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South Carolina Democratic debate live updates: Candidates faced off in Charleston

The 10th Democratic debate was the last before the nominating contests in South Carolina on Saturday and 14 other states on Super Tuesday.
Image: Seven Democratic candidates will take the stage in a primary debate in South Carolina on Feb. 25, 2020.
Seven Democratic candidates will take the stage in a primary debate in South Carolina on Feb. 25, 2020.Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

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The leading Democratic presidential candidates came out swinging at the party's 10th debate in Charleston, South Carolina, on Tuesday night.

The debate quickly descended into chaos as the current front-runner, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, faced a torrent of attacks from all sides, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren confronted former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg over his treatment of women, and several of the candidates literally shouted over each other about health care.

The two-hour debate, co-hosted by CBS News and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute, is the final verbal bout before the candidates head into South Carolina's primary on Saturday and the Super Tuesday nominating contests of 14 states on March 3, where more than a third of Democratic National Convention delegates are up for grabs.

Download the NBC News app for full politics coverage.

Read our debate coverage:

Live Blog

NBC News poll: Biden holds narrow lead over Sanders in South Carolina

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are locked in a tight contest in South Carolina, according to a new NBC News/Marist poll ahead of the state’s Feb. 29 Democratic primary.

Biden gets the support of 27 percent of likely Democratic primary voters in South Carolina, while Sanders gets 23 percent — well within the poll’s margin of error of plus-minus 6 percentage points.

They’re followed by Tom Steyer at 15 percent, Pete Buttigieg at 9 percent, Elizabeth Warren at 8 percent and Amy Klobuchar at 5 percent.

Read the full results.

Bloomberg surrogates preview debate tactics against Sanders

Hours ahead of the Democratic debate in South Carolina, surrogates for former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg held a press conference targeting Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and the need for him to be “vetted” now that he’s a “front-runner.”

Rep. Greg Meeks, D-N.Y., Columbia, S.C. Mayor Steve Benjamin, Augusta, Ga. Mayor Hardie Davis, former Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and former Flint, Mich. Mayor Karen Weaver — all elected officials of color — slammed Sanders for his record, particularly on gun control.

“We need a candidate who's fully vetted that can go on to defeat Donald Trump. We don't believe that Senator Sanders has passed this test,” said Benjamin.

All of the speakers at the press conference hit Sanders’ multiple votes against the Brady bill, legislation which required a waiting period for gun purchases and background checks.

Joe Biden, who's looking to come out strong in the upcoming South Carolina primary after disappointing early finishes, also hit Sanders on the issue.

Read more here.

How Elizabeth Warren is surviving the campaign trail

Elizabeth Warren has back-burnered the unity pitch after disappointing finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire in favor of hammering Mike Bloomberg at the last debate in Las Vegas, which earned rave reviews and an influx of campaign cash but didn't lead to a win in Nevada.

Warren will have another shot at Bloomberg in Tuesday's debate in Charleston, South Carolina, but she was never expected to do particularly well in the state's primary on Saturday, although she can hope for better on Super Tuesday, March 3.

Warren will need a lot more help to regain a clear path to the nomination, and despite the outreach, has received the endorsement of only one former candidate, Julián Castro; Sanders, in contrast, has endorsements from two ex-2020 contenders (New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Marianne Williamson), as does former Vice President Joe Biden (Reps. Tim Ryan of Ohio and Seth Moulton of Massachusetts).

But she takes joy in little moments, like when people on her staff noticed that a recently hired former aide to Kamala Harris still had a "Kamala" sticker on the back of her phone. "Someone laughed and said, 'You're supposed to replace that with a Warren sticker.' And my view was, no, it's OK. It is a part of the energy that they bring to our team," Warren said.

Read more about Warren's life on the trail here.

How previous Dems won South Carolina and the nomination

As 2020 candidates prepare for the South Carolina Democratic primary Saturday, the focus is on black voters, a growing base for the party in the Palmetto State and a key voting bloc for eventual party nominees in past elections. The demographic makes up about two-thirds of the state's Democratic electorate. 

Every Democratic winner in South Carolina’s primary since 1992 has ultimately become the party’s nominee except for John Edwards. Though Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders leads the 2020 field in delegates after first and second place finishes in multiple early states, he'll likely need to overcome his past challenges in South Carolina to clear his path to the nomination.

Read more here.

Missed the last debate? Here's what you need to know

If you didn't catch last week's Democratic debate in Nevada, here's what you missed:

Mike Bloomberg became a piñata, and Elizabeth Warren resurrected her feisty side. The Democratic candidates formed a circular firing squad Wednesday night, with arrows flying in all directions and fights breaking out among a seemingly infinite permutation of candidates on matters from health care policy to lewd comments about women.

Here's a look at who was the most aggressive, who took the toughest punches and who missed their marks over the course of the debate, which was hosted by NBC News, MSNBC, Telemundo and The Nevada Independent.

Read who won and lost the debate here or check out full debate coverage here.

Biden clinches support from all House Dems from North Carolina

In the race to Super Tuesday, former Vice President Joe Biden has an advantage at least when it comes down to congressional endorsements across the 14 states voting next week. On Tuesday, Biden clinched all three Democratic House members from North Carolina when Rep. David Price joined fellow Reps. G.K. Butterfield and Alma Adams. 

And that endorsement comes as Biden tries to indicate he has the best chance to stop Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary contest. 

Biden has a total of 48 congressional endorsers from both the House and the Senate, according to NBC News’ count, including 20 from Super Tuesday states alone, making him the most endorsed Democratic presidential candidate by members of Congress. NBC News has also learned that South Carolina heavyweight House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn is expected to endorse Biden on Wednesday, bringing his total count of congressional endorsers to 49.

Read more here.

Biden gains momentum, key South Carolina endorsement

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Former Vice President Joe Biden will finish second in the Nevada Democratic presidential caucuses, NBC News projected Sunday night, and will likely earn seven national convention delegates.

The second-place finish, added to the endorsement of South Carolina's top Democrat, Rep. Jim Clyburn — which will come Wednesday, NBC News has learned — will give Biden momentum heading into this week's South Carolina primary.

Official backing from Clyburn, colloquially known as the "South Carolina Kingmaker" for his heavy influence in the state's Democratic politics, could help cement what Biden has predicted would be a first-place finish in South Carolina. Clyburn, who as majority whip is the third-ranking Democrat in the House, will formally endorse Biden ahead of the primary at an event Wednesday, according to two people with firsthand knowledge.

He is the highest-ranking person in House leadership to have backed Biden's candidacy to date.

Read more here.

Unstoppable? Bernie Sanders heads into South Carolina stronger than ever

Bernie Sanders is heading to South Carolina, the state that broke him in 2016, stronger than ever after a razor-thin second-place finish in Iowa and wins in New Hampshire and Nevada.

"I just think there's one big, huge, screaming story here tonight, and that is that there is a front-runner in the 2020 Democratic presidential race," veteran Democratic strategist James Carville, a vocal critic of Sanders, said on MSNBC. "We're in a whole new ballgame here, and ... some of these candidates are going to have to make really hard decisions about who stays in and who gets out and where we go from here."

But the heat will be on like never before for Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont who describes himself as a democratic socialist, as his doubters and detractors scramble to try to stop him and the race's former front-runner, Joe Biden, tries to reclaim that position with a second-place showing in Nevada and a promise to win South Carolina.

"We're alive, we're coming back, and we're going to win," Biden told supporters at a union hall in Las Vegas. "I ain't a socialist. I ain't a plutocrat. I'm a Democrat — and proud of it."

Read more here.