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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.

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Highlights from the Las Vegas Democratic debate:

Live Blog

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

Joe Biden joins the picket line with the Culinary Workers Union outside the Palms Casino in Las Vegas on Feb. 19, 2020.Patrick Semansky / AP
Sen. Elizabeth Warren shakes hands with members of the Culinary Workers Union on their picket line outside of the Palms Casino in Las Vegas on Feb. 19, 2020.Mario Tama / Getty Images

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."

Read the story.

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.

Read more on the poll results.

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.

Here's how Nevadans answered.

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.

Read the full opinion piece.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Read what's bugging Bernie.

'Sanity' and 'inclusion' among Bloomberg's talking points