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.
Fact check: Bloomberg touts drop in crime rate under his watch
"When I got into office, there were 650 murders a year in New York City," Bloomberg said, defending his record on stop-and-frisk. "The crime rate did go from 650, 50 percent down to 300. And we have to keep a lid on crime."
The murder rate in New York City — not the crime rate — dropped by roughly half, going from 649 murders in 2001 (the first year he was elected) to 335 murders in 2013 (his last year in office). But it's a stretch to credit this decline to expanded use of the stop-and-frisk strategy. The murder rate was declining a decade before he took office and continued to decline after he departed after three terms — suggesting other forces were in play. The murder rate kept falling after the program was formally ended by Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2014.
Debate watch Houston: Couple on third date came for jazz, stayed for debate
HOUSTON — Michael Edwards and Kirby Avila, both 28, came to a Houston beer bar to listen to live jazz. It was their third date. But after ordering drinks, they ducked onto the patio and found dozens of people watching the Democratic debate — and they soon joined them.
Edwards, a nurse at a major Houston hospital, said he's seen what happens to people who lack health insurance, and so Sanders has his vote. Avila, a chemical industry technician, said she was still undecided. But after Warren's performance tonight, she said she's leaning toward her.
"She's so sharp, and I think it's time for a woman," Avila said.
So why trade a night listening to soothing jazz for one listening to sniping candidates? Edwards, who is black, and Avila, who is Latina, said November's election is vitally important for people of color.
"There's too much on the line," Edwards said, turning to Avila.
"Yeah," she said, holding Edwards' hand. "It's a good third date."
Google 'democratic debate' ... and you get Bloomberg's ad
A gentle reminder of just how expansive Bloomberg’s ad buys are. His campaign has prime ad real estate tonight for Google searches for the debate.
In hour two, Bloomberg's having the debate he wanted. It may not overshadow the first hour's pile-on.
Bloomberg has spent the second hour of the debate much more comfortable on stage, discussing policies around climate change, the tax code and small businesses.
He took shots at Sanders in particular, comparing his policies to "communism," which Sanders called a "cheap shot."
"I can't think of a way that would make it easier for Donald Trump to get re-elected than listening to this conversation," Bloomberg said of the proposals. "This is ridiculous. We're not going to throw out capitalism, we tried that. Other countries tried that. It was called communism and it just didn't work."
But hour two may not be the headline coming out of Wednesday night's bout. What is likely to get more attention is Bloomberg's first hour, where he got annihilated by Warren and other candidates on nondisclosure agreements and stop-and-frisk.
But Bloomberg is left with some moments that are likely to serve as clips in upcoming campaign ads. And as we know, the Bloomberg operation is more than equipped to turn those bits around into far-reaching ads.
Debate watch Las Vegas: First-time voter looks to debate for guidance
LAS VEGAS — People are trickling into the watch party at Layla's Palace Banquet Hall as the debate continues. Among them is Jasmine Campuzano, 18, who said she's been waiting for four years to cast a vote against President Donald Trump. This will be the first year she can vote.
"I wanted to make sure the person I vote for isn't a surprise later," said Campuzano, who attended the event with her mother and brother. "I want to make sure the person I vote for is what I am actually getting."
She's still not sure which Democrat will get her vote, but she's hoping to have a better idea by the end of the debate. At the moment, the high school senior said it looks like a catfight on stage and it's hard to follow.
"But I like how Elizabeth [Warren] is answering the questions," she said.
Ex-candidate Andrew Yang tweets through debate
Klobuchar wants to refocus attacks on Trump
Fact check: Did the health care industry make $100 billion in profits?
Sanders said Wednesday night that "the health care industry made $100 billion in profits."
"Somehow or another, Canada can provide universal health care to all their people," he said. "U.K. can do it, France can do it, Germany could, all of Europe can do it. Gee whiz. Somehow or another, we are the only major country on Earth that can't do it. Why is that?"
In the context of health insurance, Sanders' characterization of profits is an exaggeration. The health insurance industry earned $23.4 billion in 2018, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. The industry earned $16.1 billion in 2017.
However, a survey of some of the country's hospitals reported $91 billion of operating revenue in 2016, according to a 2017 Deloitte survey. Meanwhile two of the world's biggest pharmaceutical companies — Pfizer and Roche — reported $12.69 billion and $14.1 billion respectively for fiscal year 2019.
Bloomberg hits Sanders over his critiques of wealth inequality
The slip away from civility continued tonight as Bloomberg hit back at Sanders over his plan to restructure the American economy and tackle wealth inequality in part by giving workers more say in the companies where they work.
"Mr. Bloomberg, maybe it wasn't you that made all that money. Maybe your workers played some role in that, as well," Sanders said.
Bloomberg shot back: "I can't think of a way that would make it easier for Donald Trump to get re-elected than listening to this conversation. This is ridiculous."
He added: "We're not going to throw out capitalism. We tried that, the other countries tried that — it was called communism — and it just didn't work.”
Debate watch Las Vegas: Environmental groups quiet down for climate change answers
LAS VEGAS — When the topic switched to climate change and the environment, the room grew quiet at the banquet hall here, as those at this debate watch party honed in on candidates' responses.
Tonight’s party was hosted by the Nevada Conservation League and Chispa Nevada, an environmental group that advocates for Latino communities.
The biggest applause and cheers here came when Warren declared, “We cannot continue to allow our public lands to be used for profit.”
This is who's attacking Bloomberg the most
Mike Bloomberg emerged early in the debate as a candidate worthy of piling on. Since then, every other candidate has taken a shot, two shots, four shots, 10 shots at the former New York mayor.
An hour and thirty minutes into the debate, Bloomberg had been attacked 42 times.
This is what the attack tracker looks like:
And here's how the per-candidate attacks on Bloomberg are shaking out. Follow along our debate-night candidate attack tracker here.