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

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

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

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

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

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.