The Latest: Sanders: Democrat with most delegates should win

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Protesters chant outside a campaign event for Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden at Harbor Palace Seafood Restaurant in the Chinatown neighborhood of Las Vegas, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020. The protesters wanted Biden to commit to ending deportation of undocumented immigrants within the first 100 days of his administration, should he be elected. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The latest on the 2020 presidential campaign and Democratic debat e (all times local):

8 p.m.

Bernie Sanders is the only Democratic candidate on the debate stage who thinks the candidate with the most delegates should win the party’s presidential nomination even if he or she doesn’t have a majority.

His rivals on Wednesday night in Las Vegas say the party should let the convention play out according to rules set by the party, which allow for multiple rounds of voting if a candidate is unable to get a majority of the delegates on the first round.

It sets up a clash should the primary season end without a clear winner, giving way to a contested convention. Delegates are picked up through state parties and caucuses, and party rules state a candidate needs a majority to become the nominee.

If no candidate hits that threshold initially, superdelegates would be allowed to vote on a second ballot. They include members of Congress and other party leaders. Sanders’ campaign fought in 2016 to eliminate superdelegate votes in the first stage after the majority of them sided with Hillary Clinton.

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7:45 p.m.

For his first turn on the debate stage, Mike Bloomberg’s campaign was armed and ready with releases to rebut any criticism from his fellow Democratic presidential contenders.

The former New York City mayor’s campaign on Wednesday sent out at least 10 rapid-response news releases defending and promoting Bloomberg on a variety of issues, from the controversial “stop-and-frisk” policy to his solution for amending the tax code when it comes to wealthy Americans.

Bloomberg’s campaign also blanketed Twitter with videos of women defending Bloomberg and characterizing him as respectful.

One of Wednesday night’s early skirmishes featured candidates taking Bloomberg on for refusing to release former female employees from nondisclosure agreements concerning allegations of workplace harassment.

Bloomberg, who is not competing in early voting states, has not qualified for any previous debates.

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7:40 p.m.

Several Democratic presidential contenders are clashing over whether massive wealth accumulation is un-American or something that should merely be subject to equitable tax rates.

Asked about Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ tweet that “billionaires should not exist,” Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar said during Wednesday’s Democratic debate that she supported capitalism but also an appropriate tax rate on wealth, unlike what she felt had been promoted and signed by President Donald Trump.

When Sanders argued that billionaires pay an unfairly low tax rate compared to the middle class, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg asked, “Why do you complain? Who wrote the code?”

Sanders said the United States has a “grotesque and immoral distribution of wealth and income,” noting that Bloomberg “owns more wealth than the bottom 125 million Americans.”

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7:35 p.m.

Elizabeth Warren’s fiery debate performance is paying off for her Democratic presidential campaign.

The Massachusetts senator spent much of Wednesday night’s debate in Las Vegas attacking Mike Bloomberg, the billionaire mayor of New York. But she also laid into Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, saying her health care plan was just a “Post-it Note.”

After the first hour of the debate, Caitlin Mitchell, who is chief mobilization officer for Warren’s presidential campaign, tweeted, “That, my friends, was the Warren campaign’s best hour of fundraising (asterisk)to date(asterisk). Keep it up.”

Coming off a disappointing fourth-place finish in New Hampshire, Warren has implored supporters to keep donating in order to keep her campaign strong.

She had a forgettable performance during a debate before New Hampshire’s primary but seized the spotlight in Las Vegas and caused her donations to spike.

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7:30 p.m.

Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg is defending his wealth, saying he worked very hard to become a billionaire.

The former New York mayor said at Wednesday’s debate in Las Vegas that he’s been very lucky, “made a lot of money and I’m giving it all away to make this country better, including to the Democratic Party.

Bloomberg was asked by NBC debate moderator Chuck Todd if he should have earned that much money, and the businessman responded by saying, “Yes, I worked very hard for it,” and he’s giving it away.

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7:25 p.m.

Joe Biden says that he would eliminate subsidies for oil and gas businesses and that the heads of fossil fuel companies should be held personally liable for polluting the planet.

Biden’s remarks came during a lengthy debate on Wednesday between the Democratic presidential candidates on how to tackle climate change.

Mike Bloomberg, meanwhile, says the United States needs to work with China because people in both nations are at risk from climate change. He’s talking up his funding of a Sierra Club initiative aimed at closing coal-fired power plants.

Bernie Sanders didn’t directly address how he’d respond to union workers in Pennsylvania who work in fracking, which Sanders wants to ban. Instead, he spoke broadly about the urgent need to address the climate crisis. Amy Klobuchar says she wouldn’t eliminate all fracking but would make sure all permits are carefully reviewed.

All of the candidates support rejoining an international climate agreement that President Donald Trump withdrew from.

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7:05 p.m.

Pete Buttigieg is skewering Amy Klobuchar for failing to name the Mexican president in an interview last week.

Buttigieg said during Wednesday night’s Democratic debate that the Minnesota senator is running for president based on her experience in Washington, but despite her role on committees overseeing border security and trade, she was “not able to speak to literally the first thing, the politics,” of the neighboring country by naming Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Klobuchar then asked Buttigieg: “Are you trying to say that I’m dumb? Are you mocking me, Pete?”

Elizabeth Warren defended Klobuchar and called Buttigieg’s argument “unfair.”

Warren says it’s fair to hold a candidate accountable for their policy or their take on an issue but “missing a name all by itself does not indicate that you do not understand what is going on.”

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7 p.m.

Mike Bloomberg has tried to fend off demands from several of his Democratic presidential rivals that he release former female employees from any nondisclosure agreements concerning allegations of workplace harassment.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren put Bloomberg on the spot at Wednesday night’s debate in Las Vegas, asking the former New York City mayor to release women from these agreements and saying his defense doesn’t cut it.

Bloomberg has previously been accused of fostering a hostile work environment for some female employees.

Bloomberg says he has “no tolerance” for such behavior and that he saw the agreements in question as consensual and not up to him to dissolve. He went on to say that none of the agreements “accuse me of doing anything other than, maybe they didn’t like a joke I told,” a response met with boos from the debate audience.

Former Vice President Joe Biden also said he felt Bloomberg could just say the word to release anyone from the agreements.

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6:57 p.m.

Bernie Sanders is going on the offensive, trying to head off questions about his health following a heart attack last fall.

The 78-year-old Vermont senator spent much of Wednesday’s Las Vegas debate hammering Mike Bloomberg but quipped that the billionaire former New York mayor “has two stents too.” Bloomberg shot back, “That was 25 years ago.”

Sanders had a heart attack on Oct. 1 and underwent surgery to insert two stents. Bloomberg also had stents inserted but never had a heart attack.

Sanders released three letters from doctors in December saying he was healthy enough for the rigors of the presidency. Some of his rivals, including former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, have criticized him for not being fully transparent.

On Tuesday, Buttigieg compared him to President Donald Trump for not divulging enough about his health.

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6:55 p.m.

Mike Bloomberg says he’ll release his tax returns in “a few weeks” in response to criticism from his rivals.

The multibillionaire said Wednesday during the Democratic debate that it takes “a long time” to compile his tax returns because he makes a lot of money and “can’t go to TurboTax.”

Bloomberg runs a financial data and media company. He is worth an estimated $60 billion.

All the other contenders on stage have released their tax returns.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar joked that her and her husband’s tax returns are uncomplicated enough that they could use TurboTax. She noted that President Donald Trump has refused to disclose his returns.

“I think it’s great you’ve got a lot of money, but I think you’ve got to come forward,” she said.

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6:50 p.m.

Amy Klobuchar says she thinks it’s important that evidence related to a high-profile murder case she oversaw as Minnesota prosecutor be reviewed by her successors.

Klobuchar was asked during Wednesday night’s debate how voters of color should trust her judgment after her handling of the case in which a black teen was sentenced to life after a flawed police investigation.

Questions about the Minnesota senator’s oversight of the case emerged after an Associated Press investigation into the case of Myon Burrell, who was 16 when he was apprehended in the 2002 death of an 11-year-old girl.

Klobuchar said that of the three people convicted in the case, one “was investigated by a journalist and I think it’s very important that that evidence come forward.”

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6:45 p.m.

Mike Bloomberg says the controversial “stop-and-frisk” policy represents the singular thing he’s “really worried about and embarrassed about” from his time as New York City mayor.

Bloomberg said during Wednesday night’s Democratic debate in Las Vegas that he has repeatedly apologized for the policy, which gave police wide authority to detain people they suspected of committing a crime.

Bloomberg aggressively pursued the tactic when he first took over as mayor in 2002. A federal judge found in 2013 that stop and frisk intentionally and systematically violated the civil rights of tens of thousands of people by wrongly targeting black and Hispanic men.

Bloomberg blasted the ruling at the time, calling it a “dangerous decision made by a judge who I think does not understand how policing works and what is compliant with the U.S. Constitution.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden argued that the policy stopped only after the Obama administration “sent in monitors” to observe the process.

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6:42 p.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is accusing Mike Bloomberg of denigrating former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law by calling it “a disgrace” when it was passed.

Biden said during Wednesday night’s debate that he’s the only candidate on the debate stage “who actually got anything done on health care” when he worked to get the Affordable Care Act passed, but “Mike called it a disgrace.”

Bloomberg disputed that, saying he is a fan of “Obamacare” and wrote an op-ed praising the plan.

He said he thinks Democrats should build on the plan and not try something new.

Biden again asserted that Bloomberg had criticized the law, saying, “Look it up. Check it out.”

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6:40 p.m.

The Democratic contenders are looking for clever new lines in the health care debate they keep having over and over.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren said Wednesday that Pete Buttigieg’s health care approach is “not a plan, it’s a PowerPoint,” made up of slogans thought up by consultants. And she’s called Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s plan the equivalent of a “Post-It note.”

Both Buttigieg and Klobuchar are advocating for a public option that will allow more people to access Medicare while maintaining private insurance. Warren supports transitioning to a “Medicare for All” system.

Klobuchar hit back, with a reference to the debate being in Las Vegas.

“You don’t put your money on a number that’s not even on the wheel,” she said, adding that Medicare for All does not have the support from most Democratic senators, making it a non-starter.

Health care has been one of the key flash points in the Democratic primary and has been regularly debated.

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6:35 p.m.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is “disowning” any of his supporters who lob sexist attacks online.

During Wednesday night’s debate in Las Vegas, the Vermont senator defended his supporters after leaders of the influential Culinary Union said that they’ve received attacks from some Sanders backers online and over the phone.

Of his online army, Sanders said that “99.9% of them are decent human beings,” but that “if there are a few people who make ugly remarks, who attack trade union leaders, I disown those people.”

Pete Buttigieg rebutted Sanders, challenging him to ask himself: “Why did this pattern arise? Why is it especially the case among your supporters?”

He also suggested that Sanders’ supporters were taking his lead, saying that “leadership is about what you draw out of people, it’s about how you inspire people to act.”

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6:30 p.m.

Mike Bloomberg is taking criticism from his Democratic presidential rivals over a controversial policing program while he was mayor of New York.

Bernie Sanders opened Wednesday’s debate in Las Vegas by saying the “stop and frisk” program “went after” blacks and Hispanics, allowing police to unfairly target minorities.

Former Vice President Joe Biden also criticized Bloomberg and stop and frisk.

Bloomberg didn’t mention the policing program but responded by arguing that he was in a better position to defeat President Donald Trump in November. He said of Sanders, “I don’t think there’s any chance of the senator beating President Trump.”

The former mayor has apologized for stop and frisk and said he should have acted faster to stop police from using it.

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6:25 p.m.

Pete Buttigieg says Mike Bloomberg and Bernie Sanders are “the two most polarizing figures on this stage” and the Democratic Party can’t let its presidential primary come down to those two candidates.

Buttigieg said during Wednesday night’s debate that the party shouldn’t have to choose “between a socialist who thinks capitalism is the root of all evil and the billionaire who thinks that money ought to be the root of all power.”

The former South Bend, Indiana, mayor said the choice would be between “one candidate who wants to burn this party down and another candidate who wants to buy this party out.” He said the party should instead put forth someone who “is actually a Democrat.”

Sanders shot back and said his campaign is trying to give a voice and power to working people “rather than your billionaire campaign contributors.”

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6:20 p.m.

The gloves have come off in the opening moments of the Nevada presidential debate, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren taking on Mike Bloomberg for calling “women fat broad and horse faced lesbians.”

The Massachusetts senator on Wednesday night in Las Vegas referred to comments attributed to Bloomberg in a story published online this week by The Washington Post.

Warren went on to say that four years of President Donald Trump is not “substituting one arrogant billionaire for another.”

The Democratic debate is the first to feature Bloomberg, who has opted not to compete in the four early voting states.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said the former New York City mayor’s “stop-and-frisk” policy was too polarizing for a general election candidate. Bloomberg responded by saying, “I don’t think there’s any chance whatsoever” that Sanders could defeat Trump.

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6:05 p.m.

Nearly 75,000 Democrats participated in a four-day early voting period ahead of Nevada’s caucuses on Saturday.

The Nevada Democratic Party said Wednesday that a majority of those who filled out a preference card were first-time caucus-goers.

Early voters filled out a paper ballot marking at least their top three choices for president. The results will be kept secret until the main caucuses have started on Feb. 22. Early results will be added to selections made in person at about 2,000 caucus locations around the state.

Nevada Democrats had 82 early voting sites at union halls, community centers, libraries and even the employee dining halls at several casinos on the Las Vegas strip.

Democratic officials did not report any major problems over the weekend, but party officials were overwhelmed by long lines at some caucus sites.

About 84,000 people participated in Nevada’s Democratic presidential caucuses in 2016.

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6 p.m.

Six Democratic presidential candidates have taken the stage in Las Vegas for a debate ahead of Nevada’s caucuses.

The Wednesday night debate offers former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg his debut appearance on stage. It’s the first debate he’s qualified for since entering the race in November after the Democratic National Committee adjusted some of its requirements.

Other candidates participating in the debate are former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

Sanders’ and Biden’s campaigns took aim at Bloomberg before the debate, with the former raising questions about his health and the latter pointing to his reversals on key issues. The attacks underscore how seriously Democrats are taking the former New York City mayor’s campaign, now that he’s rocketed to double-digit support in national polls and qualified to appear in debates.

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1:30 p.m.

President Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, will speak to Nevada Republican activists on Saturday as Democrats hold their caucuses.

Republicans canceled their caucuses this year and are expected to pledge the state’s national convention delegates to Trump during a central committee meeting in Pahrump. Nevada is among several states where Republicans are forgoing their typical primaries or caucuses.

The meeting is a day after Trump holds a campaign rally in Las Vegas. He’s offering a counternarrative as Democrats choose from a crowded field of candidates at some 2,000 precinct caucuses around the state Saturday. Thousands have already weighed in during four days of early voting.

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11:15 a.m.

Democratic presidential candidates are joining union members picketing outside a Las Vegas casino.

Elizabeth Warren arrived first Wednesday at the Palms Casino Resort off the Strip. Wearing red like the picketing workers of the powerful Culinary Union, Warren marched with workers. She joined in chants of “Palms Casino look around, Vegas is a union town.”

Pete Buttigieg carried a Culinary sign saying “No contract, no peace” as union officials pushed through a throng of television cameras to clear a path for him along the picket line. Amy Klobuchar carried a sign for the Teamsters.

Joe Biden wrapped an arm around Culinary leader Geoconda Argüello-Kline. Tom Steyer joined in chants of “No justice, no peace,” bobbing his head to the rhythm.

Workers at the Stations Casinos, a chain of neighborhood establishments, and the Palms have voted to join a union but are still working without contracts. The owners are billionaires Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, who are staunch supporters of President Donald Trump.

Bernie Sanders, who has feuded with union leaders after they warned members that his “Medicare for All” plan would jeopardize their vaunted health care, did not join the picket.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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