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.
Global warming cools the debate
Maybe it was the commercial break, but a question about what the candidates would do to address climate change has yielded a less contentious stretch. Biden, Bloomberg, Warren, Klobuchar and Sanders all tout their plans.
Bloomberg gets what might be his first applause line by saying on Day 1 as president he would rejoin the Paris Agreement.
Debate watch Houston: Sanders supporters welcome the criticism
HOUSTON — Manny Lara, 24, an IT specialist, batted his hand at the screen and scoffed as Buttigieg launched yet another attack against Sanders, this time over his refusal to release his complete medical records.
“This is just gross,” said Lara, a Sanders supporter who is among more than 50 people watching the debate from the patio of a popular Houston bar.
“No man, this is good,” Jared Cress, Lara’s friend and co-worker, said. “They’re going after Bernie cause they know what’s up. They’re afraid.”
Sanders supporters here have booed or laughed with each of the attacks launched against their candidate tonight. This, said Cress, 25, is the strongest indication yet that — unlike in 2016 — their guy is the one to beat.
“Let them attack him,” Cress said. “It means he’s winning.”
Klobuchar-Buttigieg feud comes to Mexico
Buttigieg, who is fluent in Spanish, criticized Amy Klobuchar for being unable to name Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in a Telemundo interview last week. Klobuchar said her slip was momentary forgetfulness that doesn’t reflect what she knows about Mexico.
She added greetings to Mexico’s president, stumbling some as she tried to pronounce López. But Buttigieg responded that it’s something she should know as a member of a committee that oversees trade — Klobuchar serves on the Science, Commerce and Transportation Committee. Klobuchar wouldn’t give, asking Buttigieg, “are you trying to say that I’m dumb?”
Buttigieg previously had his own troubles with discussions on Mexico when he said last November that he’d be willing to send troops into Mexico to combat gang and drug violence.
The two Midwesterners have developed something of a rivalry in recent debates.
Warren then cut in to defend Klobuchar by saying that "everybody on this stage" forgets a name sometimes.
Fact check: Biden is right, Bloomberg opposed Obamacare in 2010
"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,'" Biden said.
Bloomberg did in fact call the Affordable Care Act a "disgrace" in 2010, and there's video — Biden just put it in an online ad. The former New York City mayor's health care plan includes a proposal to "build on the ACA to achieve universal health coverage."
Warren's redlining attack reflects long history of defending consumers
Warren described herself as a champion of lending equity and the opposite of Bloomberg during Wednesday night’s debate.
"When Mayor Bloomberg was busy blaming African Americans and Latinos for the housing crash of 2008, I was right here in Las Vegas, just a few blocks down the street holding hearings… Banks…were taking away homes from millions of families," she said, referencing Bloomberg's past comments on redlining.
Warren first came to national prominence while a law professor at Harvard University whose research indicated before the Great Recession that American households were drowning in unsustainable levels of debt thanks to reckless lending practices. Lending to low-income borrowers and Americans of color at the highest interest rates, regardless of credit scores or incomes, had become a go-to way for major banks and Wall Street institutions to boost profits, Warren has said. These lending practices also pushed disproportionate shares of black and Latino homeowners into foreclosure, according to the Center for Responsible Lending.
Warren’s financial research later prompted her to advocate for, and later help lead, a new federal agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The agency was created by the Obama administration in 2010. It’s oversight and regulatory powers have since been curbed by the Trump administration.
Klobuchar on how she handled police-involved shootings as prosecutor
Fact check: Why did Bloomberg's administration cut back on stop-and-frisk?
Stop-and-frisk “got out of control. And when we discovered, I discovered, that we were doing many, many, too many stop-and-frisks, we cut 95 percent of it out,” Bloomberg claimed Wednesday night.
This is false and misleading. Bloomberg championed the expansion of the policing strategy stop-and-frisk during his administration, it didn't happen without his awareness. The practice was scaled back significantly thanks to a 2013 court order declaring the policy unconstitutional, not Bloomberg’s change of heart.
Bloomberg, in his three terms as New York City mayor, expanded and championed stop-and-frisk — the strategy that gave police the authority to detain people suspected of committing a crime and lead to a practice of stopping mostly black and Hispanic men — right up until days before announcing he was running for president, according to a comprehensive timeline reported by The New York Times.
It's still anybody's debate
When it comes to talking time, it's still anybody's debate.
Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren kicked off the debate with the most time spent speaking, with a solid margin over the other candidates on stage. Deeper into the night, the hierarchy turned fuzzy as Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Mike Bloomberg took more microphone time.
Follow along with our debate-night candidate talking time tracker here.
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."