The Democratic White House hopefuls jockeyed for advantage Thursday after a spirited debate in Las Vegas on Wednesday night that exposed deep divisions, both political and personal, among the six candidates on the stage: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.); former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg; former vice president Joe Biden; Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.); Sen. Amy Klobuchar; and former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg.

The candidates continued to take aim at one another during appearances in Nevada — which holds its caucuses on Saturday — and elsewhere in the West, as well as in television appearances and on social media.

Bloomberg, a newcomer to the debate stage Wednesday, faced more flak from his rivals, with Warren saying he would he be “a risky candidate” for the party. Bloomberg told supporters that nominating Sanders would be a “fatal error,” while Biden sought to contrast his record on guns with the senator from Vermont, who showed strength in another poll from California. President Trump, meanwhile, declared himself the real winner of the Democratic debate as he prepared for a campaign rally in Colorado.

10:35 p.m.
Link copied

Nevada State Party has not released any results

Two hours after the Nevada caucuses began, the state party has still not released any official results. It is unclear when they will they will do so.

Across the state, precincts reported trouble reporting their results to the state party via the phone hotline. Precincts are able to report results via text and the app.

Molly Forgey, the party’s spokeswoman, said the phone issues are being worked on. “We’ve been prepared all along for a high influx of results as caucuses wrap up, and we’re working diligently to accommodate and continue processing the high volume of incoming results from precinct chairs,” she said.

Vote counts reported by Edison and other news outlets and research arms, including the Washington Post, show Sanders with an early lead.

2:55 a.m.
Link copied

Warren drafts NDA release for ex-Bloomberg employees, says he just has to sign

Warren announced on live television that she’d drafted a legal document releasing ex-Bloomberg employees who sued the billionaire from the nondisclosure agreements they signed. All Bloomberg has to do, Warren said, is sign it.

“So I used to teach contract law. And I thought I would make this easy. I wrote up a release and covenant not to sue. And all that Mayor Bloomberg has to do is download it. I’ll text it. Sign it. And then the women, or men, will be free to speak and tell their own stories,” Warren said during a CNN town hall.

Warren attacked Bloomberg during the Democratic debate over his refusal to release former employees from the NDAs and pressed that he should release them. Bloomberg has been sued by former employees who have accused him of sexism and creating a hostile work environment.

On Thursday night, she argued that what’s in them could be disqualifying to be president — though said she’d support Bloomberg if he became the Democratic nominee.

The subject also came up during Biden’s town hall, which took place before Warren’s.

Biden asked: “How can you run against Donald Trump when you have what 10, 12, 14 NDAs?”

1:44 a.m.
Link copied

Trump says Bloomberg ‘choked’ in debate, predicts Sanders will be nominee

Trump relished what he described as Bloomberg’s “choking” at the Democratic debate, bringing it up several times during his campaign rally speech in Colorado.

At one point, Trump mocked Bloomberg by clutching his neck while saying, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.”

Playing political prognosticator, the president predicted Klobuchar and Bloomberg were done, and that the Democratic nominee would be Sanders. He also questioned a recent poll from Texas that he said showed Buttigieg in a close race with him in the traditionally red state.

Nearly an hour into his rally, Trump had not mentioned Warren or Biden, two candidates who used to be the main targets of his attacks.

1:12 a.m.
Link copied

Powerful teachers union urges support for Biden, Warren or Sanders

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten told the organization’s 1.7 million members to “be actively involved in supporting and helping Vice President Biden, Sen. Sanders or Sen. Warren.”

She said in a statement that she was making the pseudo endorsement because the organization couldn’t wait for a nominee to “help shape the race and the narrative, ensure ours are heard, and ensure one of these candidates emerges as the nominee.”

The endorsement of the teachers union, one of the country’s biggest, is highly coveted among Democrats.

12:30 a.m.
Link copied

Some Democratic donors say Bloomberg’s performance froze momentum that was building at the expense of Biden fundraising

Several longtime Democratic donors and fundraisers said Thursday that Bloomberg’s performance at the Democratic debate froze the momentum building for his candidacy and away from the Biden campaign, saying they were disappointed at Bloomberg’s apparent inability to defend himself against predictable questions, such as those regarding the nondisclosure agreements and “stop and frisk.”

Two longtime donors who are raising money for the Biden campaign, who spoke anonymously to be frank about the candidate they are supporting, said they believed the former vice president has hit a ceiling in raising a significant amount of money from new donors. If Bloomberg improves in his debate performance, and Biden does worse than expected in Nevada and South Carolina, that may prompt Biden donors to jump ship, they said.

“No one is going to do anything until South Carolina,” said one Biden donor and fundraiser. “You’ve got to understand, whatever money has been raised for Biden has been raised. It’s not like he can go and raise new money.”

“All Bloomberg wants you to do is not raise money for Biden. I will tell you right now, that’s happening. Not because people are going to Bloomberg, but because it’s so hard to raise money for Biden,” the person said.

Bloomberg is not taking donations to his campaign, but he has asked influential donors and fundraisers to serve as “friend-raisers” for his campaign, publicly endorsing him and helping get other influential party figures on board.

Other well-connected Democratic fundraisers said it was still too early to tell how donors will respond to the Biden-Bloomberg dynamic, because it was Bloomberg’s first debate. The next one will feature higher stakes for both candidates, they said.

Sanders and Warren used their debate performances to generate a major injection of cash. Sanders’s campaign said it raised $2.7 million, and Warren’s campaign said it raised more than $2.8 million.

Robert Zimmerman, a Democratic donor and Democratic National Committee member, said grass-roots donor energy for those candidates shows that the world of bundlers and fundraisers is becoming increasingly less relevant to the primary process.

“It’s traumatic for Park Avenue and Bel-Air to come to terms with this, but cocktail parties aren’t where the action is,” Zimmerman said, referring to posh neighborhoods of New York City and Los Angeles. “I tell my political establishment friends to get off their yoga mats, get out of group therapy and start knocking on doors, because the grass-roots activism is where the power is.”

“They have to realize they’re not ‘making the decisions’; the decisions are being made by the small-dollar donors who have fueled Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and a candidate’s ability to mobilize that grass-roots energy will determine the future of the Democratic Party,” Zimmerman added.

11:21 p.m.
Link copied

The post-debate fundraising hauls and goals are in

Klobuchar’s debate performance in New Hampshire boosted her standing in the state and fired up Democratic donors, earning her millions of dollars and letting her expand her campaign into Super Tuesday. The Las Vegas debate might have had the same effect for Warren, who claimed $2.8 million raised on the day of the debate, half a million of it in the first hour onstage.

That would have helped push Warren past the $2.7 million Sanders raised on debate day, and it reset the fundraising goal with which Warren had come into Nevada. After initially asking for $7 million, Warren announced a new target of $12 million before midnight Friday, the day before the caucuses. And at the same time, Buttigieg’s campaign set a $13 million fundraising goal, to help “stay competitive” before Super Tuesday.

10:20 p.m.
Link copied

Sanders says he and Obama speak ‘every now and then’

Questions about Sanders’s reportedly lukewarm relationship with former president Barack Obama, the Democratic Party’s standard-bearer, have resurfaced as Sanders captures front-runner status in a race in which Obama’s eventual participation is viewed as crucial.

“I’m not going to tell you that he and I are best friends,” Sanders told CNN’s Ryan Nobles. “I talk to him on the telephone every now and then.”

A story resurfaced this week that Sanders had considered a primary challenge to Obama in 2012, which Sanders’s campaign has denied.

“He is an icon, clearly, in the Democratic Party and I have absolute confidence that he will play a vigorous, vigorous role — and I think he has said this — in the campaign and we need him, no question about it,” Sanders said, adding that he was certain Obama would support him if he wins the nomination.

As for Obama sitting out the primary contest, Sanders said he understood why the former president was staying quiet for now.

“I mean look, everybody is tugging at his sleeve, I’ve talked to him a couple of times over the last month or two, I’m sure everyone has … his view is play it out and I’ll be there for the winner,” Sanders said.

10:01 p.m.
Link copied

Klobuchar leads in home state of Minnesota; Sanders is up in Texas and North Carolina

New polls show a tight race in three Super Tuesday states, with Sanders holding narrow leads over Biden and Bloomberg in Texas and North Carolina, and landing second behind Klobuchar in Minnesota, her home state.

The polls, conducted by the University of Massachusetts at Lowell’s Center for Public Opinion before Wednesday night’s debate, indicate that Sanders is the front-runner coming off his strong finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire, but that his lead isn’t overwhelming.

Biden is hoping to gain ground in some of these larger states where he can capitalize on his name recognition, and Bloomberg has been flooding the states with ads ahead of his first appearance on a primary ballot.

In Texas, four candidates have double-digit support, with Sanders at 23 percent, Biden at 20 percent, Bloomberg at 18 percent and Warren at 14 percent. Similarly in North Carolina, Sanders is at 23 percent, Bloomberg at 19 percent, Biden at 16 percent, Warren at 13 percent and Buttigieg at 10 percent.

The only place where Klobuchar cracks double digits is in her home state, where she is the favored among 27 percent of likely voters, followed by Sanders with 21 percent, Warren with 16 percent and Buttigieg with 10 percent.

The candidates who don’t receive at least 15 percent support in these polls could be at risk of finishing lower than the threshold for winning statewide delegates.

8:35 p.m.
Link copied

Biden makes emotional plea on gun safety, attacks Sanders on the issue

Standing in front of a group of individuals whose lives have been devastated by gun violence, Biden made an impassioned promise to make gun control a priority of his public service, whether he’s president or not, and attacked Sanders for not doing the same.

Biden, whose own experiences with grief have given him a profound perspective on loss and tragedy, criticized Sanders for his votes against some gun-control measures and for a law protecting gun manufacturers from legal liabilities. Biden said that on his first day as president, he would ask Congress to repeal that liability shield so that victims of gun violence could sue manufacturers.

“It’s just flat-out immoral,” he said. “Imagine if I stood up here today and said I voted to give immunity” to manufacturers of tobacco or opioids or oil.

“Why are guns different?” Biden asked. “Because of cowardice. Because of cowards.”

Biden concluded by recalling how he’s “looked in the eyes of too many parents who have lost their children to gun violence, brave young people who have survived school shootings. . . . I promised them, and I promise all of you . . . I will never, never, never, never give up this fight.”

8:30 p.m.
Link copied

Warren justifies accepting the super PAC working on her behalf

LAS VEGAS — In a major reversal, Warren justified accepting help from a super PAC that has been formed to support her candidacy, saying that all of the men remaining in the campaign are either billionaires using their personal funds or have the help of a committee that can accept unlimited donations.

“We reached the point, a few weeks ago, where all the men who were still in this race and on the debate stage all have either super PACs, or they were multibillionaires,” Warren said. “And the only people who didn’t have them were the two women.”

Klobuchar now has a super PAC supporting her. Biden and Buttigieg have had super PAC support, and Bloomberg and Tom Steyer are billionaires. Sanders is supported by a small part of a coalition of outside groups that can take unlimited donations and are working to support him.

Warren said she continues to believe that super PACs should not be used but made an argument that Democrats have long deployed. She essentially said she did not want to put herself at a disadvantage. “Here’s where I stand. If all the candidates want to get rid of super PACs, count me in, I’ll lead the charge. But that’s how it has to be. It can’t be the case that a bunch of people keep them and only one or two don’t.”

The major shift for Warren, who has made her untraditional campaign financing strategy central to her campaign, reveals a flexibility to make changes needed to win. Her campaign staff includes more than 1,000 people, and recently they’ve had to cancel TV ads in early states.

The pro-Warren Persist super PAC is already running TV ads in Nevada, is going on air in South Carolina, and plans to air ads through Super Tuesday on TV and digital if she makes it.

While speaking to reporters, Warren also described her debate performance Wednesday night as taking “very deliberately aimed shots” at the other candidates. “I was very careful about what I had to say about everybody,” Warren said.

She explained her reason for focusing so intently on Bloomberg. “It was my job to make sure that America got a little closer look at Mayor Bloomberg and came to understand that of all the people standing on that stage he is the riskiest one for the Democrats,” Warren said.

7:54 p.m.
Link copied

Debate drew record viewership, networks say

Wednesday’s debate averaged a record-breaking 19.7 million viewers, host networks NBC News and MSNBC said in a news release Thursday.

The two-hour broadcast was the “most-watched Democratic debate ever,” the networks said. It topped the previous Democratic primary debate record of 18.1 million, set in June by the second night of the first Democratic debate, which was carried by NBC News, MSNBC and Telemundo.

The all-time primary debate record remains at the 24 million hit by Fox News during the first Republican debate of 2016, which featured the debut of then-candidate Donald Trump.

7:05 p.m.
Link copied

Bloomberg spent $409 million on his campaign from November through January

Mike Bloomberg, the multibillionaire who is self-funding his presidential bid, spent more than $409 million since entering the race in November, ramping up his spending through January on ads and hiring staff, a new federal filing shows.

In January alone, Bloomberg spent $220.6 million on his campaign, with $172 million of it (78 percent) going into television and digital ads, according to the filings and the ad spending breakdowns provided by the campaign.

Bloomberg’s other major expenses in January included $13.7 million to Hawkfish LLC, an ad tech start-up that Bloomberg founded and is now his campaign’s primary digital and tech service provider; $8 million in payroll costs for about 1,000 employees he had hired during the filing period; and $4 million on polling, data show.

The campaign staff has expanded since the end of the filing period Jan. 31, his campaign said.

“Our campaign has built a nationwide organization that is engaging voters daily about Mike’s record of taking on tough fights and winning,” campaign manager Kevin Sheekey said in a statement. “With over 2,400 staff across 43 states today, Mike is the only candidate with the record and resources to build the national infrastructure Democrats need to beat Donald Trump.”

The amount of money Bloomberg has spent on television and radio ads alone so far — more than $338.7 million — since entering the race in November has surpassed the $338.3 million record set by former president Barack Obama’s reelection campaign in the 2012 campaign on such ads, according to the ad-tracking firm Advertising Analytics.

In comparison, the six candidates still in the race who are not self-funding their campaigns (Tom Steyer’s campaign is largely self-funded) together spent $370 million in all of 2019.

6:59 p.m.
Link copied

Trump agrees that he won the Democratic debate

Trump seized Thursday on an assessment by Bloomberg at a campaign stop in Salt Lake City that the president was the “real winner” of the Democratic debate in Nevada.

“The real winner last night was Donald Trump,” Trump quoted Bloomberg as saying in a tweet in which he referred to the former New York mayor as “Mini Mike Bloomberg.”

“I agree!” Trump added in his own words.

At his campaign event, Bloomberg said his assessment was based on concern that Democrats could nominate Sanders, a move he said would amount to a “fatal error.”

6:03 p.m.
Link copied

Another poll puts Sanders on top in California

Sanders leads the Democratic field in another poll out of California, the most delegate-rich state up for grabs Super Tuesday.

A Monmouth poll released Thursday found that Sanders has the support of 24 percent of California voters likely to participate in the March 3 Democratic primary. He is followed by Biden, with 17 percent; Bloomberg, with 13 percent; Warren with 10 percent; and Buttigieg with 9 percent.

Billionaire activist Tom Steyer has 5 percent support; Klobuchar 4 percent; and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii) 2 percent.

A poll by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California released Wednesday showed Sanders with a more sizable lead over his rivals, drawing 32 percent of probable Democratic primary voters in the Golden State.

In both polls, Sanders’s strength is attributable in part to a greater appeal than his rivals among Latino voters.

In the Monmouth poll, Sanders garnered 38 percent among Latinos, with Biden, his closest rival, drawing 17 percent. Sanders held no clear advantage among white voters.

Under Democratic Party rules, candidates must win at least 15 percent of the vote statewide or in a congressional district to capture any of California’s delegates. That could bode well for Sanders if the Monmouth results hold.

“California is the big prize on Super Tuesday,” Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth poll, said. “As the poll currently stands, it’s possible that only two or three candidates reach viability in any given congressional district. That would enable Sanders to rack up half the delegates or more while only earning one-quarter of the total vote.”