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.