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Las Vegas Democratic debate live updates: Six candidates faced off in Nevada

The ninth Democratic debate may have been the feistiest one yet.

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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.

Download the NBC News app for full politics coverage.

Highlights from the Las Vegas Democratic debate:

Live Blog

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.

Read the full poll results.

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.

Read the full story.

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.