent who said they were undecided, the share not committed to Sanders or Biden was 35 percent.
Election Confessions, Nevada edition
This is Nevada’s week to choose. Considered something of bellwether, Nevada will be the first Western state to assign its delegates for the 2020 presidential election when it holds its caucuses Saturday.
Unsurprisingly, many of its residents have already made a decision.
NBC News asked readers to share their innermost thoughts about the slate of Democrats and Republicans in the 2020 presidential race.
OPINION: Bernie Sanders isn't the front-runner in the Democratic race. The moderates are.
Progressives are selling revolution, and it once seemed as though the only question was who would be the leader. Back in October, the party’s left wing of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren appeared ascendant. While moderate Joe Biden was the top-polling candidate, combined support for progressives in the race easily beat Biden’s numbers.
Now that voting has gotten underway, Sanders is the apparent answer. The media quickly proclaimed him the front-runner after he took the most votes (albeit by a razor-thin margin) in New Hampshire, demonstrating that he had consolidated the support of the progressive wing of Democratic voters to lead in the polls.
But the rush to crown Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont and self-proclaimed democratic socialist, as the heir apparent to the Democratic nomination overlooks a central dynamic. Sanders is topping the polls as Biden’s support has eroded and the moderate lane has completely fractured. Yet the combined backing for progressive candidates is much lower than it was in the fall — in fact, it now trails the combined support for moderates considerably.
ANALYSIS: Bloomberg spin machine on full blast
Mike Bloomberg's team did a lot of spinning before the debate to hedge against a poor performance and turn a decent outing into a Hall of Fame performance. Will it work? We'll see. But the mechanics are easy to follow:
- Make it seem like everyone is going to attack him relentlessly, so he's both the most important figure on the stage and the one who is most likely to take a beating. CHECK.
- Set the expectations bar for his performance as low as possible so it's easy to clear. His campaign manager, Kevin Sheekey, has said Bloomberg will defend his record, pointed to the things Bloomberg has done to help progressive causes and noted how many cities and states Bloomberg has campaigned in. What he hasn't done: said Bloomberg will debate like Lincoln on PEDs and wipe the floor with his rivals. Make sure the boss has an easy standard to beat. CHECK.
- Use the pre-debate period to put other candidates on the defensive. Sheekey wrote a memo Wednesday that said other candidates should drop out to prevent Bernie Sanders from winning an insurmountable delegate lead through Super Tuesday on March 3. Force rivals who have actually won votes to defend their existence. CHECK.
Sanders, trying to head off Bloomberg threat, finds his billionaire foil
Lately, there's been a billionaire on Sen. Bernie Sanders' mind.
Not the anonymous legion of billionaires he's railed about for years — but a real one: former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, whose unprecedented spending is threatening to upend the traditional primary process.
"We believe in old-fashioned democracy: one person, one vote, not billionaires buying elections," Sanders said at a rally here Friday afternoon, fresh off his victory in the New Hampshire primary earlier in the week.
The looming Bloomberg threat has Sanders, the current front-runner in national polls, juggling an election fight on two fronts: maintaining an early states operation to keep his other opponents, also no fans of Bloomberg, at bay while holding rallies and deploying more resources to Super Tuesday states like North Carolina, Texas and Colorado to head off the former mayor.
'Sanity' and 'inclusion' among Bloomberg's talking points
NBC News/WSJ poll: Sanders opens up double-digit national lead in primary race
Sen. Bernie Sanders has jumped out to a double-digit national lead in the Democratic presidential contest after his victory in New Hampshire's primary and his second-place finish for delegates in Iowa's disorganized caucuses, while former Vice President Joe Biden has seen his support drop by 11 points since his disappointing finishes in both contests, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Tuesday.
The survey also shows former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg gaining ground in the Democratic race in the past month, confirming the findings of an earlier NPR/PBS/Marist poll that allowed him to qualify for Wednesday night's NBC News and MSNBC Democratic debate in Las Vegas.
And the poll has President Donald Trump's approval rating tied for his all-time high in the NBC News/WSJ survey, while also finding that the most unpopular candidate qualities in a general election are being a socialist, being older than 75 years of age and having a heart attack in the past year.
NBC News' Hallie Jackson is moderating for two tonight
Bloomberg will not stand on a box tonight
Bloomberg campaign officials tell NBC News that Mike Bloomberg has decided not to stand on a box behind the lectern to boost his height during Wednesday night's debate.
President Donald Trump has for days claimed, without evidence, that Bloomberg had requested a box to stand on during the debate. Trump returned to this theme as recently as Tuesday, tweeting about Bloomberg, "remember, no standing on boxes!"
But the campaign officials tell NBC News that Bloomberg will stand on the floor like the rest of the candidates. Bloomberg was seen familiarizing himself with the lectern set up on Wednesday afternoon during his candidate walkthrough of the debate stage.
Trump has seemed to have a longstanding preoccupation with Bloomberg’s height. He falsely claimed last week that Bloomberg is 5'4". The former New York mayor is actually 5'7" or 5'8", according to various reports over the years.
Biden to attack Sanders on immigration, Bloomberg on 'character'
Two senior Biden campaign officials briefed reporters ahead of tonight’s ninth Democratic debate, previewing the two-front battle we expect to see the former VP wage as he takes aim at what he sees as the two biggest hurdles to his comeback in this race: Mike Bloomberg and Bernie Sanders.
The officials previewed a new line of attack on Sanders that has not been part of Biden's pitch in Nevada so far: immigration. The campaign said Biden aimed to zero in on Sanders' vote against a comprehensive immigration reform plan in the Senate in 2007.
But their toughest rhetoric was aimed at Bloomberg as part of a day of back-and-forth pre-debate sparring between Biden and Bloomberg.
Bloomberg is "profoundly unvetted," one Biden adviser said, noting the volume of stories with problematic past statements. "Sixty-billion can buy you a lot of ads, but it cannot erase your record and it cannot purchase character," the adviser said, echoing comments made by the candidate Sunday on "Meet the Press."
Las Vegas Democratic debate: Growing animosity between Buttigieg, Klobuchar could flare up
In one corner, we have a mild-mannered Midwestern moderate, looking to appeal to centrist Democrats and disillusioned Republicans.
And in the other corner ... we have a mild-mannered Midwestern moderate, looking to appeal to centrist Democrats and disillusioned Republicans.
Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar are competing for the same voters, and with both rising in polls and in prominence, the gloves have come off.
The growing animosity between the two, however, could threaten both of their candidacies, experts told NBC News, especially if it spills over onto Wednesday's debate stage.
Mike Bloomberg bets on zigging while other presidential candidates are zagging
Mike Bloomberg had an unusual request for the hundred or so supporters waiting patiently in the rain: Please go home.
It was an overflow crowd outside from the overflow crowd inside. Inside the Chattanooga African American Museum behind him, 500 people were awaiting the former New York mayor. Another 400 who couldn't fit filled up a second room, where his campaign arranged television screens to pipe in his speech.
So, for the remaining few getting soaked outside, Bloomberg cut them loose. He said his campaign could simply email them his speech instead.
"Don't get too cold," he said.
Late to the game but flush with endless amounts of cash, Bloomberg is running a campaign that bears almost no resemblance to that of any other 2020 candidate. If there are rules for winning the White House, Bloomberg is making a billion-dollar bet that in the America that elected Donald Trump president, the rules no longer matter.
Read more about Bloomberg's unorthodox campaign.
Bloomberg making Democratic debate debut in Las Vegas. His past faceoffs may shed light on how he'll fare.
One Democratic rival took Mike Bloomberg to task over past remarks he's made about everything from domestic violence to policing. Another for funding Republican campaigns. Still another hit him for allegations of buying political favor.
That was in 2001, 2005 and 2009, respectively: the last three times Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York, stood behind a podium and faced off against political rivals. But by the end of Wednesday's Democratic debate in Las Vegas, the first for he which has qualified, he's likely to have weathered similar attacks — and more.
Read how Bloomberg has been preparing for the spotlight and the scrutiny — and how he's performed in past debates over the years.
Everything you need to know about tonight's debate
The ninth Democratic presidential debate is set for Wednesday in Las Vegas, and it will feature a new billionaire on the stage.
While Mike Bloomberg qualified to make the debate stage for the first time, Tom Steyer, the other billionaire in the race who's been a frequent presence at the Democratic debates, did not.
The debate is the last before the Nevada caucuses on Saturday.
5 things to watch for at tonight's debate
Mike Bloomberg is in.
In a development that promises to shake up the race, the wealthy entrepreneur and former mayor of New York City qualified for Wednesday’s Democratic presidential debate with just hours to spare after a new poll showed him surging nationally into the runner-up position behind Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
The two campaigns are spoiling for a fight and increasingly depicting the contest as a two-man race. Each views the other as an ideal foil — a self-described democratic socialist calling for a “revolution” to take on the wealthy elite, and an economically centrist billionaire who preaches the virtues of capitalism and hard work.
A weekend spat between Sanders and Bloomberg appears likely to spill over into the six-person debate that will also include Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar. The debate will be hosted by NBC News, MSNBC and the Nevada Independent, beginning at 9 p.m. ET/ 6 p.m. PT.
Here are five things to watch for on Wednesday.