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.
Read our debate coverage:
- Debate begins with an economy question — but quickly derails into Russia discussion.
- Warren on Bloomberg's pregnancy discrimination denial: 'I believe the woman'
- Sanders talks Cuba comments, dismisses that he's 'radical.'
- Who won the debate?
Fact check: Obama spoke positively about Castro, too, Sanders says
Sanders took heat Tuesday night for recent comments he made about Cuba and Fidel Castro — and defended himself by invoking remarks by former President Barack Obama he says are similar.
"I have opposed authoritarianism all over the world," Sanders said, adding, "What I said is what Barack Obama said in terms of Cuba, that Cuba made progress on education. What Barack Obama said is they made great progress on education and health care, that was Barack Obama."
First, some context: Sanders sparked criticism when, during an appearance on CBS' "60 Minutes" over the weekend, he said, “We're very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba, but, you know, it's unfair to simply say everything is bad. You know? When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?”
While it's true that the literacy rate in Cuba expanded after Castro seized power, and health care expanded as well, experts told NBC News that Sanders' comments leave out key parts of the nation's history. The island was already in the top tier on both fronts when compared to other Latin American countries before 1959, according to one leading expert, and post-revolution, overall living standards, as measured by gross domestic product, declined. Additionally, Sanders in his "60 Minutes" interview failed to mention that the literacy program was a vehicle for propaganda.
Sanders, defending himself on the debate stage Tuesday night, accurately refers to remarks the former president made at an event in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2016, though Obama doesn't mention the literacy program specifically. Obama, amid a historic thawing of relations between the U.S. and Cuba, was making a broader argument about ignoring the labels of socialist or capitalist theory — "You should just decide what works," he said, before describing a conversation he had with Castro.
"And I said this to President Castro in Cuba. I said, look, you've made great progress in educating young people. Every child in Cuba gets a basic education — that's a huge improvement from where it was. Medical care— the life expectancy of Cubans is equivalent to the United States, despite it being a very poor country, because they have access to health care. That's a huge achievement. They should be congratulated. But you drive around Havana and you say this economy is not working. It looks like it did in the 1950s."
Who won the Democratic debate in South Carolina?
CHARLESTON, S.C. — Democrats threw everything but the kitchen sink at Bernie Sanders, and if the 10th debate here didn't slow his march to the nomination it's not clear anything will.
Mike Bloomberg told him Russia wants him to be the nominee so he can lose to President Donald Trump. Elizabeth Warren said she'd be a better president than him and took him to task for supporting the Senate filibuster. Joe Biden went after him for voting against gun control and floating a primary challenge against President Barack Obama in 2012. Pete Buttigieg said House Democrats are fleeing his agenda. Amy Klobuchar argued she's the most anti-Sanders candidate on stage.
At one point, Sanders offered a knowing grin.
"I'm hearing my name mentioned a little bit tonight. I wonder why?" the front-runner quipped.
Here's how the candidates performed in a debate that repeatedly descended into yelling matches rife with interruptions that captured the tension of the larger contest.
Fact check: Does every study say 'Medicare for All' would save money?
"What every study out there, conservative or progressive, says, 'Medicare for All' will save money," Sanders claimed Tuesday night.
In short, no.
Many studies do say his Medicare for All proposal would save money — Sanders likes to tout a recent study that says the system would save $450 billion a year — but other studies say it would cost more than the current system, measured as a share of gross domestic product.
Steyer says he has no plan to exit race
Steyer, talking to CBS News in the spin room, said he doesn't intend to quit the race any time soon — even though he's polling nationally around just 2 percent — adding that he can stay "as long as I want."
"I can stay along — around as long as I want. I want to be able to show that I can attract that diverse Democratic coalition that we need to pull together in November of 2020," said Steyer, a billionaire who is largely funding his own campaign.
Steyer is polling around 13 percent in South Carolina — third highest among the candidates, behind only Biden and Sanders. But his local appeal hasn't translated nationally; he has starkly lower polling numbers elsewhere and, after three primary contests, zero national delegates.
Fact check: Democrats' claims about coronavirus and Trump
Both Bloomberg and Klobuchar went after Trump for neglecting the institutions that could help the U.S. face the coronavirus threat.
"The president fired the pandemic specialist in this country two years ago. So there's nobody here to figure out what the hell we should be doing, and he's defunded Centers for Disease Control, CDC, so we don't have the organization we need," Bloomberg said.
Klobuchar said: "He tried to cut back on the CDC. He tried to cut back on the international organization that would coordinate with the rest of the world. He hasn't yet really addressed the nation on this topic."
Is this true? Bloomberg is right on one point — the White House's top pandemic official left his role on the National Security Council abruptly in May 2018, and The Washington Post reported there were no plans to replace him.
And while the president has indeed sought cuts at the CDC, as Klobuchar said, he has not defunded it, as Bloomberg claimed.
Klobuchar is also right when she said the president has not given an address or a major speech about the deadly new virus spreading around the world, although he has tweeted about his administration's response.
Buttigieg hits Sanders again: 'Anyone who disagrees with you be damned'
Buttigieg, speaking to MSNBC in the spin room, once again emphasized the "two different" visions he and Sanders were offering.
He described Sanders' vision as amounting to "anyone who disagrees with you be damned."
And he described his own as a "coalition" that would bring forth "progressive change" and do so "without further dividing the country."
Buttigieg has taken repeated aim at Sanders in recent weeks over his "Medicare for All" plan, and he has aggressively pitched himself — and his so-called "Medicare for All who want it" plan — as best suited to unite the party and the country in November.
Talking to Chris Matthews, he continued his fierce criticism of "Medicare for All."
"I don't think it's consistent with a free society to say this industry" — the private health insurance industry — "cannot exist," he said.
Warren says she's the better progressive in the race because she can bring Dems and GOP together
In her post-debate interview with CBS News, Warren pitched herself as the best candidate in the race and the best progressive — an obvious dig at Sanders, who has won two of the last three contests and the popular vote in the last three.
She said that her plans — such as anti-corruption measures and Social Security payment increases — are popular with both parties and that she has a clear plan to pay for them, which is a 2-cent wealth tax on the wealthiest Americans.
"That's how we get elected down-ballot and how we govern," she said.
She noted that she created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and fought against banks, which she said is a sign that she not only can have a plan but also can get it implemented.
"I have unshakable values, and I have a track record of getting things done," she said.
Ahead of Super Tuesday, Warren was certain she would carry her home state, Massachusetts, noting that she built a grassroots campaign there to take down an incumbent Republican.
She added that she does not expect to change her campaign strategy despite disappointing finishes in the previous contests.
"This is who I am. I am not someone whose campaign has been shaped by a bunch of consultants," she said.
Sanders attacked more than any candidate in any debate yet, except Bloomberg
Sanders felt the heat of the hot seat tonight.
Sanders faced more than 30 attacks on the stage tonight, the second-highest number leveled against a Democratic candidate in any of the debates so far.
The 33 attacks on Sanders were beaten only by the 45-attack battery that Bloomberg received last week. This week, Bloomberg was attacked often but not as often, totaling 17 attacks, almost half of them at the hands of Warren.
Sanders talks Cuba comments, dismisses idea that he's 'radical'
Sanders, speaking to CBS News in the spin room, rejected the "radical" label that many of his competitors for the Democratic nomination have slapped him with and defended his praise for the Castro regime in Cuba over its literacy efforts.
"Nothing I say is radical," Sanders said, responding to questions about whether his "Medicare for All" plan would be feasible. "The bottom line is: Do we have the guts to take on the pharmaceutical industry?"
Moments later, he was asked — again — about his recent defense of his positive remarks from the 1980s about some of Fidel Castro's policies.
"Truth is truth," Sanders said. "If someone ... teaches illiterate people to read, you're going to tell me that's a bad thing? It is not."
He added: "Cuba is an authoritarian country. I have decried authoritarianism."
Sanders has faced criticism from many Democrats, including several members of Florida's congressional delegation whose districts include large populations of Cuban-born residents who escaped the Communist regime.
Sanders was then asked in the spin room how he'd be able to compete in Florida amid that criticism.
"The way we are going to win in Florida and every other state in the country," he said, "is by talking to the issues."
In religious S.C., candidates find personal mottoes and motivation in Scripture
In a Pew Research Center religious landscape poll, 78 percent of South Carolina adults described themselves as Christians. Another 35 percent told researchers they participate in prayer, scriptural study or other religious education at least once a week.
So, many South Carolina voters likely recognized the litany of scriptural references and allusions offered up when candidates were asked during Tuesday night's debate about their personal mottoes.
Buttigieg managed three mentions, including allusions to Scripture directing those who seek to lead to serve, a reference to a popular Christian song, "Order My Steps In Your Word, Dear Lord," and a modern English interpretation of the well-known Golden Rule.
"When I think about everything at stake, from racial and economic justice to our stewardship of the climate to the need to heal the sick and the need to heal this country, I seek for those teachings to order my steps as I go through this campaign and as I go through life," Buttigieg said.
Warren offered a citation of a verse in Matthew 25:40 — "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" — as a part of her personal motto. And Steyer told viewers that he draws a Jerusalem cross on his hand daily to remind himself to "tell the truth and do what's right, no matter what."
Klobuchar talks struggles with black voters and appeal in Middle America
Klobuchar, speaking to CBS News in the so-called spin room following Tuesday’s chaotic debate, addressed one of her biggest weaknesses — poor polling among African American voters — and one of her strengths — her connection to Middle America.
An NBC News/Marist College poll out Monday showed that less than 3 percent of black voters in South Carolina support Klobuchar. She said, "I have to earn that support, and I know that."
Later in the interview, she explained why she felt she had broad appeal in parts of the country where "Medicare for All" — Sanders' signature policy — isn't supported.
"Those candidates are not for Medicare for All," she said, referring to Democratic House candidates who won their races in 2018 in swing districts. "They are in the kind of districts I win routinely."
Asked how to put together the "right coalition," she talked about focusing on economic prosperity.
"You do it by focusing on economic prosperity and shared prosperity for everyone," she said.
Biden defiant: 'I will win South Carolina'
Moments after the debate, Biden said he thought he had a strong debate performance in an interview with CBS: "I said what I had to say."
He also said he will win the South Carolina primary Saturday, even if it's a narrow victory, because of his strong support from black voters, a group that is a core constituency of the Democratic Party.
"I'm going to win," he said. "One point is enough, but I think I'm going to win by a lot more than that."
He added that the first two contests, which he performed poorly in — in Iowa and New Hampshire — did not "represent what America looks like."
He went after Sanders, saying that he will not bring out enough people — such as independents and "mainstream Democrats" — and that people don't want the "revolution" the senator from Vermont is planning.
"People want progress, not go back," he said.
He also said that Sanders has not been vetted enough and that Americans are not deeply familiar with his record, particularly his gun votes.
Fact check: Did Bloomberg release his tax returns for 12 years in a row?
"We had our tax returns out 12 years in a row," Bloomberg said during the debate while pledging the same radical transparency as president.
That's not exactly true. During his three terms as mayor of New York, Bloomberg made highly redacted, vague versions of his tax documents available to reporters for a couple of hours each year. In fact, this reporter — more than a decade ago — was one of the many who reviewed those documents and tried to glean details from the limited information provided.
'Complete chaos,' 'hot mess': GOP, Trump campaign blast debate
The Republican Party wasted no time blasting Tuesday night's debate.
"The complete chaos we saw tonight shows that none of these Democrats deserve to be anywhere near the Oval Office," Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement, released moments after the debate concluded.
"When we could hear over the crosstalk, we heard Democrats singing the same old song in support of socialism," she added.
The Trump campaign weighed in, too.
"The Democrat Party is a hot mess and tonight's debate was further evidence that not one of these candidates is serious or can stand toe-to-toe with President Trump," Trump 2020 national press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said. "The only thing that was clear in the chaos was that they're all still running on Bernie Sanders' big government socialist agenda. It doesn't matter who emerges from the carnage, President Trump will dominate in November."
Klobuchar and Biden requested a fact check. We have obliged.
In one back-and-forth, Klobuchar and Biden attacked each other over who wrote which gun control bills — and requested a fact checker take a look.
“I am the author of the 'boyfriend loophole' that says that domestic abusers can’t go out and get an AK47,” Klobuchar said.
“I wrote that law,” Biden interjected.
“You didn’t write that bill. I wrote that bill,” Klobuchar said.
“I did. I wrote the bill the Violence Against Women Act that took out of the hands of people who abused their —” Biden said.
“We’ll have a fact check look at that,” Klobuchar fired back.
“Oh, let’s look at the fact check,” Biden said. “The only thing [was] that the 'boyfriend loophole' was not covered. I couldn’t get that covered. You in fact when you were as a senator tried to get it covered and Mitch McConnell is holding up on his desk right now and we’re going to lose the Violence Against Women Act across the board.”
As a senator, Biden wrote the Violence Against Women Act, which stopped people who were convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence from buying guns. But it only covers certain relationships, like married couples or those who have children with their victim. Klobuchar wrote a bill that would close that loophole by including stalkers or dating partners who aren't already covered.
So while Biden’s off the mark in the beginning, he catches up in the end. He's right to note that the VAWA is stalled in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not acted on three gun control bills passed by the Democratic-controlled House in 2019. Last February, the House passed a law closing the “Charleston loophole,” which allows the sale of a firearm if a background check is not completed within three days. It’s a loophole that allowed Dylann Roof to obtain the weapon he used to murder nine people at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015. Last March, the House passed a bill that would expand background checks for gun purchases to include buys made at gun shows, online and other private sales.
And in April 2019, the House voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act with new language that would close the so-called boyfriend loophole Klobuchar mentioned — a change opposed by the powerful National Rifle Association.
Candidates share their personal mottoes
The candidates were asked to provide their personal mottoes.
Here is what all seven said:
Steyer: "Every day I write a cross on my hand to remind me to tell the truth and do what's right no matter what."
Klobuchar: "Politics is about improving people's lives," she said, quoting her mentor, the late Sen. Paul Wellstone.
Biden: "When you get knocked down, you get up, and everyone's entitled to be treated with dignity."
Sanders: "Everything is impossible until it happens," he said, quoting Nelson Mandela.
Warren: She quoted Matthew 25:40, saying, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it to me."
Buttigieg: "If you would be a leader, you must first be a servant," and "We should treat others the way we want to be treated."
Bloomberg: "I've trained for this job for a long time, and when I get it I'm going to do something, not just talk about it."
Biden minds the rules
In a debate with a lot of cross-talk among candidates, Biden noticed that he was the only one minding the time clock.
"Why am I stopping? No one else stops," he said. "My Catholic school training."
Going decade by decade, Buttigieg slams Sanders for Castro comments, pushes focus on future
"I am not looking forward to a scenario where it comes down to Donald Trump with his nostalgia for the social order of the 1950s and Bernie Sanders with a nostalgia for the revolutionary politics of the 1960s," Buttigieg said. "This is not about what coups were happening in the 1970s or '80s. This is about the future. This is about 2020.
"We are not going to survive or succeed, and certainly not going to win, by reliving the Cold War," he continued. "And we're not going to win these critical, critical House and Senate races if people in those races have to explain why the nominee of the Democratic Party is telling people to look at the bright side of the Castro regime."
Three's a party, seven's a crowd
We don't quite have as many people as the early debates did, but seven candidates still feels like a lot.
Many of the candidates clearly feel they haven't gotten enough time and are firing back at the moderators when told they're out of time. And other candidates can seem to disappear for particular chunks of time.
Steyer hits Trump, Republicans over Russian interference
Steyer had his strongest moment in the debate so far when he attacked Russia for interfering in the 2016 election — which was confirmed by 17 American intelligence agencies — and its purported interference this year. He also excoriated Trump and Republicans in Congress for not standing up to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
He also gave a nod to his Need to Impeach campaign, which he started before he ran for president.
"There was a hostile, foreign attack on our election last time, and the president sided with the hostile foreign power. That's why I started Need to Impeach. That's what we have to do. We have to oppose a president who sides with a hostile foreign power that commits cyberwarfare against the United States of America," Steyer said.
"That's where we are. Where are all these patriotic Republicans who wave the flag but, when we're actually under attack, they side with our enemies? It's outrageous. That's why he should have been impeached. They covered it up, and I was years before these people. There's something wrong here. We're under attack, and they're not doing a darn thing about it."
Sanders doesn’t commit when asked whether he would move embassy in Israel
Asked whether he would move the U.S. Embassy in Israel back to Tel Aviv after the Trump administration moved it to Jerusalem in May 2018, Sanders, who is Jewish, said it is "something we would take into consideration," but he didn't provide much more of an answer past that.
Trump's decision to move the embassy delighted the Israeli government but angered Palestinians and brought concerns that it could further destabilize a fraught region, and it has been a point of contention since.
Many are curious where Sanders would land. The progressive Vermont senator has received much criticism for his stance on Israel, and the recent fight he has picked with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which is considered the direct lobbying arm of the Israeli government, has only made that intrigue pick up steam.
Sanders, who has argued that the U.S. must also be supportive of a Palestinian state, said AIPAC is a platform for "leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights."
In a feisty debate, Bloomberg picks two particular targets
Bloomberg has spent the first 90 minutes of tonight's debate retaliating against Sanders and Warren, the two who have lobbed the most attacks toward him.
Mostly, Bloomberg's approach tonight has revolved around attacking Trump and saying he has what it takes to beat the president.
The only other candidate Bloomberg has attacked is Biden, who has yet to target Bloomberg. Last week, Biden attacked Bloomberg 12 times, focusing on his contentious stop-and-frisk policy when he was mayor of New York and his non-disclosure agreements with women who have worked for him.
Get the latest with the NBC News debate attack tracker.
Buttigieg refers to the rural hospital crisis
Buttigieg pointed out that states that haven't expanded Medicaid have seen higher rates of hospital closings, and he noted that those states have larger minority populations that then cannot get health care coverage. That's true, according to an Urban Institute accounting, and an outsize percentage of communities of colors in those states carry medical debt that is now in collections.
The medical debt is incurred at hospitals, which people go to in emergencies when facing dire health crises. When they don't have insurance coverage to pay for their treatment, they take on that debt, injuring their credit and economic situations long term. It also means poor rural hospitals don't receive reimbursement for treating those patients.
By refusing the Medicaid expansion that states were offered through the Affordable Care Act, the South Carolina government has rejected more than $10.5 billion since 2014, which would provide health care coverage to nearly 200,000 low-income people — many of whom are members of minority groups.
The decisions of the 15 states that have declined expansion have contributed to a rural hospital crisis in which 166 infirmaries have closed nationwide since 2005 — four alone in South Carolina — according to the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program. The crisis peaked in 2019 with the closings of 19 facilities in the U.S., and four more have shut their doors this year.
Democratic candidates slam 'great genius' Trump for botching coronavirus response
Democratic presidential candidates criticized President Donald Trump's response to the coronavirus outbreak during their debate Tuesday night, blasting budget cuts his administration has made to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and his thrashing of the U.S.'s international relationships.
"This president has not invested like he should have in his budget. He tried to cut back on the CDC. He tried to cut back on the international organizations that would coordinate with the rest of the world. He hasn't yet really addressed the nation on this topic," Amy Klobuchar said. "I would do all of that."
The question about the outbreak gave Klobuchar a chance to issue a public warning: "This is so serious I'm not going to give my website. I'm going to give the CDC's website, which is CDC.gov."
Asked how he would deal with the crisis, Biden touted his experience fighting Ebola when he was vice president and vowed to restore funding and to push China: "You have to be open. You have to be clear. We have to know what's going on."
Sanders took the opportunity to go after Trump but also used it to pivot to other issues that require international coordination, climate change in particular.
Read the full story here.
Fact check: Biden attacks Sanders' record on guns
Biden hammered Sanders over his record on guns multiple times Tuesday night, while Sanders defended himself as a reliable supporter of gun control.
"Walking distance from here is Mother Emanuel church," Biden said. "Nine people shot dead by a white supremacist. Bernie voted five times against the Brady bill and wanted a waiting period — no, let me finish — a waiting period of 12 hours."
It's true that Sanders has had a voting record that many gun control advocates consider checkered, and he has only more recently aligned with the Democratic Party on certain gun control issues. And he did vote against multiple iterations of the Brady bill, which required waiting periods for people buying guns — five times in total, according to PolitiFact.
Biden also hit Sanders for his 2005 vote to shield gun manufacturers and dealers from legal liabilities, which Sanders was asked about by a moderator.
"I have cast thousands of votes, including bad votes. That was a bad vote," Sanders said.
He went on to defend his record: "I have today a D-minus voting record from the NRA. Thirty years ago, I likely lost a race for the one seat for Congress in Vermont because 30 years ago, I opposed — I supported a ban on assault weapons."
While Sanders is right that his most recent rating from the National Rifle Association is a D-minus and that he did lose his 1988 congressional race, multiple outlets have said the reason he lost isn't so clear cut.
Bloomberg refers to coronavirus
Bloomberg is the first candidate to bring up the ongoing public health issue around the new coronavirus, about which the CDC sounded alarms earlier Tuesday.
He hit Trump for letting CDC funding lapse related to fighting global pandemics.
But that wasn't enough for Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii.
Who gets to talk about race?
Debate moderators asked some of the candidates to state their positions on race issues but left out Klobuchar, even though she has been struggling to get support from voters of color and has faced criticism on race (related to her record as a prosecutor).
Just after Steyer discussed reparations, Klobuchar, who said the country needs to elect a candidate from the Midwest, was allowed to shift to a question on rural America.
Poverty, particularly among children, remains high
Klobuchar, a senator from Minnesota who has described herself as a champion for often forgotten parts of America, made one of the debate's only references to rural and child poverty Tuesday night.
In South Carolina, a state with many rural communities, about 15 percent of the population lives in poverty, compared to about 12 percent of people nationwide, according to census data. But poverty is an even more pronounced experience for children. While about 16 percent of all children in the United States live in poverty, almost 23 percent of children in South Carolina do so, according to a 2019 Children’s Defense Fund analysis of census data.
Nobody puts Biden in a corner
After Biden gave a forceful (and detailed) answer about how to directly address specific issues affecting black Americans, he criticized the moderators for cutting him off.
"I'm not going to be quiet anymore, OK?" he said.
Biden was quiet during the initial moments of the debate, but as it went on it, he became sharper and more aggressive in his answers.
Know who's not making his presence felt tonight?
President Donald Trump, a frequent target at previous debates, has been attacked by candidates on the debate stage four times in the first hour tonight. At this rate, the debate will tally the fewest attacks on Trump of any debate so far.
ANALYSIS: Ending the filibuster is a good news, bad news proposition
For Democrats, the good news about killing the filibuster is that it would make it easier to pass their agenda.
The bad news — as they might be able to have gleaned from the Trump administration — is that it would make it easier for Republicans to repeal whatever they pass in the future.
For a party that has prided itself on progressive legislating — from Social Security and Medicare to civil rights — the prospects of turning back the clock with a 51-seat Republican majority in the future might seem like a risk.
But then again, without it, two anti-abortion bills would have passed the Senate today.
The allure of jamming a particular Democratic president's plans through the Senate is usually stronger for that president than for the members of the Senate — even from his or her party — who plan to remain in their jobs longer than four or eight years.
The president doesn't have a vote on lowering or eliminating the filibuster threshold. The senators who do aren't likely to support it.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Fact check: Bloomberg claims stop-and-frisk 'got out control,' so he cut it back
Bloomberg again claimed that he reined in the use of stop-and-frisk after it got "out of control" when he was mayor of New York.
"We let it get out of control, and when I realized that, I cut it back by 95 percent, and I've apologized and asked for forgiveness," he said.
This is still a false representation. Bloomberg championed and expanded the stop-and-frisk policing practice — the strategy that gave police the authority to detain people suspected of committing a crime, which led to a practice of stopping mostly black and Hispanic men — during his three terms of mayor.
The practice was scaled back significantly thanks to a 2013 court order declaring the policy unconstitutional, not Bloomberg's change of heart.
Analysis: A train wreck
So far, the debate is a train wreck for Democrats — candidates slinging rocks at one another and moderators having lost any or all control.
Most of the candidates have accused Sanders, the front-runner, of promoting an agenda that would lose the election and destroy their party up and down the ballot.
Several said Bloomberg's "stop and frisk" policy when he was mayor of New York was "racist."
Bloomberg himself almost said he "bought" the Democratic Congress before he corrected himself and said he "got" the Democratic Congress. Warren pointed to Bloomberg's contributions to Republican lawmakers.
They all yelled to be heard.
No one looked good in the first half-hour.
Biden stays quiet, then gets mad
Biden, the former frontrunner, was somewhat absent during the first moments of the debate. But came out strong when he told the other candidate to shut up so he could speak. He hit Steyer over his support of private prisons and shut down Sanders when he tried to chime in, which earned his cheers from the debate hall.
A strong performance ahead of the primary could help him and, before now, he had only attacked Sanders over guns and forcefully declared that he will win the South Carolina primary, which his campaign has dubbed his firewall.
In the Nevada debate, Biden had a strong performance and came in second place in the Nevada caucuses. In South Carolina, his black support has been chipped away at by other candidates. If he sits back and lets the others attack will it allow him to go into the primary without many bruises or will it make him look feeble to voters here who wants a fighter against Trump? We’ll see.
Health care reruns
This is the 10th Democratic debate, and the candidates are arguing over the math of health care plans ... again. Feels like the same exchange could have happened in the first debate — and it probably did. But this is South Carolina, where health care is a critical issue for the electorate.
Biden and the black vote. It’s make or break.
Asked about his sliding polling numbers with black voters, Biden vowed to win South Carolina.
“I’ve worked like the devil to earn the vote in the African American community,” Biden said. “I intend to win South Carolina and I will win the African American vote here in South Carolina.”
Biden, once considered the front-runner in the Democratic presidential primary race, has seen his standing slide as overwhelmingly white electorates in Iowa and New Hampshire handed more votes to candidates like Buttigieg and Klobuchar. In Nevada, Sanders' success with Latino voters has been credited with securing a victory in that state’s caucus last week.
Biden’s campaign needs both the narrative and fundraising boost that could come with a victory in South Carolina. And, due to the state’s demographics, the key to such a victory could lie with black voters.
Warren rips into Bloomberg — again
Warren used her first substantial speaking time at Tuesday night’s debate to slam Bloomberg, saying that his past support of Republicans amounts to being the “riskiest candidate” on the stage and a candidate unworthy of Democratic voters’ trust.
“Who funded Lindsey Graham’s campaign for re-election last time? It was Mayor Bloomberg. And that’s not the only right-wing senators he has funded,” Bloomberg said.
She also referred to his backing of Scott Brown, Warren’s competition in the 2012 Senate election.
“It didn’t work, but he tried hard,” she said.
“I don't care how much money Mayor Bloomberg has. The core of the Democratic Party will never trust him. He has not earned their trust,” Warren said. “He is the riskiest candidate on this stage.”
Warren also opened her speaking time in last week’s debate in Las Vegas with a scorching attack on Bloomberg.
Bloomberg parries on stop-and-frisk
Bloomberg was once again asked about stop-and-frisk, a policy that overwhelmingly targeted minorities and was ended by a federal judge. He apologized for the policy, but pivoted to ones that have made New York City safer.
Buttigieg criticized Bloomberg and said the policy was racist. He said that South Bend, Indiana, has had its own issues with race and that it’s important to be more conscious about racial inequality.
Bloomberg tried to atone, saying he “knows that my success would have been a lot harder to achieve” if he were black.
Fact check: Is half of America living paycheck to paycheck?
Sanders argued that the economy wasn't working for working people Tuesday, claiming that “real wage increases” were less than 1 percent for the average worker and that “half of our people are living paycheck to paycheck.” Is he right?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, real average hourly earnings increased 0.6 percent for the year that ended in 2019. Meanwhile, it's true that several studies have found that roughly half of all Americans live paycheck to paycheck — here’s one from this year and another from last year.
Buttigieg says Russia wants ‘chaos’ — experts say he’s right
Buttigieg jumped in on Bloomberg bringing up claims that Russia and Putin are backing Sanders. Buttigieg says Russia doesn’t have a party, it wants “chaos.”
This is also what many national security experts say.
“The only thing we should assume to know for sure is that Putin and the Kremlin, with a singular influence campaign employed headed into the 2016 election, have continued to sow discord in America ever since and have achieved a strategic victory against the U.S. that continues to provide returns today,” wrote Clint Watts, a former FBI special agent and current MSNBC contributor.
Amy Klobuchar gets onto the board after more than 15 minutes.
Warren goes straight after Sanders
Warren, after a strong debate performance in Nevada last week attacking Bloomberg, went straight for Sanders, the new front-runner, saying she is the better progressive because she can actually get her agenda enacted.
She said the party needs “someone who digs into the details," and while Sanders' people trashed her plans, his plans do not have details or a blueprint to get enacted.
Warren's going after Sanders is important because her campaign has been struggling and is often viewed as the alternative to Sanders but has not garnered the same momentum as his campaign.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
5 things to watch on Tuesday night: Will Biden's firewall hold?
Six days after former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg faced a less-than-warm welcome from rivals during his first time on the debate stage in Las Vegas, there's a new target on their minds: Bernie Sanders. The Vermont senator crushed his nearest rival by more than 25 points in Nevada and demonstrated his broad appeal in the party.
Joe Biden, who came second in the Silver State, has to prove his strength in South Carolina or it could all be over for him. It's the first majority-black electorate on the calendar, and every Democratic presidential nominee since 1992 has won African-American voters. So far, Biden has been their preferred candidate, but his support has shrunk after poor showings in early states.
And Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren, two favorites of white college graduates, have yet to prove they can win black or Latino voters. They loom large in South Carolina on Saturday and the 14 states that will vote three days later on Super Tuesday, when about a third of the delegates to the Democratic National Convention will be awarded.
Everything you need to know about the South Carolina debate
The Democratic presidential candidates will debate for the second time in a week Tuesday in South Carolina, where Mike Bloomberg will try to rebound from his widely panned debate debut in Las Vegas.
The former New York City mayor won't be the only billionaire on the stage — Tom Steyer, who didn't qualify for the Nevada debate, hit the polling benchmark Sunday to make the stage in Charleston.
The debate is the 10th of the presidential primary cycle and the last ahead of Saturday's primary vote in the Palmetto State. It's also the final debate before Super Tuesday on March 3, when 14 states and one U.S. territory will turn out to vote.