Democratic debate in Nevada

By Fernando Alfonso III and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 12:35 AM ET, Thu February 20, 2020
20 Posts
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9:58 p.m. ET, February 19, 2020

Klobuchar defends criminal justice record, calls for "any evidence" in controversial case to be reviewed

From CNN's Dan Merica

Amy Klobuchar defended her record as county attorney for Hennepin County at Wednesday’s debate and argued that “any evidence, if there is new evidence, even old evidence” should be reviewed in a controversial case that she oversaw years ago.

The case in question is that of Myon Burrell, a teenager who was sentenced to life for the killing of 11-year-old Tyesha Edwards but now, with the backing of new evidence, insists he is innocent. The case has garnered new attention as Klobuchar runs for President.

“It is very clear that any evidence, if there is new evidence, even old evidence, it should be reviewed by that office, the county attorney,” Klobuchar said.

She added: “I have made very clear for months now that like so many prosecutors, I think those cases in my time they were all going to the grand jury. It was thought that was the best way to handle them in many, many jurisdictions.”

The Burrell case caused a host of groups, including the Minneapolis NAACP, to call for Klobuchar to suspend her campaign.

Klobuchar said Wednesday that she has “the support of African-Americans in my community in every election… because I earned it.”

The highs and lows of Amy Klobuchar's political career:

9:32 p.m. ET, February 19, 2020

Warren hits three foes at once on health care

From CNN's Eric Bradner

Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images
Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Elizabeth Warren took on nearly the entire Democratic debate stage at once on health care, unloading a scathing attack on three of her Democratic rivals’ plans. 

The remarkable moment left nearly every other candidate asking for an opportunity to respond to Warren, who appeared to be aiming to reclaim the identity she’d cultivated in 2019 as the candidate with the most detailed plans. 

She called Pete Buttigieg’s proposal — which he calls “Medicare for all who want it” — as “a slogan that was thought up by his consultants to paper over thin version of a plan that would leave millions of people unable to afford their health care. It's not a plan, it's a Power Point.” 

She said Amy Klobuchar’s call for a public option is “like a Post-It note.” 

And she lambasted Bernie Sanders over his supporters’ strident approach to the issue. 

She praised Sanders’ plan, which she had long backed before rolling out her own version of “Medicare for All.” But she said “instead of expanding and bringing in more people to help, instead his campaign relentlessly attacks everyone who asks a question or tries to fill in details about how to actually make this work.” 

9:30 p.m. ET, February 19, 2020

Klobuchar fires back against criticism of her health care plan and Post-it Note reference

Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images
Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Sen. Amy Klobuchar fired back against criticism leveled against her health care plan by Sen. Elizabeth Warren who called it a "Post-it Note, insert plan here."

Warren was also critical of the medical plans from Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Bernie Sanders.

"Mayor Buttigieg really has a slogan that was thought up by his consultants to paper over a thin version of a plan that would leave millions of people unable to afford their health care. It's not a plan, it's a Power Point. And Amy's plan is even less. It's like a Post-it Note, insert plan here. Bernie has started very much -- has a good start. But instead of expanding and bringing in more people to help, instead his campaign relentlessly attacks everyone who asks a question or tries to fill in details about how to actually make this work," Warren said.

Klobuchar fired back against Warren, taking umbrage with the Post-it Note reference.

"I must say I take personal offense, since Post-It notes were invented in my state."

She continued: "So my plan is a public option. And according to all the studies out there, it would reduce premiums for 12 million people immediately.  It would expand coverage for about that same number. It is a significant thing. It is what Barack Obama wanted to do from the very beginning."

9:30 p.m. ET, February 19, 2020

Warren and Klobuchar lead charge against Bloomberg

From CNN's Gregory Krieg


Elizabeth Warren blitzed Michael Bloomberg right out of the gates on debate night in Las Vegas, ticking off a list of sexist remarks the former New York mayor is alleged to have made during his time in the private sector, then hammering him over his support of "racist policies" during his time as mayor.

"I‘d like to talk about who we’re running against," Warren said, grabbing control of the debate in its first minutes. "A billionaire who calls women ‘fat broads’ and ‘horse-faced lesbians’ — and no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump, I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg."

She continued on, blasting the billionaire, who is making his primary debate stage debut.

"Democrats are not going to win if we have a nominee if we has a history of hiding his tax returns, of harassing women and of supporting racist policies like redlining and stop and frisk," Warren said, packaging a few weeks' worth of negative reporting on Bloomberg into a neat, 30-second sound bite that had the audience gasping.

Warren also took some issue with Bloomberg's electability argument, saying, "Democrats take a huge risk if we just substitute one arrogant billionaire for another."

After Warren finished, Amy Klobuchar tapped in, and said that while she initially supported Bloomberg being allowed to debate — "I thought he shouldn’t be hiding behind his TV ads," she joked — the contents of a memo from his campaign today had given her second thoughts.

The memo, written by two top Bloomberg aides, suggested that the campaigns of Klobuchar, Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg were all dead-ends and that, by staying in the contest, they were effectively handing the nomination to Bernie Sanders.

Klobuchar did not appreciate the implication.

“I’ve been told many times to wait my turn and to step aside and I’m not gonna do that now," she said. "I’m not gonna do that because a campaign memo from Mayor Bloomberg said this morning that the only way we get a (moderate) nominee is if we step aside for him."

9:35 p.m. ET, February 19, 2020

Bloomberg called Obamacare "a disgrace" and "another program that's going to cost a lot of money" in 2010

From CNN's KFile

John Locher/AP
John Locher/AP

Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg said the final Obamacare bill would do "absolutely nothing to fix the big health care problems" and also called the program "a disgrace" in comments made in 2010, just months after the law's passage.

Speaking at Dartmouth College in July of that year, Bloomberg added that law was just "another program that's going to cost a lot more money."

It is just one of several comments from Bloomberg identified by CNN's KFile criticizing the landmark Affordable Care Act in the years following its passage, including saying the bill was "really dysfunctional" and did nothing to solve rising health care costs.

Read the full story here.

9:25 p.m. ET, February 19, 2020

Buttigieg to Sanders: "You’re the one who is at war with the Culinary Union"

From CNN's Kate Sullivan

John Locher/AP
John Locher/AP

Pete Buttigieg accused Bernie Sanders of being “at war” with the influential Culinary Union in Nevada. 

“You're not the only one who cares about the working class, most Americans believe we need to empower workers. As a matter of fact, you're the one who is at war with the Culinary Union right here in Las Vegas,” Buttigieg said. 

Sanders responded, "We have more union support than you have ever dreamed of. We have the support of unions all across this country."

More on this: The Culinary Union, which is a force in Nevada politics, distributed a flier that says Sanders would "End Culinary Healthcare" if elected president of the United States.

The organization says it represents 60,000 hotel and casino workers in Nevada and provides health insurance coverage for more than 130,000 people. Its organizing abilities have helped deliver the state for Democrats for years. 

The flier outlines where the leading 2020 Democratic candidates stand on health care, immigration and jobs. It singles out Sanders as the candidate who will end the union's health care among the top six Democratic candidates, pointing to his "Medicare for All" plan. The union announced last week it would not endorse a candidate ahead of the Saturday caucuses. 

9:22 p.m. ET, February 19, 2020

Buttigieg hits Bloomberg, Sanders: Let's put forward somebody who's actually a Democrat

From CNN's Dan Merica

Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images
Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Pete Buttigieg argued on Wednesday that Mike Bloomberg and Bernie Sanders are “the two most polarizing figures on this stage” and warned that the Democratic Party most “wake up” to the reality that they could be the only Democrats left in the race in two weeks if the contest doesn’t change.

"Most Americans don't see where they fit if they've got to choose between a socialist who thinks that capitalism is the root of all evil and a billionaire who thinks that money ought to be the root of all power," Buttigieg said. "Let's put forward somebody who actually lives and works in a middle-class neighborhood in an industrial midwestern city. Let's put forward somebody who's actually a Democrat."

The line earned applause in the room, and highlights the fact that Sanders identifies as a Democratic socialist and independent in the Senate and Bloomberg has long been a Republican.

"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 added. "We can do better."

Sanders took issue with being called polarizing.

“If speaking to the needs and the pain of a long-neglected working class is polarizing, I think you got the wrong word,” Sanders said, before turning to the fact that Buttigieg takes money from billionaire donors.

9:19 p.m. ET, February 19, 2020

Bloomberg ignores early attacks and focuses on Trump

From CNN's Eric Bradner

Bridget Bennett/AFP/Getty Images
Bridget Bennett/AFP/Getty Images

Michael Bloomberg responded to an avalanche of attacks at the outset of Wednesday night’s debate by saying he’s the Democratic candidate with the best chance of defeating President Donald Trump. 

“I think we have two questions to face tonight: One is who can beat Donald Trump and, number two, who can do the job if they get into the White House. I would argue that I am the candidate that can do exactly both of those things,” Bloomberg said. 

Bloomberg ignored other candidates’ comments about his record and his history of offensive comments, instead drawing contrasts with Trump. 

“I’m a New Yorker. I know how to take on an arrogant con man like Donald Trump who comes from New York,” he said. “I'm a mayor, or was a mayor. I know how to run a complicated city — the biggest most diverse city in this country. I'm a manager. I knew what to do after 9/11 and brought the city back stronger than ever. And I'm a philanthropist who didn't inherit his money, but made his money.”

He continued: “I'm spending that money to get rid of Donald Trump, the worst president we have ever had. If I can get that done, it will be a great contribution to America and to my kids."

9:16 p.m. ET, February 19, 2020

Bloomberg: Sanders can’t beat Trump

From CNN's Dan Merica

Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images
Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg used his first answer in his first Democratic debate to make a central point of his candidacy clear: He doesn’t believe Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders can beat President Donald Trump.

“I don't think there's any chance of the senator beating President Trump,” Bloomberg said. “If he goes and is the candidate, we will have Donald Trump for another four years, and we can't stand that.”

Bloomberg’s line underscores the former mayor’s entire argument and highlights how his candidacy is aimed at quelling concerns among establishment Democrats about what Sanders, an avowed Democratic socialist, would mean atop the 2020 ticket.

Bloomberg particularly argued that Sanders’ views on health care — and his pledge to enact a "Medicare for All" single payer system — would hurt his electability.

“You don't start out by saying I've got 160 million people I'm going to take away the insurance plan that they love. That's just not a ways that you go and start building the coalition that the Sanders camp,” Bloomberg said.