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

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

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

Bloomberg eager to talk about anti-gun push

During the discussion about guns, Bloomberg eagerly raised his hand and shut down Buttigieg. He eagerly reminded the audience that he has funded an organization with 6 million people who work on anti-gun legislation called Moms Demand Action.

Sanders, Bloomberg getting the brunt of it

The Vermont senator has fielded 23 attacks in the first 45 minutes tonight. That's one more than the number of times he was targeted all night in last week's Nevada debate.

Onstage, Sanders' competitors have alluded to his "Medicare for All" plan and its lack of a price tag, and they have labeled him the most polarizing candidate among them.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg has also taken hits, albeit in Sanders' shadow. The former mayor of New York has fielded 13 attacks so far tonight, many of them from Warren regarding his non-disclosure agreements with women who have worked for him.

Follow the latest play-by-play with our debate attack tracker.

Bloomberg hit on NDAs again. What's an NDA, anyway?

Bloomberg told voters watching Tuesday night's debate that he had likely made the country better in the last week by taking a new position on non-disclosure agreements, more commonly known as NDAs.

After a bruising exchange on the Nevada debate stage last week — during which Warren called on Bloomberg to release all current and former employees from NDAs — Bloomberg did move to release three women from such agreements. On Friday,  Bloomberg, CEO of Bloomberg LP, also announced that the company will stop using NDAs in cases involving allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination.

Over 33 percent of the American workforce has signed non-disclosure agreements in settlements with employers or as requirements of accepting or maintaining jobs. The agreements, typically between individuals and employers, organization or institutions, usually mandate that those who sign them avoid speaking publicly about their experiences or the terms of any settlement agreement.

Fact check: Did two states kick hundreds of thousands of people off the voting rolls?

"Wisconsin has kicked hundreds of thousands of people off of their voting rolls. Georgia kicked 100,000 off," Klobuchar said Tuesday.

What's she talking about?

It's true that Georgia recently purged 100,000 inactive voters from the voting rolls, but Wisconsin hasn't yet actually completed its purge yet: The registrations of more than 200,000 Wisconsin voters are caught up in litigation, and an appeals court put the planned purge on hold last month.

It's important to note that purges — the elimination of inactive voters from the rolls — are a normal part of roll maintenance. Voting rights activists say purges must be done carefully, however, so active voters aren't caught up in them. There is some indication that the proposed Wisconsin purge and Georgia's aggressive purges are indeed catching active voters.

We apologize, this video has expired.

Warren, Buttigieg take Sanders to task for embracing the filibuster

The candidates in most every debate have focused on their plans but not necessarily on how to get them through Congress.

We're hearing a bit more on that tonight. Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg took aim at Democratic front-runner Bernie Sanders on Tuesday for refusing to support the elimination of the 60-vote rule to pass legislation in the Senate — a rare issue on which he's out of step with many progressive activists.

At the debate here four days before the South Carolina presidential primary Saturday, Warren, a senator from Massachusetts, said scrapping the filibuster and allowing legislation to pass by simple majority votes is essential to "get something done" in the Senate over the objections of Republicans and powerful industry groups.

"I've been in the Senate, and I've seen gun safety legislation introduced, get a majority and then doesn't pass because of the filibuster," Warren said. "Understand this: The filibuster is giving a veto to the gun industry. It gives a veto to the oil industry. It's going to give a veto on immigration."

Buttigieg grabbed an opening to attack Sanders as too much of an institutionalist for his support of the filibuster.

"This is a current bad position that Bernie holds," Buttigieg said. "It has got to go. Otherwise, Washington would not deliver."

WATCH: Warren hits Bloomberg over alleged abortion comment to employee

We apologize, this video has expired.

Plenty of fireworks, and we haven't even had Amy vs. Pete

Warren vs. Bloomberg is making a run at the title of most contentious debate dynamic, but it feels like just a matter of time until Klobuchar and Buttigieg square off as they've done in just about every other debate.

But unlike last time, they're not standing right next to each other. With a few candidates between them, maybe the buffer will cool things off.

Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden during the Democratic presidential primary debate on Feb. 25, 2020 in Charleston, S. C.Win McNamee / Getty Images

Where are the moderators?

A half-hour into the debate and CBS moderators Norah O'Donnell and Gayle King are noticeably hands off compared to the moderators of previous debates.

This wide-open discussion is encouraging the candidates to shout over one another, with several speaking for long periods of time after elbowing their way back into the conversation.

Another nasty exchange between Sanders and Bloomberg

The growing spat between Sanders and Bloomberg escalated with a pair of tit-for-tat attack lines delivered by both candidates during their umpteenth nasty exchange Tuesday night. 

"We will elect Bernie, Bernie will lose to Donald Trump," Bloomberg said, laying out his vision for what would follow if Sanders wins the Democratic nomination. He added that if Sanders leads the ticket, the Senate, the House and "some of the statehouses ... will all go red."

"For 20 years we are going to live with this catastrophe," Bloomberg said.

Sanders was ready to hit back, slamming Bloomberg for having a "solid and strong and enthusiastic base of support."

"The problem is they're all billionaires," he added.

Bloomberg hit for donating to Republican campaigns

While Bloomberg has dedicated much of his fortune to Democratic causes, the former mayor of New York has recently gotten flack — especially from Warren — for donating to Republican candidates. 

The biggest criticism is the money Bloomberg donated to Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who faced a tough re-election campaign in 2016. Bloomberg donated nearly $12 million to get Toomey re-elected because he had pushed to expand background checks, a key gun control item Bloomberg had pushed for through his nonprofit Everytown for Gun Safety. 

Toomey won re-election by less than 2 percentage points, and Donald Trump won Pennsylvania by less than a percentage point, leading to a fair amount of finger-pointing at the mayor in 2020. 

Bloomberg — a former Republican who became an independent and then a Democrat — has in the past donated to more than a few Republican causes. Often, it appears, this was to further his own policy priorities. That hasn't helped him gain trust among some Democrats.