Live chat: Democratic debate in Las Vegas

Billionaire former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg faced attacks by other Democratic presidential candidates on the debate stage in Las Vegas on Wednesday night. Former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren also turned their fire on each other. The candidates sparred over healthcare, experience, sexism and transparency.
  • Adriana Lacy
    Adriana Lacy Audience engagement editor

    Hello, I'm Adriana Lacy, an audience engagement editor at the Los Angeles Times. Welcome to our live chat for tonight's Democratic primary debate. The debate gets underway at 6 p.m. PST (televised by MSNBC), with former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on the stage for the first time. The other candidates debating in Las Vegas are Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

    2:49 PM
  • Melanie Mason
    Melanie Mason Politics reporter

    Greetings from the L.A. Times mothership! I'm Melanie Mason, a political reporter covering the presidential campaign. My colleagues and I are looking forward to spending debate evening with you all. If you're looking for reading material between now and then, I humbly suggest this excellent voter guide from our team that has everything you need to know about California's upcoming March 3 primary, as well as the policy positions of the candidates and other notable stories we've done.

    3:17 PM
  • Melanie Mason
    Melanie Mason Politics reporter

    https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-02-18/california-election-2020-voter-guide?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=slack

    3:17 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    Hey everyone, I'm Matt Pearce, and I've recently been spending time on the trail in Nevada before Saturday's caucuses. Here's the story I wrote last week about why Nevada is going to be a lot different for the Democratic presidential candidates than the recent contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.

    https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-02-13/democratic-presidential-candidates-nevada-caucus

    3:19 PM
  • Doyle McManus
    Doyle McManus Washington Columnist

    And greetings from Washington; I'm Doyle McManus. The biggest new feature of tonight's debate, of course, is the debut of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Unlike most candidates at their first debate, Bloomberg doesn’t really need to introduce himself, because anyone with a functioning television has already seen his commercials. We already know he rose from humble origins to become a billionaire who gave a lot of money to gun control and climate change. But he also wants to avoid being defined as the pro-Wall Street, stop-and-frisk mayor of New York. His campaign has been busy churning out new policy announcements for the New Bloomberg: more progressive on policing, on Wall Street reform and on taxing the rich. I wrote a column about that:

    3:21 PM
  • Doyle McManus
    Doyle McManus Washington Columnist

    https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-02-19/column-look-for-the-target-on-bloombergs-back-tonight

    3:22 PM
  • Seema Mehta
    Seema Mehta Politics reporter

    Greetings from the debate in Las Vegas! I'm Seema Mehta, a political reporter on the ground in Nevada. There are less than three hours to go before the debate begins, and the candidates and their teams are huddled making last-minute preparations. I'm in the media center, which is at the Bally's casino. It's a strange juxtaposition of vacationers playing blackjack and drinking cocktails in the casino, tourists taking pics with showgirls, while hundreds of reporters and political staffers are tucked away nearby typing away on their laptops waiting for tonight's clash to begin.

    3:22 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    Bloomberg's opponents have been telegraphing pretty heavily that they plan to lay into the billionaire's record in tonight's debate. Here's a tweet from Elizabeth Warren that went viral:

    3:30 PM
  • Seema Mehta
    Seema Mehta Politics reporter

    All the buzz in the media center is about what Matt just mentioned -- which candidate is going to take on Bloomberg first and which of the many lines of attack that they have previewed will they go with first. It's been interesting how much discussion of Bloomberg there has been in Nevada this week considering he's not competing in the caucuses here on Saturday.

    3:49 PM
  • Seema Mehta
    Seema Mehta Politics reporter

    But the one person missing from the stage tonight is someone who is competing heavily here -- billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer. He has been campaigning hard across the state and blanketing the airwaves with ads. Of the $15 million spent on TV ads in Nevada in this campaign, Steyer is responsible for about two-thirds.

    3:50 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    Before this week, Democratic activists in Nevada had told me to keep an eye on Tom Steyer's performance on caucus day. He's spent more time in Nevada than any other candidate. An anecdote: On the morning after the Iowa caucuses, when almost everybody in the political world was shifting their attention to New Hampshire, I spotted Steyer sitting alone, on a bench, in the Des Moines airport, waiting for a flight to Las Vegas.

    4:40 PM
  • Seema Mehta
    Seema Mehta Politics reporter

    Steyer has had some interesting entertainers join him on the trail in Vegas. Earlier this week, he had En Vogue and a member of Boyz II Men. On Friday, TLC will perform at his rally. I am having flashbacks of middle school dances.

    4:42 PM
  • Seema Mehta
    Seema Mehta Politics reporter

    I just caught up with Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez as he wandered through the media center, and asked him if there was a chance that the debacle that occurred in the Iowa caucuses could happen in Nevada on Saturday.
    “I am very confident” there won’t be a repeat, Perez said, adding that Iowa was a learning experience.
    During caucuses there earlier this month, an app malfunctioned and then a phone line was overrun, delaying the announcing of results for three days. Documents also revealed inconsistencies and erroneous calculations. The Nevada Democratic Party scrapped plans to use the same app in their caucuses, and is now using a combination of iPads, Google documents and phone lines.
    “We've spent a lot of time going to school on Iowa,” Perez said. “We've trained over 3,000 people through over 1,000 trainings. We literally have another 50 training on the books between now and Friday. We are working hand in glove with the state party, and the state party is really strong.”

    5:04 PM
  • Melanie Mason
    Melanie Mason Politics reporter

    OK team, we're 30 minutes out, and the LAT newsroom is crackling with anticipation (fine, fine, that's a slight exaggeration). I'm curious what storylines you all will be watching for tonight. We've already discussed Bloomberg, but I'm personally keeping an eye on Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who got some genuine momentum after her strong debate performance in New Hampshire. She's proved to be a strong debater even before her breakout New Hampshire performance, but will rivals be more inclined to go after her now?

    5:34 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    By all accounts, it looks like Nevada is Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' race to lose, given former Vice President Joe Biden's lackluster performances in Iowa and New Hampshire. But the other candidates have very often held off from giving Sanders heavy fire. Interesting to see if that holds up tonight.

    5:39 PM
  • Seema Mehta
    Seema Mehta Politics reporter

    I think former Vice President Joe Biden is going to be under some pretty intense scrutiny. He’s counting on a strong showing in South Carolina’s upcoming primary, and needs his support there not to weaken. It could if he turns in a sub-par performance tonight.

    5:42 PM
  • Melanie Mason
    Melanie Mason Politics reporter

    Here's my simple question: What's the state of Elizabeth Warren's voice? She's been hoarse all week in the lead-up to the debate.

    5:47 PM
  • Tyrone Beason
    Tyrone Beason Politics reporter

    Hi, all. I'm looking to see how the candidates go after Michael Bloomberg and whether Sen. Amy Klobuchar can make another strong argument that she's the Midwestern centrist of choice against Pete Buttigieg. Also, the Las Vegas setting will give the candidates a chance to talk about some issues that didn't get much play in Iowa and New Hampshire, such as labor, housing and homelessness.

    5:49 PM
  • Melanie Mason
    Melanie Mason Politics reporter

    Just a reminder that there are still Democratic candidates in the running not appearing on tonight's debate stage: Tom Steyer and Tulsi Gabbard.

    5:59 PM
  • Melanie Mason
    Melanie Mason Politics reporter

    Still, it's pretty wild to see six podiums on stage even after we've already had two contests. It just goes to show how fluid this Democratic primary has been, that so many candidates remain in the running.

    6:00 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    The mini White House backdrop on the debate stage is, in its own way, very Vegas.

    6:02 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    (ah, now it's gone)

    6:02 PM
  • Doyle McManus
    Doyle McManus Washington Columnist

    I know this has been said before, but it’s still striking: Of the two candidates we’re talking about most, Bernie Sanders is 78 years old and hasn’t been a Democrat for most of his political career. Michael Bloomberg is 78 years old and hasn’t been a Democrat for most of his time in politics, either. In earlier cycles, neither one would have been considered a viable candidate.

    6:03 PM
  • Melanie Mason
    Melanie Mason Politics reporter

    Our first stop-and-frisk mention of the night happened less than 2 minutes in, with Bernie Sanders knocking Bloomberg. Guesses on how many more times we hear it?

    6:03 PM
  • Tyrone Beason
    Tyrone Beason Politics reporter

    Bloomberg dodges the stop-and-frisk mention altogether.

    6:04 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    Knives out for Bloomberg!

    6:05 PM
  • Tyrone Beason
    Tyrone Beason Politics reporter

    And now Sen. Warren dives right in.

    6:05 PM
  • Melanie Mason
    Melanie Mason Politics reporter

    Elizabeth Warren comes out swinging on Bloomberg! She telegraphed she would and she was apparently not kidding.

    6:05 PM
  • Doyle McManus
    Doyle McManus Washington Columnist

    Bloomberg's first words: Electability. Says Bernie can't win if he insists on abolishing private health insurance. That's the essence of Bloomberg's pitch.

    6:05 PM
  • Melanie Mason
    Melanie Mason Politics reporter

    Remember, Warren got relatively little speaking time in the New Hampshire debate. Clearly she's decided to take a more assertive tack tonight, not waiting for the moderators to call on her.

    6:05 PM
  • Tyrone Beason
    Tyrone Beason Politics reporter

    So right that Warren looks like she's not going to let that happen again Melanie Mason

    6:06 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    Sanders says Bloomberg's policies were racist. Bloomberg says Sanders is a guaranteed victory for Trump. Warren calls Bloomberg a sexist. Klobuchar likens Bloomberg to Trump. Man.

    6:07 PM
  • Doyle McManus
    Doyle McManus Washington Columnist

    And Bloomberg says never mind: I know how to beat Donald Trump

    6:08 PM
  • Tyrone Beason
    Tyrone Beason Politics reporter

    Bloomberg is basically reciting his resume as a rebuttal to all of the incoming. Interesting.

    6:08 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    As much as the debate stage hates him, Bloomberg gets a cheer out of the crowd for saying he's pleased to spend his own money to beat Trump.

    6:08 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    With stop and frisk coming up tonight, here's a plug for a story I wrote in 2013 about Bloomberg defending the policy against a federal judge's ruling that called it unconstitutional. https://www.latimes.com/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-nyc-stop-frisk-20130812-story.html

    6:10 PM
  • Melanie Mason
    Melanie Mason Politics reporter

    "Let's put forward somebody who is actually a Democrat," says Buttigieg, which is a multi-purpose dig at both Sanders and Bloomberg.

    6:10 PM
  • Doyle McManus
    Doyle McManus Washington Columnist

    Bernie Sanders delivers the other bingo word of the evening: "billionaires"

    6:10 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    Pete Buttigieg just mentioned a spat between Bernie Sanders and Nevada's powerful Culinary Workers Union over Medicare for All, which the union opposes. I wrote about the details of that policy dispute here: https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2019-12-23/why-some-unions-are-nervous-about-medicare-for-all

    6:12 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    Sanders shot back by saying he has more union support than Buttigieg has, which is also true. As I wrote here, Buttigieg has yet to collect a single union endorsement: https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-01-24/pete-buttigieg-missing-support-from-another-democratic-demographic-unions

    6:13 PM
  • Melanie Mason
    Melanie Mason Politics reporter

    I feel like this debate needs a graphic illustrating the various feuds playing out on stage. Warren, Biden, Klobuchar all pile-on Bloomberg. Buttigieg goes after Bloomberg and Sanders. Sanders returns fire to both.

    6:14 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    Some more backstory here -- the Culinary union's leaders complained that Sanders' supporters harassed them over their opposition to Medicare for All.

    6:15 PM
  • Doyle McManus
    Doyle McManus Washington Columnist

    Not really a surprise, but this is already the angriest debate the Democrats have had -- only 15 minutes in. It's no longer collegial; it's a battle for survival.

    6:16 PM
  • Tyrone Beason
    Tyrone Beason Politics reporter

    Also, Warren said Bloomberg has blamed black and Latino homeowners for the mortgage crisis.

    6:16 PM
  • Tyrone Beason
    Tyrone Beason Politics reporter

    Here's some background on what she may be referring to: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2020/02/13/mike-bloomberg-once-blamed-end-redlining-2008-housing-collapse/4749017002/

    6:17 PM
  • Melanie Mason
    Melanie Mason Politics reporter

    What do you guys think about the extended debate about the civility or lack thereof of candidate supporters on Twitter? Only one in five adults in the U.S. is on Twitter, per Pew. I've got to wonder if folks tuning in find this particularly relevant.

    6:18 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    Just a guess, but Sanders is happier to defend Medicare for All against all comers than to spend another second talking about Twitter trolls.

    6:18 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    Wow! Warren takes a shot at Klobuchar. That should be a sign of respect for Klobuchar's recent surge, if anything.

    6:20 PM
  • Melanie Mason
    Melanie Mason Politics reporter

    Everybody is looking to respond to Warren's answer on Medicare for All because she basically went after everyone on stage.

    6:20 PM
  • Tyrone Beason
    Tyrone Beason Politics reporter

    Buttigieg: "I'm more of a Microsoft Word guy." Plugging software as a rebuttal to a broadside.

    6:21 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    It also strikes me that we spend five minutes watching everybody absolutely go to town on Michael Bloomberg only to see the debate essentially return to Sanders' orbit. Biden has been practically invisible so far.

    6:21 PM
  • Doyle McManus
    Doyle McManus Washington Columnist

    And Bloomberg, after the initial exchange, is almost being ignored; it's Bernie versus the world

    6:22 PM
  • Melanie Mason
    Melanie Mason Politics reporter

    Color me totally unsurprised that Amy Klobuchar is the first one out with a Vegas joke.

    6:22 PM
  • Tyrone Beason
    Tyrone Beason Politics reporter

    Klobuchar one-ups Buttigieg by giving a shout-out to made-in-Minnesota Post-it notes.

    6:23 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    I'd argue that Sanders' ability to pick his preferred policy message (Medicare for All) and stick to it, and stick to it, and stick to it, has clearly been one of his biggest strengths in this big, boisterous primary field.

    6:24 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    Not much subtlety here on who Warren views as her biggest threats at the polls as she repeatedly karate-chops Buttigieg and Klobuchar on healthcare.

    6:26 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    Bloomberg is really underplaying how much he fought against civil liberties groups and others who fought against the stop and frisk policy in New York while he was mayor. He only recently apologized for it. Again, I'll plug my story from 2013:

    6:30 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    https://www.latimes.com/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-nyc-stop-frisk-20130812-story.html

    6:30 PM
  • Melanie Mason
    Melanie Mason Politics reporter

    Biden appears to have read up on his Bloomberg oppo. He's been armed with specifics on the former New York mayor's comments on the Affordable Care Act and now regarding stop-and-frisk

    6:31 PM
  • Doyle McManus
    Doyle McManus Washington Columnist

    A mistake by Bloomberg: He slipped back into defending the initial impulse behind "stop and frisk," which he has long defended, before finally saying he decided it had gone too far and apologized.

    6:32 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    Klobuchar now gets dinged by the moderator over her lack of prosecutions against officers in police shootings when she was a prosecutor in Minneapolis.

    6:33 PM
  • Melanie Mason
    Melanie Mason Politics reporter

    Klobuchar having to explain her prosecutorial record is reminiscent of the challenges Kamala Harris had when she was in the race. With attitudes around criminal justice shifting so rapidly in the Democratic base, being a prosecutor has become a very perilous springboard.

    6:34 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    Agreed, Melanie. Both women were prosecutors before the progressive-prosecutor movement came in vogue in recent years across the U.S., and now their records have been seen by some as insufficiently progressive. It's a generational shift.

    6:35 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    I guess I know the other thing Bernie Sanders would probably love to talk about less than Twitter trolls: his heart attack, and questions about whether he's been transparent enough about it.

    6:36 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    "We are all delighted you are in fighting shape," Buttigieg, 38, says to Sanders, 78.

    6:36 PM
  • Melanie Mason
    Melanie Mason Politics reporter

    Buttigieg perhaps does Sanders a favor by pivoting from transparency around Sanders' health to transparency around how Sanders will pay for his healthcare plan. It gives Sanders another chance to give his well-honed Medicare for All spiel.

    6:38 PM
  • Doyle McManus
    Doyle McManus Washington Columnist

    Bernie Sanders knew he was going to get a question about his medical records about the heart attack in October. He didn't give an inch on it. "Follow me around on the campaign trail," he said; no more medical records. Gotta admire the audacity -- but if he gets the flu, he could be in trouble.

    6:39 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    Bloomberg says his unreleased tax returns will probably be thousands of pages when they come out.

    6:39 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    "The biggest item is all the money I give away," Bloomberg says. (He gives away a lot.)

    6:40 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    Klobuchar responds by saying her husband could probably do her taxes on Turbotax and that she probably has lower blood pressure than Mayor Pete. It seems like she's having fun. "I think it's great you have a lot of money, but you've got to come forward with your tax returns," Klobuchar tells Bloomberg.

    6:41 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    "I hope you heard what his defense was: 'I've been nice to some women,'" Warren says of the sexual harassment allegations against Bloomberg. "Mister mayor, are you willing to release all of those women from those nondisclosure agreement so we can hear their side of the story?"

    6:43 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    "They signed those agreements, and we'll live with it," Bloomberg respondes.

    6:44 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    Warren is in her wheelhouse now.

    6:44 PM
  • Doyle McManus
    Doyle McManus Washington Columnist

    This may be the toughest question Bloomberg faces: the many allegations of sexist behavior and language at his businesses. His defense: He employs lots of women, he pays them well, and he was rated the second best employer in America. Groans from the audience.

    6:45 PM
  • Melanie Mason
    Melanie Mason Politics reporter

    Bloomberg can't be surprised by this question about the harassment/discrimination settlements at his company. But his answer has been halting, and that is even more stark under Warren's relentless questioning.

    6:45 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    As I wrote earlier this year, the proliferation of nondisclosure agreements in the business world has effectively privatized a lot of newsworthy information about candidates who later decide to run for president:

    6:45 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2019-12-06/pete-buttigieg-has-a-nondisclosure-agreement

    6:45 PM
  • Melanie Mason
    Melanie Mason Politics reporter

    But Pete Buttigieg is quick to remind the audience that the question about non-disclosures that he faced was not about harassment.

    6:46 PM
  • Doyle McManus
    Doyle McManus Washington Columnist

    Joe Biden is taking the high road on behavior toward women. Viewers with long memories may remember when Biden faced his own questions on this issue

    6:46 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    The crowd is actually booing Bloomberg over his refusal to release women or others from nondisclosure agreements involving allegations against Bloomberg.

    6:46 PM
  • Doyle McManus
    Doyle McManus Washington Columnist

    And now the Bloomberg-bashing becomes a group sport, with Bernie Sanders hitting him for his 2004 endorsement of George W. Bush for president.

    6:47 PM
  • Melanie Mason
    Melanie Mason Politics reporter

    The Democratic candidates made a lot of noise about how displeased they were that the DNC changed the qualification rules to let Bloomberg on the debate stage. But they're clearly relishing it tonight.

    6:47 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    Klobuchar has been smarting over this for days - a Telemundo interview where she couldn't identify Mexico's president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

    6:47 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    Woof, Klobuchar even mangles his name just now: "Loprez Obrador."

    6:48 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    "I wouldn't liken this to trivia," Buttigieg says to Klobuchar. (Buttigieg was able to name Mexico's president in that same interview.)

    6:49 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    "Are you trying to say I'm dumb? Are you mocking me, Mayor Pete?" Klobuchar says. (It's long been clear that she doesn't like the mayor, and has previously said that a women might not receive as much attention as he did, given how short his political resume is.)

    6:50 PM
  • Doyle McManus
    Doyle McManus Washington Columnist

    The two Amy Klobuchars: shaky on defense, but effective on offense.

    6:50 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    Klobuchar looks visibly unhappy on stage.

    6:50 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    Warren jumps in to defend Klobuchar. Not surprising -- she graciously congratulated Klobuchar after Klobuchar's strong performance in New Hampshire. "Missing a name all by itself does not indicate you do not understand what's going on."

    6:52 PM
  • Melanie Mason
    Melanie Mason Politics reporter

    Phew! We're at a commercial break and I, for one, really needed one.

    6:54 PM
  • Tyrone Beason
    Tyrone Beason Politics reporter

    Warren tries to shut down the argument between Klobuchar and Buttigieg on experience and the value of owning up to mistakes by landing on the side of the senator. Biden tries to do it by saying he has more experience on foreign policy than all of them.

    6:54 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    I think I can see steam coming off my keyboard, Melanie.

    6:54 PM
  • Tyrone Beason
    Tyrone Beason Politics reporter

    That whole exchange felt so personal.

    6:54 PM
  • Seema Mehta
    Seema Mehta Politics reporter

    I can't recall a debate this newsy and nasty.

    6:55 PM
  • Melanie Mason
    Melanie Mason Politics reporter

    Seema, what's the vibe in the press file? Reporters live for chippy debates like these.

    6:56 PM
  • Seema Mehta
    Seema Mehta Politics reporter

    So many exclamations of surprise, sometimes laughter, sometimes everyone just stops typing and looks around, like 'Did you hear what I just heard?" Usually you get a couple of those during a debate -- this has been non-stop, direct, deeply personal attacks all across the stage.

    6:57 PM
  • Adriana Lacy
    Adriana Lacy Audience engagement editor

    As an L.A. Times subscriber, you could have the opportunity to participate in a future live chat like this one. Not a subscriber yet? Sign up at https://www.latimes.com/subscriptions/

    6:58 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    A climate change question! Haven't always seen those in a debate this early.

    6:59 PM
  • Doyle McManus
    Doyle McManus Washington Columnist

    Scorecard after Hour One: Bernie Sanders has scored the points he wanted to make. Mike Bloomberg has spent a lot of time fending off attacks, not always successfully: He's bloodied, but still standing. Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar are scrapping (and it's a shame, at least from the standpoint of drama, that they were cut off). Elizabeth Warren is intervening effectively, but hasn't quite carved out a rationale for revival. And if Joe Biden hadn't just got that question about the Nevada economy, we wouldn't have known he was still on the stage.

    7:00 PM
  • Tyrone Beason
    Tyrone Beason Politics reporter

    For the López Obrador-curious out there, read up on Mexico's president here: https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2019-09-13/mexican-president-lopez-obrador-has-transformed-the-office-but-old-problems-thwart-progress

    7:02 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    The moderator, Jon Ralston, a Nevadan, raises an issue that's familiar to us out West: Not all liberals are gung-ho about renewable energy development, because sometimes they butt heads with conservationists. Not all environmental concerns are carbon concerns.

    7:04 PM
  • Melanie Mason
    Melanie Mason Politics reporter

    Sanders is pressed on how his fracking ban would affect workers in battleground states like Pennsylvania. He responds with a rousing call about the existential crisis of climate change, but says relatively little on how he would help displaced workers find new jobs. That feels like a missed opportunity to allay economic concerns.

    7:05 PM
  • Doyle McManus
    Doyle McManus Washington Columnist

    Sanders speaks up for the Green New Deal. Bloomberg doesn't support the Green New Deal; let's see if anyone calls him out on it.

    7:05 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    Bernie Sanders gets a different version of that climate sparring between Democratic constituencies as Chuck Todd points out that union leaders in the gas industry don't really like the idea of a ban on fracking. But Sanders defends it, calling it an existential issue.

    7:05 PM
  • Melanie Mason
    Melanie Mason Politics reporter

    Amy Klobuchar says that most of the candidates have similar climate plans, but the bigger question is how to pass it. Interested in finding out what these actual proposals are? Our colleague Evan Halper has you covered.

    7:06 PM
  • Melanie Mason
    Melanie Mason Politics reporter

    https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-02-18/democratic-presidential-candidates-environment-climate-change-policy

    7:06 PM
  • Doyle McManus
    Doyle McManus Washington Columnist

    This may be the first debate in which Warren didn't get a chance to condemn "corruption" until 67 minutes in

    7:07 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    Klobuchar didn't get a chance to respond to Warren's jab that Klobuchar's climate plan thinks too small.

    7:07 PM
  • Melanie Mason
    Melanie Mason Politics reporter

    Overall, Doyle, I think we can say this debate is the first time Warren has really shaken up her strategy, after being relentlessly on-message for the duration of the campaign. Who knows if it will revive her flagging campaign, but it's certainly garnering notice. According to a Twitter spokesman, Warren has been the most tweeted about candidate on the debate stage thus far.

    7:09 PM
  • Doyle McManus
    Doyle McManus Washington Columnist

    Interesting. I think she's been effective -- but kind of as an onstage critic. She hasn't actually built (or rebuilt) a reason for voters to flock to her candidacy

    7:10 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    Interesting question to Bloomberg about how to persuade China and its zoom-zoom economy to cut down on carbon emissions. He says you can't go to war with them, but then he seems to rule out tariffs, too, as a matter of diplomatic coercion, anyway. He suggests it's a matter of persuading China of what's best for its own citizens.

    7:11 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    "I'm a little skeptical of the idea that convincing is going to do the trick when it comes to China," Buttigieg shoots back to Bloomberg.

    7:12 PM
  • Doyle McManus
    Doyle McManus Washington Columnist

    Pete Buttigieg returns to a theme he used earlier -- which is a sign it's now a central part of his pitch: The two front-runners (Sanders and Bloomberg) are "polarizing." he's implying that he's the logical candidate to unify the party. His first assertion is probably true; his second is still unproven

    7:13 PM
  • Tyrone Beason
    Tyrone Beason Politics reporter

    Warren draws the conversation on climate change to "environmental justice," reminding her fellow hopefuls that some communities are more at risk from pollution and intensified natural disasters than others, such as the poor and people of color.

    7:14 PM
  • Melanie Mason
    Melanie Mason Politics reporter

    Pete Buttigieg talks about lifting up small businesses, particularly minority business, and cites his own experience in the west side of his city, South Bend. I spent a lot of time in South Bend over the last few weeks and there has indeed been revitalization among Latino businesses on Western Ave. But there's a much bigger conversation about whether the resurgence in the city as a whole is truly being shared by the Latino and African American residents.

    7:17 PM
  • Melanie Mason
    Melanie Mason Politics reporter

    https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-02-16/presidential-candidate-pete-buttigieg-south-bend-indiana-hometown

    7:17 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    Bloomberg getting an awful lot of questions about questionable stuff he's done as mayor and as a businessman rather than the affirmative vision he has for the future as a candidate. This is the difference between running ads on TV and having to go under tough questioning by journalists.

    7:18 PM
  • Doyle McManus
    Doyle McManus Washington Columnist

    Off-topic: Buttigieg looks like he forgot to shave. Is it just the lighting or is he trying to look hip? In 1960, a five-o'clock shadow helped sink Richard Nixon in a debate with John F. Kennedy.

    7:18 PM
  • Tyrone Beason
    Tyrone Beason Politics reporter

    Seema and I went to Flint last summer to write about the aftermath of the water crisis there. I found a city that had also been decimated by a foreclosure crisis in largely segregated black neighborhoods in the north part of town. People there want clean water, yes, but beyond that, economic opportunities to counteract decades of neglect and disinvestment.

    7:21 PM
  • Tyrone Beason
    Tyrone Beason Politics reporter

    https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2019-07-29/democratic-debate-flint-water-poverty-revival

    7:21 PM
  • Melanie Mason
    Melanie Mason Politics reporter

    "Mayor Bloomberg, should you exist?" is a heck of a question.

    7:21 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    "Should you have earned that much money?" a moderator asks. "Yes, I worked very hard for it." Bloomberg says.

    7:22 PM
  • Melanie Mason
    Melanie Mason Politics reporter

    It's more fun without context, but if you insist, it was Chuck Todd asking it regarding Sanders' contention that billionaires should not exist.

    7:22 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    Class war watch: Bernie Sanders gets cheers from the debate audience by saying the size of Bloomberg's wealth is immoral. Bloomberg gets bigger cheers when he says he's giving the money away, including to the Democratic Party.

    7:22 PM
  • Tyrone Beason
    Tyrone Beason Politics reporter

    Striking response from the audience to Bloomberg's insistence that he worked very hard for his billions and deserves it: Cheers

    7:22 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    "It wasn't you made all that money, maybe it was your workers" who helped, Sanders shoots back.

    7:23 PM
  • Doyle McManus
    Doyle McManus Washington Columnist

    Bloomberg is missing lots of opportunities here (and the moderators aren't giving him much space): He has called for repealing Trump's tax bill and proposed higher taxes on billionaires like himself. And then, when asked if billionaires should exist, he says he's proud of making lots of money and giving it away. Big mistake: That was his chance to say he wants to make his fellow billionaires to pay more in taxes -- a more powerful argument, in my opinion. (And I'm a columnist; I'm required to have opinions.)

    7:23 PM
  • Tyrone Beason
    Tyrone Beason Politics reporter

    And cheers for Sanders' reminder to Bloomberg that his employees probably helped him make that money.

    7:24 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    Bloomberg says "absolutely not" to Sanders' proposal that workers sit on corporate boards, which is a system that Germany has and which has been a proposal also embraced by Warren.

    7:24 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    If you want to look at the stark differences of vision in America over the prevailing economic order, it is right up there on this stage, my friends.

    7:25 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    Moderator Lester Holt pops Sanders with a question about a poll showing that socialism is unpopular with voters. Sanders shoots back by pointing out the same polling shows is currently the most popular Democratic presidential candidate. "We are living many ways in a socialist society right now," Sanders says.

    7:27 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    Sanders now defending his three homes.

    7:27 PM
  • Melanie Mason
    Melanie Mason Politics reporter

    I'm surprised Sanders took Bloomberg's bait on defending his multiple homes.

    7:28 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    "The rich aren't paying their fair share," Bloomberg says, calling for higher taxes on the wealthy. (Though he opposes' Warren's wealth tax, which would tax assets, not just income.)

    7:28 PM
  • Doyle McManus
    Doyle McManus Washington Columnist

    Bloomberg finally remembers to say: I would raise taxes on the rich. He was either poorly coached or didn't absorb the coaching well; that's an effective line that he should have used earlier and more often.

    7:29 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    "Are you out of touch with your. own generation?" Chuck Todd asks Pete Buttigieg. "No," Buttigieg said. "It's true that I was into Bernie before it was cool," referring to the essay he wrote in high school praising Sanders.

    7:30 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    Bernie Sanders is crushing it with the youth vote. No other candidate remotely comes close. That's been part of the friction Buttigieg has gotten from young progressives over the course of this campaign, especially as he tracked more toward moderate positions as the campaign wore on.

    7:31 PM
  • Doyle McManus
    Doyle McManus Washington Columnist

    At the high-altitude level, this is turning into an argument between a socialist (Sanders) and a bunch of candidates who say they are capitalists (everyone else) -- and defined that way, the one who is clearly the most accomplished capitalist is ... Bloomberg.

    7:33 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    Here we get one of the fundamental distinctions between between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, whose economic policies are often comparably aggressive: He's a democratic socialist, and she calls herself a capitalist. The philosophical distinction is between whether markets should simply be better regulated or more frequently controlled by government. Either candidate would be the most progressive president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his New Deal-era interventions into the economy.

    7:34 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    In that sense, it is remarkable that they share a stage and a party title with Michael Bloomberg.

    7:35 PM
  • Adriana Lacy
    Adriana Lacy Audience engagement editor

    If you’re a subscriber and would like to participate in a future live chat like this one, you can apply here: https://www.latimes.com/debate-chat-sign-up?_amp=false

    7:35 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    Democratic voters who knew nothing about Mike Bloomberg apart from his TV ads have probably been in for a surprise tonight.

    7:39 PM
  • Melanie Mason
    Melanie Mason Politics reporter

    We are one hour and 40 minutes into a debate in Las Vegas and we're just now getting to an immigration question.

    7:42 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    Buttigieg going after Klobuchar over her past votes on immigration-related issues.

    7:44 PM
  • Seema Mehta
    Seema Mehta Politics reporter

    I would kill to see what Klobuchar just scrawled on that notepad.

    7:44 PM
  • Tyrone Beason
    Tyrone Beason Politics reporter

    The debate has been curiously lacking in substantive discussions that feel inclusive of the country's immigrants, or Latino communities of any kind.

    7:44 PM
  • Doyle McManus
    Doyle McManus Washington Columnist

    "Everyone isn't as perfect as you, Pete," Klobuchar says. Animus much?

    7:45 PM
  • Melanie Mason
    Melanie Mason Politics reporter

    Remember the first debate where we had multiple candidates busting out their Spanish skills? We're down to just Buttigieg who can switch into Spanish, telling Dreamers that this is their country too.

    7:45 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    Amy Klobuchar really doesn't like Pete Buttigieg.

    7:46 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    The refs practically have to come in to break them up.

    7:47 PM
  • Tyrone Beason
    Tyrone Beason Politics reporter

    And that segment quickly devolved into what seems like another personal spat between Klobuchar and Buttigieg, this one about immigration reform and which of them cares more about these communities.

    7:47 PM
  • Melanie Mason
    Melanie Mason Politics reporter

    Clip-and-save this clip about whether the leader in delegates who may not have an outright majority by the convention should be the nominee. It's almost certainly going to be coming up as this primary plays out.

    7:49 PM
  • Tyrone Beason
    Tyrone Beason Politics reporter

    It should also be noted that we have a debate stage without candidates of color on it to talk about issues so central to the hardships of people of color -- stop-and-frisk, redlining, poor access to healthcare, the need for comprehensive immigration reform.

    7:50 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    I'm on a group text with friends watching the debate, and they're already looking forward to the treatment this debate gets from Saturday Night Live.

    7:50 PM
  • Doyle McManus
    Doyle McManus Washington Columnist

    Chuck Todd asks a question that sounds wonky but could be critical: If a candidate has "the most delegates" but not a majority, should that candidate have a presumptive claim on the nomination? Sanders basically says yes -- because that's where he may end up. The others all say no; let the delegates decide, they say. That could open the way to horse-trading (or, more properly, delegate-trading) by candidates two, three and four.

    7:50 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    The subtext is what happens if Sanders heads into the Democratic National Convention with a plurality of delegates but not an outright majority. Which is where prognosticators think this race might be headed.

    7:52 PM
  • Melanie Mason
    Melanie Mason Politics reporter

    "This has been quite a debate," Klobuchar says in her closing, which is quite the understatement.

    7:52 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    Amy Klobuchar was the indisputed big winner of the New Hampshire debate, which helped spring her to a third place there. I'm not sure what to make of what this debate means for her, given how intense and personal things have gotten. She also took knocks from Warren and Buttigieg.

    7:53 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    "This is a management job, and Donald Trump is not a manager," Bloomberg says in his closing line.

    7:54 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    Buttigieg, in his closing, casts himself as the candidate for people not comfortable with the "revolution" or the status quo.

    7:55 PM
  • Tyrone Beason
    Tyrone Beason Politics reporter

    "You cannot run a railroad this way." Bloomberg really is making the case that the presidency is more of a professional position than anything else. I wonder how that closing will play to voters.

    7:56 PM
  • Melanie Mason
    Melanie Mason Politics reporter

    As the Democratic candidates are making their closing statements, a reminder of the counter-programming going on tonight on the GOP side:

    7:56 PM
  • Melanie Mason
    Melanie Mason Politics reporter

    Warren's closing statement centers on her being a fighter. This was her core message for most of her campaign, but she's shifted from that recently to emphasize unity.

    7:57 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    "Give a chance, I'll go to the White House, and I'll fight for your family," Warren.

    7:57 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    Looks like Biden's getting protested by immigration activists again, who are referring to "3 million people" deported under the Obama administration.

    7:58 PM
  • Tyrone Beason
    Tyrone Beason Politics reporter

    Among African American Twitter users, here's one response to Warren's performance tonight.

    7:58 PM
  • Tyrone Beason
    Tyrone Beason Politics reporter
    7:58 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    Biden takes a swipe at Bernie Sanders' immigration record in his closing argument.

    7:59 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    That felt like an afterthought in a debate set in Nevada, where Sanders is doing well with Latinos.

    7:59 PM
  • Melanie Mason
    Melanie Mason Politics reporter

    We did it, everyone! Well, the candidates did and we watched. My question to each of you: What was the standout moment?

    8:01 PM
  • Matt Pearce
    Matt Pearce Politics reporter

    Warren grilling Bloomberg over his nondisclosure agreements.

    8:01 PM
  • Doyle McManus
    Doyle McManus Washington Columnist

    A few candidates threw in final words about unity and defeating Trump. But the Democrats passed an important milepost tonight: The gloves are completely off now. Earlier debates were mostly about competitive Trump-bashing. This one was mostly about fellow-Democrat-bashing.

    8:02 PM
  • Tyrone Beason
    Tyrone Beason Politics reporter

    Given that the debate was held in Las Vegas, maybe a boxing ring was a better setting. Wow. The personal nature of the exchanges shows just how thirsty these candidates are to rise out of this crowded field, or make sure their competitors don't.

    8:03 PM
  • Melanie Mason
    Melanie Mason Politics reporter

    I keep thinking about Klobuchar lacing into Buttigieg: "I wish everybody was as perfect as you, Pete!"

    8:04 PM
  • Adriana Lacy
    Adriana Lacy Audience engagement editor

    As an L.A. Times subscriber, you could have the opportunity to participate in a future live chat like this one. Not a subscriber yet? Sign up at https://www.latimes.com/subscriptions/

    8:07 PM
  • Adriana Lacy
    Adriana Lacy Audience engagement editor

    Thank you all for tuning in to tonight’s live chat. Here are five takeaways from Wednesday night’s Democratic debate in Las Vegas: https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-02-19/nevada-democratic-debate-takeaways

    8:07 PM