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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

Sanders' comments leave out crucial parts of Cuba's history, Cuban Americans, scholars say

Carmen Peláez, a Cuban American playwright, filmmaker and active Democrat, said she was “gobsmacked” when she heard presidential candidate Bernie Sanders praise Cuba’s education and health care system during a "60 Minutes" interview Sunday night.

“I was amazed he was arrogant enough to equivocate on behalf of a Communist revolution, considering he needs Florida to win,” said Peláez, whose parents fled Cuba in the 1960s. “Today, I know I can’t vote for Sanders."

Sanders’ comments on Cuba have created uproar and outrage in Florida, one of the most important battleground states in the country. Many Cubans in the United States say Sanders’ portrayal of 1960s Cuba does not paint the entire picture of what was really unfolding in the country at the time.

During the "60 Minutes" interview, Sanders defended comments he made in 1985 saying Cubans did not join the U.S. in overthrowing Castro during the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion because he educated kids, gave them health care, and “totally transformed society.” At a CNN town hall Monday night, Sanders was asked if he wanted to respond to the criticism, but he doubled down on his previous comments.

Read the full story here.

After unloading on Sanders, Hillary Clinton walks back not committing to him as nominee

Hillary Clinton on Tuesday night walked back scathing comments in which she would not commit to backing Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., as the Democratic presidential nominee and said "nobody likes him."

"He was in Congress for years," Clinton says in the soon-to-be-released four-part Hulu documentary "Hillary," The Hollywood Reporter said in a report on Tuesday. "He had one senator support him. Nobody likes him. Nobody wants to work with him. He got nothing done. He was a career politician. It's all just baloney, and I feel so bad that people got sucked into it."

Asked by the publication in an interview released Tuesday whether her assessment still stands, Clinton said, "Yes, it does." And she would not commit to endorsing Sanders, who backed her as the Democratic nominee following the 2016 primaries, if he becomes the Democratic nominee.

But Tuesday evening, Clinton amended her comments. Read what she said here.

Bloomberg says he's shown he can beat Trump

Bloomberg has a plan to turn around his debate fortunes: hammer Bernie Sanders

Billionaire ex-New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg has a plan to improve his performance after what was widely panned as a subpar showing during last week's Democratic primary debate. The strategy: make Tuesday's contest all about Bernie Sanders.

A top Bloomberg campaign official who spoke with NBC News said the debate "is definitely going to be about Bernie Sanders" after the Democratic frontrunner scored a commanding victory in Nevada and has skyrocketed ahead of the rest of the field in recent national polling.

"It's everyone's last opportunity to really hold him accountable and really challenge his record," the aide said of the last debate before the pivotal Super Tuesday contest. "And so we have to take on the front-runner on that stage. And that's Bernie."

Read how Bloomberg plans to target Sanders at the debate.

Warren finally took on Sanders, but it may be too late

Elizabeth Warren's longstanding truce with Bernie Sanders came apart in the days before the Nevada caucuses. But the push came too late, with her campaign now on life-support after disappointing finishes in the first three states to vote.

Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont, won a dominant victory in Nevada on Saturday, with Warren coming in fourth after she spent the preceding week throwing caution to the wind, for the first time making an explicit case for why Sanders should not be the Democratic presidential nominee.

She took him to task for a lack of transparency on his health records, for the ugly behavior of some of his supporters, for refusing to call for abolishing the Senate filibuster, and for his campaign's negativity toward others on "Medicare for All." She even criticized him by name after months of contrasts that were too subtle to make an impression on many voters.

Some Democrats wonder why she waited so long.

Read the full story.

Six reasons why Bernie Sanders became the Democratic front-runner

Our new NBC News/Marist poll of South Carolina captures all of the different ingredients that could result in Bernie Sanders wrapping up the Democratic nomination in just a month.

One, you have the winner of Iowa and close second-place finisher of New Hampshire (Pete Buttigieg) sitting at just 4 percent among likely African-American Democratic primary voters. Call it the Reverse Obama — the Iowa winner unable to play in the South and with African American voters.

Two, you have the slight Democratic leader in South Carolina (Joe Biden) at just 27 percent among all likely South Carolina Democratic primary voters after his fourth place in Iowa and fifth in New Hampshire — much lower than Hillary Clinton’s 74 percent that carried this state in 2016.

Three, you have one billionaire without a single delegate so far (Tom Steyer) at 15 percent and peeling away support from Biden — after spending some $20 million over the South Carolina airwaves.

Read the reasons why Sanders leads.

Klobuchar's new delegate strategy focuses on going smaller

With the South Carolina primary just five days away, Amy Klobuchar is taking her presidential campaign to states that won't vote for at least another week.

And while other candidates are working to shore up support ahead of Super Tuesday on March 3 by making stops in bigger states with large delegate hauls, like California and Texas, Klobuchar's campaign has made a different calculation to try to stay viable — go small.

Over 36 hours early this week, Klobuchar held public events in her home state, Minnesota, where she's leading in polls, North Dakota (which doesn't caucus until March 10) and in the additional Super Tuesday states of Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Read more about the senator's strategy.