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:
- 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.
NBC News' Hallie Jackson is moderating for two tonight
Klobuchar aims for strong showing in NevadaFeb. 17, 202004:08
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.
Democratic candidates gear up for high-stakes debate in NevadaFeb. 17, 202002:46
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.
Inside look into Bloomberg debate preparationFeb. 18, 202007:43
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.
Watch: Top moments from Mike Bloomberg's mayoral debatesFeb. 18, 202002:22
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.