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

Immigration pits Buttigieg against Klobuchar

The Buttigieg-Klobuchar competition to be the centrist candidate flared again when Buttigieg hammered Klobuchar on immigration. As Klobuchar advocated for immigrants known as Dreamers, Buttigieg reminded her that she voted to confirm the current head of Customs and Border Protection, Kevin McAleenan, and voted in 2007 to "make English the national language." 

"Do you know the message that sends in a multilingual state as Nevada?" Buttigieg asked Klobuchar.

The 2007 vote was to reverse an executive order that required federal agencies to produce materials in other languages. Buttigieg used the clash as an opportunity to brag about his work starting a municipal ID program for immigrants in South Bend, Indiana. 

Klobuchar has since said her 2007 vote on the language issue was wrong. On stage, she said other Democrats voted similarly and McAleenan was "highly recommended by Obama officials." She listed other work she's done on immigration reform as someone who has been "in the arena."

"You have not been in the arena doing that work," she retorted. "You've memorized a bunch of talking points."

Candidates give their closing statements

And that's a wrap.

After one of the most fiery debates this cycle in which each candidate hit their rivals hard, those on stage tonight ended by talking about fighting for all Americans and uniting the Democratic Party to get the nomination. 

Here are their closing statements, paraphrased:  

Klobuchar: What unites us is much bigger than divides us. I'm the candidate who can build coalitions. I've won a lot of races, and you need someone who can govern. I passed over 100 bills. You need someone who has the heart to be president. I love the people of this country, and I ask for your vote. 

Bloomberg: This is a management job, and Donald Trump is not a manager. This is a job where you have build teams. He doesn't have a team. We cannot run the railroad like that. The people we elect should have experience and they should have credentials, and then we should hold them accountable the next time they don't do the job.

Buttigieg: I am asking for your vote because America is running out of time. This is our only chance to beat Donald Trump. If you see a choice between a revolution and the status quo and you don't see where you fit in, you have a home in my campaign. We need to move us out of the toxic environment and polarization. We can't afford to lean on the same Washington playbook. 

Warren: I grew up fighting. I watched my mother fight for my family after my father had a heart attack. I eventually made it through school and spent my life as a teacher. I spent years learning how working families were being hurt. I've been a politician the shortest time, but I've been the one out here fighting for families the longest time. Give me a chance and I'll go the White House and fight for your family. 

Biden: I'm running because so many people are being left behind. I've been knocked down a hell of a lot. We have to provide safety and security. I'm the only one who beat the National Rifle Association, and I beat them twice. Health care has to be expanded. Obamacare has to be expanded. We have to pass immigration reform. 

Sanders: All of us are united in defeating Donald Trump. We are the only major country on Earth that does not provide health care as a basic human right. We have people sleeping on the streets. Kids can't afford college or have student debt. Real change takes place from the bottom up. We need to mobilize millions of people to stand up for justice. 

Sanders only one to say the candidate with the most delegates entering the convention should be nominee

Each candidate was asked whether the candidate with the most delegates entering the Democratic convention this summer should be the nominee. 

Only Sanders said yes.

Every other candidate essentially said that as long as the regular convention process plays out, they're fine with the result.

But such a process could lead to a candidate with fewer delegates than the incoming leader becoming the nominee.

Candidates need to hit a certain number of delegates to secure the nomination on the initial ballot. Usually, candidates have secured that total entering the convention, and there is no issue. But in this Democratic primary, it looks possible that the leader entering Milwaukee in July will not have enough delegates because the field is so fragmented.

The process would turn into a contested convention, in which multiple rounds of delegate voting need to take place to settle on a nominee. It's happened before, but not for decades. 

"Whatever the rules of the Democratic Party are, they should be followed," Bloomberg said. "And if they have a process, which I believe they do."

"The convention working its will means that people have the delegates that are pledged to them and they keep those delegates until we come to the convention," Warren followed. 

Biden said the party should "let the process work its way out." 

Buttigieg and Klobuchar concurred. 

Sanders then diverged, saying, "The process includes 500 superdelegates on the second ballot, so I think that the will of the people should" come first.

Immigration protesters interrupt Biden's closing statement

Missing at tonight’s debate: gun control

Las Vegas was the site of the largest mass shooting in U.S. history. So it came as some surprise that gun control was not a bigger part of the debate.

Biden was the first to reference the shooting — in his closing statement.

Warren says Biden, Klobuchar are too concerned with being McConnell’s pal

Warren continued to carry a big stick when going after opponents, criticizing a few of her Democratic colleagues for their chuminess with Republicans. Klobuchar and Biden both have heralded their ability to work across the aisle, but Warren said this bipartisanship is only advocating for incrementalism and abandoning progressive values. 

“Amy and Joe’s hearts are in the right place, but we can’t be so eager to be liked by Mitch McConnell that we forget how to fight the Republicans,” Warren said, also tucking in a slam aimed at the wealth of Buttigieg's donors. 

Klobuchar appeared frustrated and didn’t get much out beyond, "Oh come on, you gotta be kidding me," before the debate cut to commercial while she just shook her head. Biden later noted that he’s been a target of McConnell and claimed he’s the only one on the stage who has beaten him when advocating for legislation in the Senate. 

“I’ve been the object of his affection,” Biden said, noting that McConnell and Republicans have recently attacked him, his son and his family. “I don’t need to be told I’m a friend of Mitch McConnell’s. Mitch McConnell has been the biggest pain in my neck in a long, long time.” 

Debate watch Detroit: Two hours later, few minds have been changed

If candidates came into tonight's debate hoping to change minds and earn supporters, they largely struck out with people watching at the Brush Street Stadium Bar & Grill in Detroit.

By the second hour of the debate, much of the bar had emptied out, the noise level from conversations had risen to a level so high it was hard to hear the TV, and few of the people remaining said they'd heard anything that impressed them enough to influence their votes.

"I'm no closer to a decision now than I was before," said Jamila Taylor, 42, a doctor who came to the debate watch party in a pink and green sweater from her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, the nation's oldest black sorority. "I heard things from each candidate that I agree with but not enough to stand out," she said.

Harry C. Todd, 57, an insurance executive and a member of the Detroit Alphas, the Detroit fraternity that sponsored the watch party, said he heard candidates "promising everything to everybody," trying to target different demographic groups with their answers to draw voters. He'd rather hear them talk about what they're going to do to build bipartisan support for important issues like clean water and good schools.

"I'm not a soundbite guy," he said. "They all want to do this great stuff, but what's your plan to work with both sides of the aisle?"

Redlining redux: facts and fiction

After a tape circulated of Bloomberg describing the end of redlining as the cause of the 2008 financial crisis and the deepest recession since the Great Depression, he disavowed the idea on the Las Vegas debate stage.

"Redlining" refers to a federal policy that first barred lending to black and Latino homeowners then, constraining the ability of those homeowners to purchase homes outside of specific neighborhoods for more than five decades.

"I was against it. ... Redlining is still a practice in some places, and we've got to cut it out," Bloomberg said.

But the idea that redlining was a positive force is not limited to Bloomberg's recorded comments. It is a widespread belief advanced during and after the Great Recession by conservatives opposed to lending regulations that required banks to track and report mortgage lending to the federal government. The reporting was intended to help address the long-term economic effects of unequal lending.

From 1934, when the nation's mortgage system began, to the mid-1970s, affordable and sustainable loans were made available almost exclusively to white Americans. Homes remain the single most valuable asset held by most American households and the source of most inherited wealth or property. So redlining has helped not only helped to fuel the widespread neighborhood and school segregation, which continue to this day, but also to perpetuate the nation's yawning racial wealth gap

In the fourth quarter of 2019, about 74 percent of white Americans owned their homes, compared to just 44 percent of black Americans, according to census data. In 2016, the average white American household had about $147,000 in wealth.

Fact check: Did Amazon pay $0 in federal income tax in 2018?

Buttigieg said Amazon and Chevron didn’t pay anything in federal income tax in 2018. 

"What we've got to do is level the playing field, where a company like Amazon, Chevron, is paying literally zero on billions of dollars in profits and it puts small businesses like the ones that are revitalizing my own city," he said.

That's true. Amazon paid $0 in U.S. federal income tax on more than $11 billion in profits before taxes in 2018. It also received a $129 million tax rebate from the federal government. Chevron also paid $0 in federal income tax on more than $4.5 billion in income in 2018. The company also received a federal tax rebate to the tune of $181 million.

Amazon and Chevron's low tax bill partially stems from the Trump administration's corporate tax cut from 35 to 21 percent in 2017. Companies have a long-standing practice of using tax deferral, a tax instrument that enables businesses to postpone paying taxes until a later year. When Trump decreased the tax rate, it allowed companies to defer more taxes. Amazon's low tax bill also stemmed from carryforward losses from years when the company didn’t bring in profits, tax credits for investments in R&D, and stock-based employee compensation.

When Buttigieg criticizes Bloomberg, he sprinkles a dig at Sanders

If you've watched closely tonight, you'll notice a common attack line from Buttigieg: Bloomberg wants to "buy the election" and Sanders wants to "burn the house down." 

The most recent moment was when Buttigieg was asked whether Bloomberg's spending was good for Democrats, to which he replied that it wasn't because the former New York mayor doesn't hold Democratic values.  

"I think that turning to someone like Mayor Bloomberg, who thinks he can buy this election, is no better a way to succeed than turning to someone like Senator Sanders, who wants to burn the house down," Buttigieg said. 

What's going on here is Buttigieg's seeing not only Bloomberg's money as a threat but also pitching himself as a centrist who can take on Trump — a lane Buttigieg has tried to rule with an iron fist. He also sees Sanders, after a popular vote win in Iowa and a victory in New Hampshire, as his chief rival going forward. 

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.

Studies have also struggled to find proof of a relationship between stop-and-frisk and a reduction in crime.