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.
Biden jumps in to defend Obamacare
Biden interjected in the health care debate and forcefully defended his health care plans, saying that Obama turned to him to get the Affordable Care Act passed. He also attacked Bloomberg for criticizing Obamacare.
"The mayor said, when we passed it, the signature piece of this administration, 'It's a disgrace.' They're the exact words. 'It was a disgrace.' Look it up, check it out, 'It was a disgrace.'"
This was Biden's second time speaking after several skirmishes on stage between the candidates. Biden argued that he fought for a Medicare-for-All-like public option that could be paid for by making sure people like Bloomberg paid the same tax rate as his secretary.
Biden is entering this debate wounded after poor showings in Iowa and New Hampshire and lagging in the polls, but this moment, forcefully defending Obama's signature legislative achievement, was his strongest tonight so far.
Warren burns rivals over health care plans
Warren, who supports Medicare for All, was asked directly about how she would overhaul the American health care system and hit Buttigieg over his health care plan, which she called a PowerPoint more than a plan.
She hit Klobuchar even harder, calling her plan a "Post-It note" with a line that says "insert plan here."
Buttigieg was ready with a retort, "I’m more of a Microsoft Word guy." Klobuchar pointed out that Post-It notes were invented in her state, Minnesota.
Warren not sounding out unity theme
Sanders distances himself from toxic online support
Sanders is known to have some fervent online supporters, some real and some... well, who knows. Tonight, he distanced himself from what he termed as the 0.01 percent of his support that has garnered attention for its toxic attacks.
“I disown those people,” Sanders said. “They are not part of my movement.”
Biden, Sanders mirror each others' language on any supporters' online attacks
Buttigieg goes after Bloomberg, Sanders: Let's nominate someone 'who's actually a Democrat'
Buttigieg hit Bloomberg over his wealth and his past party affiliation in his first attack on the billionaire businessman. He said it’s time for someone who actually is from a midwestern city and knows middle-class values to be the nominee. Bloomberg has been a Republican and Independent before running as a Democrat.
He also hit Sanders as divisive to which the Vermont lawmaker hit back saying that he is building a campaign of working people and giving them a voice unlike Buittgieg’s billionaire donors.
"And most Americans don't see where they fit if they've got to choose between a socialist who thinks that capitalism is the root of all evil, and a billionaire that thinks ... money ought to be the root of all power,” Buttigieg said. “Let's put forward somebody who actually lives and works in a middle class neighborhood, in an industrial mid-western city. Let's put forward somebody who's actually a Democrat."
Buttigieg’s attacks on both Sanders and Bloomberg has been his strategy to carve out a moderate lane in the primary and cast himself as someone who can get realistic policies passed.
Candidates came ready to fight
Right out of the gate, candidates came guns blazing at Bloomberg. Warren started, essentially making the direct comparison between Bloomberg’s past controversial remarks and Trump’s. Other candidates joined in, like Klobuchar, Biden and Buttigieg. The haymakers were flying, punches thrown, barbs most certainly traded.
But the debate shifted once Buttigieg went after both Bloomberg and Sanders, who then entered a back-and-forth with the younger of the two ex-mayors on stage.
Bloomberg was attacked 10 times in the first 10 minutes of the debate.
Ten minutes into the debate and Mike Bloomberg has already been attacked 10 times. Pete Buttigieg, another former mayor, and Elizabeth Warren have led the attacks with three apiece, though Warren's early attack on how Bloomberg has talked about women received the largest reaction in the debate crowd. Amy Klobuchar and Bernie Sanders have also taken part.
Welcome to Nevada, Democrats
When the Democratic debate kicked off tonight, candidates spoke to voters across the country but perhaps most directly to Nevada’s 3 million residents and 1.27 million registered voters — an audience far more diverse and representative of America than voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, where the first two nominating contests took place this month.
In Nevada, where white residents do not make up the majority, about 43.8 percent of registered voters were black, Latino, Asian or Native American in 2016. White Nevada residents make up about 48.7 percent of the total population, while Latinos make up about 29 percent of the state’s residents. Another 10 percent of the state’s population is black, nearly 9 percent Asian and 1.7 percent are Native American. That demographic makeup suggests that candidates who want to win in Nevada may have to be prepared to speak about, prioritize and fund policies that may be of limited interest or concern to the overwhelmingly white voters in New Hampshire and Iowa.
In Iowa, white residents make up about 85 percent of the population, and in New Hampshire, it's 90 percent.
The crowd is rowdy in Vegas
Oohs and ahhs accompanying the many haymakers getting thrown on the debate stage — something that might encourage the candidates to keep up the direct attacks.