EVENT ENDED

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

Fact check: Is Bloomberg against raising the minimum wage?

Sanders, in a veiled shot at Bloomberg, suggested: "Maybe we can talk about a billionaire saying that we should not raise the minimum wage. Or that we should cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. If that's a way to beat Donald Trump, wow! I would be very surprised."

Bloomberg said in a 2015 interview with his own Bloomberg channel that he had “never” been in favor of raising the minimum wage. But now, as a presidential candidate, he backs raising the minimum wage to $15, according to his campaign website.

Buttigieg and Sanders spar over their personal health and health care

Buttigieg hit Sanders after the senator was asked about his health and recent heart attack. Buttigieg said he was "less concerned about the lack of transparency on Senator Sanders' health than I am about the lack of transparency on how he plans to pay for his healthcare plan."

Sanders quickly hit back, calling Buttigieg’s plan "a maintenance continuation of the status quo." Insisting that Democrats needed to be more ambitious and citing a Yale study, Sanders claimed that Medicare for All would save $450 billion a year “because we are eliminating the absurdity of thousands of separate plans” and save tens of thousands of lives.  

The Yale study Sanders cited, published by noted medical journal the Lancet, was published on Saturday and concluded the Medicare for All Act would lead to 13 percent in savings in national health-care expenditures and potentially save more than 68,000 lives. 

Warren assails Bloomberg over his treatment of women

Bloomberg was asked about criticism of his past comments about women he worked with. He sought to downplay the concerns, saying that women were offended by "maybe" a "joke I told."

"We have very few nondisclosure agreements. None of them accuse me of doing anything other than maybe they didn't like a joke I told."

This answer promoted Warren to immediately go on the attack. 

"I heard what his defense was: 'I've been nice to some women,'" she said, pressing him to release the women from their NDAs.

Both Warren and Biden pressed Bloomberg to commit on the debate stage to releasing the women from their nondisclosure agreements. 

“All the mayor has to do is say ‘you are released from the nondisclosure agreements,’” said Biden. 

Nondisclosure agreements are essentially contracts between individuals or an individual and a company or organization which often bar people from speaking publicly about their experiences and observations during contact with a person, company or organization. They have become standard features of many employment agreements and have been used to shield sometimes illegal and unethical conduct from public view.

However, a nondisclosure agreement cannot legally bind a person from offering information or testimony to a law enforcement agency or regulatory body and often cannot bar participation in civil litigation.

Many people asked to sign NDAs are unaware of those facts, employment lawyers say."

Debate watch Detroit: A room goes quiet when the subject is stop and frisk

DETROIT — As Bloomberg fielded questions about his stop and frisk policy, the members of an African American fraternity watching the debate in a Detroit bar stopped their conversations, put down the beers, and tuned in to listen.

Al Elvin, 44, a corporate lawyer who is the president of the Detroit Alphas organization, the fraternity that hosted the debate party, leaned toward the TV so he could hear better.

"Oh sure. He's apologizing now!" Elvin said.

A native New Yorker, Elvin said he's so alarmed by the way the stop and frisk policy targeted young black and brown men and by some of Bloomberg’s recent comments on the policy that he wouldn't vote for Bloomberg, even if he wins the nomination.

"I've been that boy," Elvin said, referring to men stopped by police in New York City. "I've been that boy and it's not even the law here [in Detroit]. I've been through it. I have three sons and when you talk about stop and frisk, I start to think of them."  

ANALYSIS: Finally, the fight Democrats have been waiting for

Democratic voters just wanted to know who could fight President Donald Trump best.

Now, after more than a year, their candidates are brawling with bare knuckles. It took that long because boxing with kid gloves was a low-risk way for the candidates to ease into the race. But that approach let Trump gather his strength.

Pressure has changed the incentives: Bernie Sanders stretching his lead in national polls, Mike Bloomberg dumping hundreds of millions of dollars into his campaign, and two contests having decided nothing. So, there is an outright brawl on stage tonight.

Democratic voters may be left wondering why the field was so willing to avoid conflict for so long.

Trump has been the focus of most candidate attacks in previous debates. Not tonight.

Mike Bloomberg has taken President Donald Trump's place as the punching bag on the debate stage at tonight's Democratic debate: 50 minutes into the debate and Trump has been attacked five times, while Bloomberg is at 29.

Get the latest numbers at our candidate attack tracker, and see how many times Trump was attacked in previous debates here:

Bloomberg the unity candidate?

In what has been at times been the most contentious Democratic debate yet, there’s one thing that gets most of the stage on the same page: going after Bloomberg.

Bloomberg battles Biden, Warren on stop-and-frisk

Bloomberg was pressed on his police department’s use of stop-and-frisk while he was mayor.

Bloomberg initially said: "Well, if I go back and look at my time in office, the one thing that I'm really worried about, embarrassed about, is how it turned out with stop-and-frisk."

He added that he believed his first responsibility as mayor was to "give people the right to live" and cut down on murders, but he said it got "out of control."

Biden cut in, saying that it’s not about whether Bloomberg apologized, it’s about the "abhorrent" policy.

Bloomberg said that if the stage couldn’t have candidates who were "wrong on criminal justice at some time in their career, there'd be no one up here."

Warren then criticized Bloomberg’s apology, saying he focused on how stop-and-frisk turned out rather than apologizing for "what it was designed to do in the beginning," saying Bloomberg was being willfully ignorant about its impact on black and brown New Yorkers.

Audible reaction from Vegas crowd as Buttigieg jabs Sanders over union support

LAS VEGAS — There was a round of “ohs” that echoed through Layla’s Palace Banquet Hall in East Las Vegas when Buttigieg criticized Sanders for being at “at war” with the Culinary Union in Las Vegas. 

Last week the Culinary Union, Nevada’s largest and most politically influential union, distributed flyers that stated Sanders’ plan would “end Culinary Healthcare,” according to The Nevada Independent. The organization, which represents 60,000 casino workers, opposed Sanders’ universal healthcare plan because they said it would eliminate the health insurance the union fought to get for its members.

Two top union officials said they received threatening messages by phone, email and Twitter from Sanders’ supporters last week. Sanders condemned the attacks against union officials.

Roughly 70 people came to the banquet hall for a debate watch party. The event is hosted by Nevada Conservation League, an advocacy organization that describes itself as “the independent political voice” for Nevada’s conservation and environmental community. Organizers say they expect nearly 200 people to attend the watch party. 

Early on, Sanders and Warren lead all other candidates in talking time

Thirty minutes into the debate and the tiers on talking time have emerged: Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren on the top, everyone else at the bottom.

Follow our candidate talking time tracker here.