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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.

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Read our debate coverage:

Live Blog

Early on, Bernie Sanders is the focus

The start of this debate couldn't have looked more different for Mike Bloomberg.

Bloomberg, who was attacked 10 times in the first 10 minutes of last week's debate, was attacked only once in the first 10 minutes tonight.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, was attacked seven times in that time, the most of any candidate on the stage and close to half of the 15 attacks doled out early on.

Follow the latest numbers with our South Carolina debate attack tracker.

Debate begins with economy question to Sanders — but quickly derails into Russia discussion

The debate opened with a question on the economy to Sanders — but his response (as well as an ensuing response from Bloomberg) prompted the topic to quickly shift to Russian interference in elections. 

After being asked about why voters should support him, when the economy is growing under President Donald Trump, Sanders used his reply to take a shot at Bloomberg.

The economy, Sanders said, is only doing well “for Mr. Bloomberg” and “other billionaires” but that “things aren’t so good” for ordinary Americans.

Bloomberg received an immediate opportunity to respond, saying that “I think that Donald Trump thinks it would be better if he were president.”

“That’s why Russia is helping you, so you lose to him,” Bloomberg said. The line was a reference to reports that he had been briefed about efforts by the Kremlin to try to to help his presidential campaign as part of an effort to interfere with the Democratic primary and the 2020 election.

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Yang's watching — and tweeting — tonight

Buttigieg gets endorsement of S.C.'s largest paper

On Tuesday, South Carolina’s largest newspaper, The State, endorsed Buttigieg. The Columbia newspaper’s endorsement went to Buttigieg despite his lagging performance with black voters, the majority of the state’s Democratic voters.

The paper’s editorial board described Buttigieg as the type of “energetic” and “disciplined” candidate with a “powerful yet pragmatic vision” needed to challenge Trump in November.

“The Democrats need a nominee who seeks to bring Americans together based on broad common ground — and not divide them along narrow interests,” the paper’s editorial board wrote. “Among the Democratic presidential candidates, former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg is the best person to meet these challenges.”

Black voters make up more than 60 percent of South Carolina’s Democratic voters and about 30 percent of all registered voters in the state, according to census estimates from November 2018. The paper’s editorial board described developing support among black voters as Buttigieg’s “biggest challenge” and suggested that readers should evaluate Buttigieg in this area by effort, rather than outcome.

“Too often Buttigieg’s critics have ignored his substantive efforts to earn the support of black voters, and Buttigieg’s appeals to African Americans should be judged by this standard: Is his outreach genuine, and is it being undertaken in good faith?” the editorial board wrote. “We believe that it is.”

Gabby Giffords wants 'serious debate on gun violence'

Sanders 'looking forward' to 'enthusiastic support' from opponents on stage

The scene outside the debate venue

'Confessions' from South Carolina

What do South Carolinians have to say about the candidates?

On NBC News' Election Confessions, people from across the United States have shared more than 60,000 musings about the candidates, the country and its condition. Here are a few from what people in South Carolina have written.

Read the rest of the election confessions here.

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.