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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

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.

Warren's 'angry' — and she owns it

Some candidates do better than the polls and others worse. We break it down.

Pre-election polls are more important this primary election cycle than ever before.

Last week, Michael Bloomberg was given a place on the debate stage in Las Vegas because of his rising support in pre-election polls. Polls provide more than just interesting talking points — they can have direct consequences for candidates' futures.

With the first three Democratic Party contests of the season behind us, it's worth looking at how well pre-election polls have done so far at predicting candidates' support on Election Day.

Read the full story.

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.