Gauntlets were thrown Wednesday night at the ninth Democratic Primary debate in Las Vegas, with candidates piling on former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and at times Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Six candidates took the stage where health care once again dominated the discussion, as well as who is most fit to take on President Donald Trump and win in November.
Here’s a look at how each candidate performed:
Former Vice President Joe Biden
Biden stood his ground Wednesday night while not taking the same number of hits he has in previous debates.
Biden for months dominated national and state polling. But lackluster performances in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary have brought questions of whether he is electable. In past debates, Biden often took the bulk of the attacks due to his frontrunner status.
This time around, though, he took much of his fight to Bloomberg, sharply criticizing the former New York City mayor’s stop-and-frisk policy.
“The policy was abhorrent,” said Biden, who added that the program only stopped after President Barack Obama sent monitors to oversee it.
While Biden largely avoided attacks from his fellow candidates, he did receive one major interruption from protesters in the audience at the tail end of the debate.
“You deported three million people!” the protesters yelled, likely referencing the number of immigrants deported under the Obama administration. Protesters have interrupted Biden in the past about the Obama administration’s mass deportation policies.
The crowd booed and chanted “Joe” in response as the protesters were removed from the room.
Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg
From the first minute of the debate, Bloomberg was the main target of all of his Democratic counterparts.
A billionaire who has been self-funding his campaign, Bloomberg was repeatedly hit for his implementation of the stop-and-frisk policy. Sanders pointing to it specifically as a reason why Bloomberg wouldn’t earn broad support, particularly from black and Latino voters.
Sanders said the policy “went after the African American and Latino people in an outrageous way.”
Despite billing himself as the only candidate who could beat Trump, Bloomberg at times drew boos from the Democratic crowd and stumbled in response to attacks from the other candidates.
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One moment in particular came after Sen. Elizabeth Warren pressed him about how many women who worked for him were subject to non-disclosure agreements that made them unable to talk about harassment and abuse in the workplace. Bloomberg was previously asked about some of his past comments about women and the way women were treated at his company.
Bloomberg said his company, Bloomberg LP, had “no tolerance for the kind of behavior the Me Too movement has exposed.”
“I hope you heard what his defense was: ‘I’ve been nice to some women,’” Warren replied. “The mayor needs to stand on his record.”
Both Warren and Biden called on Bloomberg to release women from the non-disclosure agreements. Bloomberg declined.
“They decided, when they made an agreement, that they wanted to keep it quiet for everyone’s interest,” Bloomberg said.
Former mayor Pete Buttigieg
With most of the candidates focused on Bloomberg, Buttigieg kept his eye on his main competitor: Sanders.
Buttigieg repeatedly went after Sanders, who has been his closest competitor in both Iowa and New Hampshire, questioning Wednesday the Vermont senator’s signature Medicare for All policy and whether the senator had what it takes to unite the country. But Buttigieg also joined in the criticism of Bloomberg.
“Look, we shouldn’t have to choose between one candidate who wants to burn this party down and another candidate who wants to buy this party out,” Buttigieg said, seemingly referencing Sanders and Bloomberg. “We can do better.”
But Buttigieg took his own hits, mostly from Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who again questioned his limited experience as have only served as mayor of South Bend, Indiana.
She accused Buttigieg of not having “been in the arena” doing the work but instead just having “memorized a bunch of talking points.”
Buttigieg countered that leading a diverse city that had been facing ruin may not sound like an arena to some. But “you don’t have to be in Washington to matter.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar
After placing third in New Hampshire primary, Klobuchar was trying to keep that momentum.
The Minnesota Senator, who has leaned into snappy one-liners on previous debate stages, continued that habit Wednesday. At one point she chimed in after a back-and-forth between Bloomberg and Sanders that there’s a boxing rematch happening Saturday night in Las Vegas and the two candidates should attend.
But Klobuchar also threw a couple punches of her, often sparring with Buttigieg, who holds the lead in national delegates. The two have tussled in past debates and Wednesday was no different. Buttigieg at one point criticized Klobuchar for failing to name Mexico’s president Andrés Manuel López Obrador in a recent interview, even though she serves on the Senate committee that oversees trade and border security.
“Are you trying to stay that I’m dumb? Are you mocking me?” Klobuchar interjected. “People sometimes forget names.”
Klobuchar said she had “momentary forgetfulness.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren jumped to Klobuchar’s defense, saying that forgetting a name happens to everyone and doesn’t by itself “indicate that you don’t understand what’s going on.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders
Sanders got a bit of the frontrunner treatment at Wednesday’s debate, but he walked away largely unscathed. Overall, Sanders stood his ground against several attacks, including criticism of his Medicare for All plan and how it could affect labor unions’ health care coverage.
Sanders promised never to sign a bill that would give labor union workers worse benefits.
“We will only expand for them, for every union in America for the working class of this country,” Sanders said.
But Buttigieg pushed back in the discussion, at one point claiming Sanders was “at war with (Nevada’s) Culinary Union.” The accusation comes days after Sanders’ supporters reportedly threatened union members for criticizing Sanders’ Medicare for All plan.
“We are all responsible for our supporters and need to step up,” Buttigieg told Sanders, adding that the attacks are a reflection of what Sanders’ leadership is drawing out of supporters.
Sanders responded that his campaign has “more union support than you have ever dreamed of.”
“If there are a few people who make ugly remarks, who attack union leaders, then I disown those people. They are not part of our movement,” he said.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren
The Massachusetts Senator came out punching Wednesday.
She hit Bloomberg within the first five minutes of the debate, saying Democrats should not nominate someone who has “a history of hiding his tax returns, of harassing women, and of supporting racist policies like redlining and stop and frisk.”
She said that voters shouldn’t nominate a “billionaire who calls women fat broads and horseface lesbians,” noting she wasn’t talking about Trump, but rather Bloomberg
During an extended debate about health care, Warren dismissed Buttigieg’s “Medicare for all who want it” proposal as a Power Point plan. She called Klobuchar’s health care proposal nothing more than a “post-it note.”
Warren, who has the third most pledged delegates, was looking to get back into the conversation following a lackluster fifth place finish in New Hampshire. It may have worked. Warren’s chief mobilization officer, Caitlin Mitchell, tweeted at 10:40 p.m. ET. that Warren’s campaign “raised $425,000 in the last 30 minutes.” Later, the campaign said it raised $1 million during the 2-hour debate.
More than 70,000 Nevadans have already participated in early caucusing, but the rest of the state heads to caucus sites Saturday.
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