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.
The ninth Democratic debate, by the numbers
This was an ... active debate. The six candidates onstage took swings at one another and at President Donald Trump but mostly at new-to-the-debate-stage candidate Mike Bloomberg, who was targeted 45 of the 95 times candidates attacked one another. According to NBC News analysis, the 95 attacks mark the most times candidates have attacked one another in any of the Democratic debates.
For full numbers on candidate attacks, read our Las Vegas debate candidate attack tracker.
The debate ended with Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar topping speaking time with 16 minutes each, edging out the initial front-runner, Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Read our article about candidate talking time in the ninth debate.
One more number of note: Sanders' 13 attacks on Bloomberg, the most of any candidate in the debate.
Who won the Democratic debate in Las Vegas?
Bloomberg became a piñata, and Warren resurrected her feisty side.
The Democratic candidates formed a circular firing squad Wednesday night, with arrows flying in all directions and fights breaking out among a seemingly infinite permutation of candidates on matters from health care policy to lewd comments about women.
The debate was not only the former New York mayor's first time on a presidential debate stage; it was also the first night of his surging campaign that wasn't choreographed. The result: He faced direct criticism from rivals he has bested in recent polls. It was the most contentious evening of the nine faceoffs so far, coming three days before the Democratic candidates face the most diverse voting electorate yet in their quest to make Donald Trump a one-term president.
"It's a little bit like a presidential version of 'Survivor,'" former Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said on MSNBC after the debate.
Here's a look at who was the most aggressive, who took the toughest punches and who missed their marks over the course of the debate, which was hosted by NBC News, MSNBC, Telemundo and The Nevada Independent.
McCaskill: Las Vegas debate was 'a presidential version of "Survivor"'
Warren says she had her best fundraising day ever
Warren says Bloomberg will spend money to 'erase America's memory' of the debate
Speaking with MSNBC after the debate ended, Warren said Bloomberg will spend a bunch more money in the coming days "in order to try to erase America's memory of what happened on that debate stage."
Warren brought what many considered to be the strongest performance of the night, highlighted by her repeated tough exchanges with Bloomberg, who was making his first debate appearance.
After the debate, Bloomberg campaign manager Kevin Sheekey said in a statement: "You know you are a winner when you are drawing attacks from all the candidates."
"Everyone came to destroy Mike tonight. It didn't happen," he said, adding, "He was just warming up tonight."
Why the Nevada debate may not swing the Nevada contest
Debate watch Las Vegas: As debate comes to an end, some in Vegas feel little hope
In the last minutes of the Democratic debate, Corey Harris looked at the large screen broadcasting the event and shook his head.
"I think the Democrats are in a lot of trouble and there is still a lot of division” said Harris, 41, who watched at Layla's Palace Banquet Hall in east Las Vegas.
Harris, a stockbroker, said he's been underwhelmed by the candidates' responses to questions throughout the debate. He was hoping the debate would display a standout candidate that could beat Trump, but "I'm not impressed with anyone on that stage right now."
Barbara Gomez, 45, said she understands that while the point of a debate is to outshine the other competitors, she felt discouraged by the excessive mudslinging she witnessed tonight.
Gomez, a mother of four who works in customer service for a major airline, said she believes Warren stood out on stage as poised and intelligent. However, she did not feel any of the candidates, including Warren, appeared strong enough to win in general election after watching the debate.
"As a minority, as a woman and as an immigrant, this makes me really scared," she said. "I'm scared there's not going to be someone who can get what we currently have out."
Biden talks Bloomberg in post-debate interview
Biden in a post-debate interview with MSNBC said he told Bloomberg after the debate, "Welcome to the party, man."
He added that Bloomberg's "basic values" are still in alignment with the Republican Party and criticized him for running ads that show "he and Obama are such good buddies" when Bloomberg didn't support Barack Obama in 2008.
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."