South Carolina Democratic Debate

Live Analysis And Fact Check

Get Caught Up

In Tuesday night’s debate, Sen. Bernie Sanders was under pressure from many rivals for the cost of his agenda, his past record on guns, whether his nomination would cost the Democratic Party seats in Congress and other issues.

Sanders led the night for the most speaking time, outpacing Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who held the title at the halfway mark.

The candidates also criticized the administration’s coronavirus response, and President Trump may have seen it.

Sanders Ends The Debate With The Most Speaking Time

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders ends tonight’s 10th Democratic debate with the most speaking time, finishing the night at 15 minutes and 3 seconds.

Sanders goes into the South Carolina primary on Saturday as the party’s front-runner, which made him a target during tonight’s debate, fielding questions about his past voting record on gun policy and his ability to pay for “Medicare for All.”

After Sanders, the majority of the candidates fell within a two-minute band of speaking time ranging between 13 minutes and 29 seconds and 11 minutes and 44 seconds.

Billionaire businessman Tom Steyer spoke the least, at 7 minutes clean. Steyer has spent the most time and money in South Carolina.

↑ Back to top

Misconceptions And Mottoes

As the debate drew to a close, moderator Gayle King asked the candidates what the biggest misconceptions about them were and what their personal mottoes were. Here are their answers:

Tom Steyer

  • Misconception: The biggest misconception about me is that I’m defined by business success and money.
  • Motto: To tell the truth and do what’s right, no matter what.

Amy Klobuchar

  • Misconception: I’m boring, ‘cause I’m not.
  • Motto: Klobuchar quoted the late Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone: “Politics is about improving people’s lives.”

Joe Biden

  • Misconception: I have more hair than I think I do.
  • Motto: Everyone’s entitled to be treated with dignity no matter what.

Bernie Sanders

  • Misconception: The ideas I’m talking about are radical. They’re not.
  • Motto: Sanders paraphrased a quote from the late South African President Nelson Mandela: “Everything is impossible until it happens.”

Elizabeth Warren

  • Misconception: I don’t eat very much. In fact, I eat all the time.
  • Motto: Quotes from the Bible (Matthew 25). This is about how we treat other people and how we lift them up.

Pete Buttigieg

  • Misconception: I’m not passionate. I get that I’m kind of level. Some say unflappable. I don’t think you want a president who’s flappable.
  • Motto: I seek to live by the teachings that say that if you would be a leader, you must first be a servant.

Mike Bloomberg

  • Misconception: That I’m 6 feet tall.
  • Motto: I’ve been training for this job for a long time. And when I get it, I’m going to do something rather than just talk about it.
↑ Back to top
Fact check

Are New Yorkers Living Longer?

Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg claimed that New Yorkers are living longer because of his policies.

“Before I left, life expectancy in New York City had grown by three years during our 12 years in office, such that when I left, it was three years greater than the national average,” Bloomberg said.

According to data from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, from 1987 to 2009, New Yorkers did live three years longer than the national average.

That said, Bloomberg served as mayor of New York City from 2002 to 2013, and although some researchers do credit city officials’ policies to take away unhealthy choices, there was a similar trend before and after his time as mayor.

2019 data from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene obtained by The Wall Street Journal show that New Yorkers still live, on average, 2.5 years longer than the national average.

Maybe it’s something in the water?

↑ Back to top

Biden Defends Obama Actions On 2016 Russian Meddling

Former Vice President Joe Biden defended the Obama administration against criticism that it didn’t do enough to respond to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

That was the recent conclusion of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which found that then-President Obama and his team were “frozen by ‘paralysis of analysis’ ” and “hamstrung by constraints both real and perceived.”

"Theoretically, that’s true, but the fact of the matter is, we didn’t have the information until the end,” Biden said, explaining that Obama officials were rebuffed by the intelligence committee and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell when they asked for support to point out the interference.

Biden said Russia should face economic sanctions for meddling in the 2020 race. "They are engaged now as I speak in interfering in our election,” he said.

↑ Back to top

Sanders: Obama Said The Same Thing I Did On Cuba’s Literacy Program

Sen. Bernie Sanders has faced persistent questions about whether nominating a self-avowed democratic socialist is a good idea for the Democratic Party.

Recent comments he made to CBS’ 60 Minutes have only added to this debate — and led to new scrutiny about his travels in the 1980s to communist countries while he was mayor of Burlington, Vt.

On CBS, Sanders criticized deceased Cuban leader Fidel Castro for the “authoritarian” nature of his communist regime but also praised his government’s literacy program.

“Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?” Sanders asked.

His comments have raised some hackles in South Florida, which is home to thousands of politically active Cuban American exiles.

“I’m totally disgusted and insulted,” Lourdes Diaz, the president of the Democratic Hispanic Caucus in Broward County, Fla., told The New York Times.

On the debate stage tonight, Sanders made it clear that he has “opposed authoritarianism all over the world,” and he likened his Cuba comments to something former President Barack Obama said.

“Look, you’ve made great progress in educating young people,” Obama recounted that he told Castro during a 2016 town hall in Argentina — a video of which was shared by the Sanders campaign just now.

Sanders has also compared his visits to leftist nations — and his comments about Castro’s regime — with President Trump’s support for various authoritarian leaders.

“I do not think that [North Korean leader] Kim Jong Un is a good friend. I don’t trade love letters with a murdering dictator,” Sanders said on 60 Minutes. “[Russian President] Vladimir Putin, not a great friend of mine.”

↑ Back to top

Coronavirus Fears Turn Political

President Trump has been paying close attention to the stock market sell-off that was sparked by fears of the new coronavirus spreading around the world and how that could hurt the global economy. And on Tuesday night, he also seemed to be watching what Democratic candidates were saying about it.

The debate came as federal health officials newly warned that Americans should prepare for disruptions such as travel restrictions, school closures and workplace shutdowns if the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus worsens in the United States.

Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg was quick to blame Trump for the market panic. "The stock market is falling apart because people are really worried, and they should be," Bloomberg said, noting the 2018 departure of a public health adviser from the National Security Council. “There’s nobody here to figure out what the hell we should be doing,” Bloomberg said.

Several candidates complained that Trump has tried to cut funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is managing the response to the outbreak. Trump this week asked Congress for $2.5 billion to help address the challenge. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar gave out the CDC’s website address and urged Americans to be prepared.

Reporters traveling on Air Force One as it flew back from India noted that televisions on the plane were tuned to the debate. Trump live-tweeted his defense, saying his administration is “doing a GREAT job” handling the crisis and noting, “by the way, we have not had one death. Let’s keep it that way!”

↑ Back to top

Is Trump Watching The Debate?

Around the time Democrats onstage were criticizing the administration’s response to the coronavirus disease COVID-19, President Trump tweeted to argue that such criticism is unfair.

It raises the question of whether Trump is tuning in as he travels across the globe on his way back from a visit to India. Air Force One took off from a refueling stop in Germany at around 9:15 p.m. ET, and the press pool traveling with Trump reported that the debate is on televisions on board.

↑ Back to top
Fact check

Biden And Klobuchar Spar Over Domestic Violence Legislation

In a short but confusing moment, former Vice President Joe Biden and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar disagreed over who wrote legislation limiting domestic abusers from obtaining guns.

The mix-up occurred as Klobuchar was citing her work to close the “boyfriend loophole,” and Biden interjected by saying, “I wrote that law.”

Let’s break that interaction down:

The two were talking about an addition to the Violence Against Women Act, the 1994 legislation that Biden first wrote that aids sexual and domestic violence victims.

In that bill, people convicted of domestic abuse, stalking or assault in current or previous marriages and some other relationships are barred from purchasing guns.

Klobuchar has worked to expand this provision as well through the Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act, also known as the “boyfriend loophole.”

↑ Back to top

Sanders Top Of The Ticket Versus Down Ballot

Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and Mike Bloomberg have all gone after Bernie Sanders’ electability. One of the arguments made was that Sanders would cost Democrats down ballot. In other words, the kinds of Democrats who won in 2018 and helped Democrats win the House would lose.

"You might want to check with the people who actually turned the House blue: 40 Democrats who are not running on your platform,” Buttigieg said to Sanders. “They are running away from your platform as fast as they possibly can.”

That’s largely true. There are lots of down-ballot worries. Why? Because the House has been so gerrymandered that a lot of the swing districts are right-leaning districts. The more liberal candidates who won in very liberal districts in 2018 get a lot of the attention, but it was the 40 or so moderates who gave Democrats control of the House.

“I can tell you that there are a lot of down-ballot jitters based on my conversations with my former colleagues,” former Rep. Steve Israel of New York, who ran the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told The Washington Post. “Donald Trump is going to offer the American people this choice: Do you want to continue building the economy, or do you want to lurch toward socialism? And that is a real powerful argument in the Democratic districts that Trump won in 2016.”

One unnamed House Democrat in a suburban district told the Post: “If Democrats want to hand most of those [flipped seats] back, put Bernie at the top of the ticket. And that’s how many of us feel.”

It’s unusual that someone wins the presidency and loses the House or Senate, but it’s theoretically possible that Sanders drives up turnout among young voters and people in cities and flips the needed 100,000 votes in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — while losing in right-leaning suburban districts.

No one, of course, really knows until the race is run, but Democrats in those swing districts are nervous about the prospect of a Sanders nomination.

↑ Back to top

Mike Bloomberg Talks NYC Schools And Charters

Mike Bloomberg was asked about his support of charter schools in New York City. "I’m not sure they are appropriate every place," said Bloomberg. “I can only tell you in New York they provided parents with an alternative to send students to them." Bloomberg has long been a supporter of charter schools. While he was mayor, the number of New York City charter schools grew from just 22 in 2003 to nearly 200 in the 2012-2013 school year, according to Education Week.

Bloomberg also touted upping the funding in the school system, which is true. As mayor, Bloomberg dug in deep on redesigning the public school system in New York City. He introduced a weighted funding formula to give schools with larger percentages of poor students more money, in an effort to make the school system more equal. Yet today, New York City is still one of the most segregated public school systems in the country, and its charter schools are no exception: In 90% of charters there, less than 10% of the student body is white.

↑ Back to top

So Far, Warren Commands The Most Talking Time

Halfway through the debate, Elizabeth Warren has gotten in more words than her six rivals.

According to an NPR analysis of speaking time, Warren has spoken for 8 minutes and 15 seconds.

Mike Bloomberg is right behind Warren. Speaking the least is Tom Steyer, who has spoken for 3 minutes and 41 seconds.

↑ Back to top

Candidates Keep Name-Dropping Rep. Clyburn

You might have heard a name a couple of times and wondered, who’s that?

At least twice tonight, candidates onstage have name-checked U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, an influential African American member of Congress from the Palmetto State.

Clyburn, 79, was first elected in 1992 and is currently the third-ranking Democrat in the U.S. House. He also has a can’t-miss event on the presidential calendar. As NPR’s Susan Davis reported last year:

“For nearly 30 years, Clyburn has held a fish fry — a once-humble event started to thank supporters who couldn’t afford to attend the state Democratic Party’s high-dollar dinner — that every four years becomes a must-attend event for presidential hopefuls.”

And while Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Amy Klobuchar have mentioned Clyburn tonight, it appears his support will go to former Vice President Joe Biden.

Politico has reported that Clyburn intends to endorse Biden tomorrow — providing a potentially big lift for the vice president a few days before the primary.

↑ Back to top
Fact check

Biden’s Exaggerated Claim On American Gun Violence

In impassioned remarks about the toll of gun violence, former Vice President Joe Biden offered up a statistic but was off by three zeros.

“A hundred and fifty million people have been killed since 2007,” said Biden.

He may have meant 150,000 Americans. And it appears as if he also meant since 2012.

That was the statistic offered in 2017 by the Massachusetts nonprofit Stop Handgun Violence, which at the time noted that in the years since the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting, 150,000 Americans had been killed by guns, a figure around 30 times the number of Americans who died in the Iraq War.

Now, approaching eight years since the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting, the group says more than 231,000 Americans have died because of gun violence.

Biden’s exaggerated figure drew jeers and incredulity on Twitter, since the number would constitute about half of the American population.

↑ Back to top

Bloomberg And Redlining

The issue of redlining — the practice of not making loans in predominantly minority neighborhoods — again came up in relation to former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg in tonight’s debate. It’s an issue that has dogged him since the last debate, when Sen. Elizabeth Warren attacked him over it.

At a 2008 event at Georgetown University, Bloomberg linked the end of the racist practice of redlining to the financial crisis.

After the comment came to light, a Bloomberg campaign spokesperson told the New York Times that “Mike’s saying that something bad — the financial crisis — followed something good, which is the fight against redlining he was part of as mayor.”

The Associated Press, which originally resurfaced the quote, also quoted a housing advocate who said that communities of color were often the victims of the housing crisis.

Redlining, as NPR’s Meg Anderson explained in January, did relate to the riskiness of mortgages — and it was also discriminatory: “The federal Home Owners’ Loan Corporation made maps and shaded neighborhoods red that it deemed ‘hazardous.’ That risk level was largely based on the number of African Americans and immigrants living there.”

Shortly after these quotes surfaced, Warren fired back with a (sub)tweet: “Here’s a history lesson on the racist legacy of redlining, if any presidential candidate needs a refresher.”

She added in another tweet, “I’m surprised that someone running for the Democratic nomination thinks the economy would be better off if we just let banks be more overtly racist.”

↑ Back to top

Steyer Is Making A Concerted Effort To Win Black Votes In South Carolina

Tom Steyer has spent more time in South Carolina than any other presidential candidate, and he’s spending millions of dollars to court black voters, who make up 60% of the state’s Democratic primary electorate.

The hedge fund billionaire investor has hired a heavily African American staff here, is spending money with black businesses and vendors and is waging an aggressive advertising campaign over the airwaves and online to court the black vote. He has been focused on environmental justice and his support for reparations, as he has courted voters and party leaders alike.

In the weeks leading up to South Carolina’s primary, he seems to have chipped away at some of former Vice President Joe Biden’s support in the polls, with some surveys showing him in third place behind Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

— Juana Summers
↑ Back to top

Warren, Buttigieg Hit Sanders Over Filibuster Support

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders took hits for his position on the filibuster as well as for his past votes on the issue.

In the Senate, legislation can be held up indefinitely unless there are 60 votes to pass a motion to end debate, making it easier for the minority party to block legislation than it is in the House. In recent years, the use of the filibuster has dramatically increased.

Sanders is on record as opposing filibuster reform.

"Understand this: The filibuster is giving a veto to the gun industry," Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said.

Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg went further. "This is not some long-ago bad vote that Bernie Sanders took. This is a current bad position that Bernie Sanders holds,” he said. "How are we going to deliver a revolution if you won’t even support a rule change?”

↑ Back to top

See Where The Candidates Stand On Gun Policy

Guns have been a big topic tonight, with candidates competing to show their strength on gun control. Check out our policy tracker to see where the candidates stand on gun issues such as assault-style weapons, background checks and red flag laws.

↑ Back to top
Fact check

Warren Says ‘Progressive Ideas Are Popular Ideas.’ Are They?

Sen. Elizabeth Warren said that Sen. Bernie Sanders is winning, in part, because “progressive ideas are popular ideas.”

That’s true for some things and not true for others.

NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist polls twice in the last year asked a battery of questions about many of the policies laid out by these candidates during this campaign.

The most popular items: background checks for gun purchases, stricter prescription drug price regulations, a pathway to citizenship for immigrants in the U.S. illegally, the Green New Deal, legalizing marijuana, forgiving student-loan debt for lower-income people, a wealth tax, keeping Obamacare but making changes to it, a public health care option and a ban on assault-style weapons.

Popular with Democrats but not with most Americans: “Medicare for All.”

↑ Back to top

Bloomberg’s Big Spending On 2018 Dems

Bloomberg claimed on the debate stage that he spent $100 million on electing Democrats in 2018. According to OpenSecrets (which tracks campaign finance data), Bloomberg indeed spent roughly that amount — $95 million — in the 2018 midterms.

According to data from OpenSecrets, a large amount of that money went to a PAC that Bloomberg set up called Independence USA. It had been a more bipartisan PAC in the past, but it spent entirely to support Democrats in 2018.

OpenSecrets data also show that Bloomberg gave nearly $2 million to Women Vote!, which is affiliated with Emily’s List, and $20 million to the Democratic Senate Majority PAC.

↑ Back to top
Fact check

Sanders’ Gun Policy Record Is Criticized Again

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ long voting record in Congress was used against him when the issue of gun control came up. Back in the 1990s, he opposed limits on gun owners and buyers, although his views have since changed and he now has a D- rating from the National Rifle Association.

Sanders’ record has been brought up in previous debates both throughout this campaign and in the 2016 Democratic nominating contest.

Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg cited that Sanders voted against the Brady Bill — the 1990s gun reform legislation that imposed background checks — a total of five times.

In the early 1990s, Sanders did, in fact, vote no on the Brady Bill a total of five times. That said, Sanders also has a record of supporting bans on assault weapons and additional significant gun control initiatives.

With many rural voters in Vermont, Sanders has long sympathized with his pro-gun rights constituents.

Sanders echoed this sentiment in a 2015 interview with NPR’s David Greene, saying, “I think that urban America has got to respect what rural America is about, where 99 percent of the people in my state who hunt are law-abiding people."

↑ Back to top

Bloomberg: We Let ‘Stop And Frisk’ Policing Policy ‘Get Out Of Control’

“We let it get out of control,” Mike Bloomberg said of the controversial policing strategy known as “stop and frisk” that he advocated for while New York City mayor — and in the years after he left office.

Data have shown that young black and Latino men were disproportionately stopped and frisked by police. A judge in 2013 ruled that New York City’s use of the practice was unconstitutional.

Bloomberg reiterated that he has apologized for his support of the policy and has asked for forgiveness. He apologized late last year, before entering the Democratic presidential field. He had defended it in the months before his apology.

Bloomberg stood by other aspects of his record, saying that his administration improved schools for students of color and that New York is now a safer city. He added that he has now been endorsed by dozens of black elected officials.

According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, "At the height of stop-and-frisk in 2011 under the Bloomberg administration, over 685,000 people were stopped."

When asked by a moderator, former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar called “stop and frisk” a racist policy.

But Buttigieg, who has struggled to gain the support of nonwhite voters in polls, was careful, he said, to come at the issue with humility. He said his city has battled racial justice issues, and he noted that there are no minorities on the debate stage.

“None of us have the lived experience” of being regarded as dangerous just because of the color of our skin, he said.

↑ Back to top

Sanders Pushed On Paying For His Plans

Debate moderator Norah O’Donnell pushed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on whether he could pay for his sweeping economic plans, including single-payer “Medicare for All.” The question came after Sanders faced criticism after a 60 Minutes interview in which he told reporter Anderson Cooper, “I can’t rattle off to you every nickel and every dime,” adding that “we have options out there that will pay for it.”

His fellow candidates were ready to fight back. “Let me tell you how many nickels and dimes we’re talking about: $60 trillion,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar responded.

Sanders this week put out a fact sheet explaining how he proposes paying for some of his larger-scale plans. Unlike with his other plans, and like he alluded to on 60 Minutes, Sanders had also earlier released a list of options for paying for Medicare for All, including a 4% income tax on all families earning more than $29,000. That said, he does not have a concrete list of revenue raisers he would specifically allocate toward paying for it.

It’s also true that it’s very hard to know exactly how much these taxation proposals would bring in. For example, one estimate from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School found that his wealth tax would raise significantly less than he says. (It found something similar about Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s tax.) Similarly, estimates on how much Medicare for All might cost vary widely.

↑ Back to top

Bloomberg And Warren Clash Again Over Nondisclosure Agreements

Reprising a potent attack line, Sen. Elizabeth Warren has again criticized former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg for nondisclosure agreements signed with three women to address complaints about alleged comments that Bloomberg made while at his company.

She said that his announcement Friday that the women could seek to be released from the agreements, called NDAs, is not good enough and that Bloomberg should issue a blanket release of all employees. Bloomberg insisted tonight that his campaign did “exactly what [Warren] asked.”

Asked whether the women took his jokes the wrong way or if he was wrong to make the jokes, he said, “Probably wrong to make the jokes.” He categorically denied suggesting an employee get an abortion, which a woman alleged he indicated in 1995.

Warren set the tone in the last debate, opening by forcefully criticizing Bloomberg for insults he had allegedly aimed at women. He has denied he made such comments.

Warren then asked him whether he would grant releases to women who had signed NDAs so they could detail their allegations.

Bloomberg declined but a few days later relented. He said that he had his company review its use of NDAs and that the review uncovered three agreements over his alleged comments over 30-plus years.

“I’ve done a lot of reflecting on this issue over the past few days,” he said in a statement, “and I’ve decided that for as long as I’m running the company, we won’t offer confidentiality agreements to resolve claims of sexual harassment or misconduct going forward."

Bloomberg said he’d also asked his company’s human resources team to “review and reform our policies where necessary with regard to equal pay and promotion, sexual harassment and discrimination, and other legal tools that prevent culture change.”

The Washington Post reported this month that several lawsuits have been filed over the years alleging that women had been discriminated against at Bloomberg’s company.

His campaign has released an ad — “Supports Women” — that portrays Bloomberg as an ally of his female employees. “He promotes women and he respects women,” says a Bloomberg LP employee.

Notably, Bloomberg’s announcement does not apply to NDAs regarding alleged harassment or inappropriate comments by people other than Bloomberg himself.

↑ Back to top

Biden: ‘I Will Win South Carolina’

Former Vice President Joe Biden was pressed by moderator Gayle King about his lagging poll numbers in South Carolina, and Biden responded confidently: “I will win South Carolina.”

After Biden’s fourth-place finish in Iowa and a fifth-place showing in New Hampshire, the Biden campaign has suggested that the real test of his candidacy will come during this Saturday’s primary in South Carolina, where the Democratic electorate is majority black.

The Biden campaign has invested heavily in its political operation and is spending heavily on advertising in South Carolina.

“I’ve worked like the devil to earn the vote of the African American community — not just here, but across the country,” Biden said during the debate. “The people know me. My entire career has been wrapped up in dealing with civil rights and civil liberties. I don’t expect anything. I plan to earn the vote.”

Since the start of the campaign, Biden has held a consistent polling lead of about 20 points over his Democratic rivals in South Carolina. But that lead has fallen dramatically in the past months. In the most recent poll from CBS News/YouGov, Biden’s lead over Sanders was within the margin of error.

↑ Back to top

Sanders: ‘I’m Hearing My Name Mentioned A Little Bit Tonight’

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders enters the South Carolina primary as the front-runner in the Democratic race — and it showed, as the other candidates immediately moved to challenge his record.

First, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg said Russia is interfering in the race to help Sanders win because President Trump can defeat Sanders in November.

Then, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said she is a better standard-bearer for progressive ideals than Sanders on issues like fighting the big banks. “I dug in, I did the work and then Bernie’s team trashed me for it.”

Tom Steyer said Sanders’ proposed “solutions are wrong.”

And former Vice President Joe Biden took Sanders to task for his voting record on gun safety and for reportedly considering a primary challenge against then-President Obama in the 2012 race.

“I’m hearing my name mentioned a little bit tonight. I wonder why?” Sanders said wryly, after his opponents had taken their shots.

↑ Back to top

Sanders Slams Buttigieg On Billionaire Donors

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders took aim at former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg for taking in money from billionaire donors.

NPR’s campaign finance tracker shows how much candidates are taking in via large-dollar donations (counted as donations over $200, according to the Federal Election Commission) versus smaller donations (under $200).

It does not show how much money candidates are taking from billionaires. But it does show that Sanders by far led the field in small-dollar donations as of Feb. 20. He had $74.2 million in those donations, well ahead of the next candidate — Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, with $48.5 million.

↑ Back to top

Sanders: If I’m President, Russia Won’t Interfere In Any More Elections

Right out of the gate, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg quickly questioned Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ electability in a general-election matchup against President Trump.

Bloomberg said that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants Trump to win reelection and that’s why Russia is “helping you [Sanders] get elected, so you’ll lose to [Trump].”

The Washington Post has reported that intelligence officials had briefed the Sanders campaign on Russian intelligence efforts to boost the Vermont senator’s presidential bid.

Sanders made a direct statement intended for Putin: “Hey, Mr. Putin, if I’m president of the United States, trust me, you’re not going to interfere in any more American elections.”

Polls have consistently shown that likely Democratic voters are concerned with which candidate can beat Trump.

↑ Back to top

How Do Democrats Run When The Economy Is Good?

The debate kicked off with a question about Sen. Bernie Sanders’ economic plans amid a relatively strong economy, at least based on headline numbers: “How will you convince voters that a democratic socialist can do better than President Trump with the economy?”

Currently, there is a 3.6% unemployment rate, including 2.3% unemployment in South Carolina, where tonight’s debate is. (That rate is tied with Vermont and Utah for the lowest state unemployment rate.)

Sanders responded by making an argument about inequality: “The economy is doing really great for people like Mr. Bloomberg and other billionaires,” he said. But he added that for ordinary Americans, “things are not so good,” pointing to slow wage growth, the number of Americans without health insurance and student loan debt as proof.

This gets at an important facet of Democrats’ messaging in this election: Broadly speaking, these candidates — and particularly the progressive Democrats like Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren — have been running on job quality, not job quantity, in this election. This brings with it an implicit argument that, while the economy is good by headline numbers, it is not “good” from the point of view of many Americans.

It has yet to be seen how much this affects voters in this year’s election. On the one hand, swing voters might be expected to be more willing to vote for Trump during a good economy. On the other hand, America is becoming more polarized, and many voters are voting on issues other than the economy.

↑ Back to top

Bloomberg Gets One More — And Maybe His Last — Shot

Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg did not have a good night during his first debate last week in Las Vegas. He had trouble defending his position on nondisclosure agreements reached with women at his company. He also struggled when talking about the New York City police tactic of “stop and frisk,” which disproportionately resulted in stops of men of color.

Since the last debate, Bloomberg has done an interview with the Rev. Al Sharpton on MSNBC and released three women from NDAs. There are still lots of questions: Did he really end “stop and frisk” because he saw that it stopped too many men of color, or was he forced to by the courts and the Obama administration. And what about the dozens of other women who signed NDAs at his company?

He has also been going after Sen. Bernie Sanders hard on electability, guns and even the Washington Post report that Russia is “trying to help” Sanders’ campaign. The problem for Bloomberg is that Sanders is the most well-liked Democrat of all the candidates among Democratic voters. That makes going after him very complicated.

Bloomberg has spent $450 million of his multibillion-dollar fortune to boost himself in this campaign. And it has been enough to put him into the teens in national polls and in many Super Tuesday state polls. But that’s not enough to win the nomination or even show he should be the principal alternative to Sanders. He needs to right the ship after last week and outperform Sanders and, in particular, former Vice President Joe Biden.

Right now, he and Biden are best positioned to be the Sanders alternative. A win for Biden in South Carolina would make it even tougher for Bloomberg to claim he has the most right to that title.

With Bloomberg not on the ballot in South Carolina, tonight is his last chance before Super Tuesday to show it should be him and not Biden.

↑ Back to top

Where The Delegate Race Stands Coming Into Tonight’s Debate

With his resounding win in Nevada, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has pulled ahead in the delegate count. Only Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar have accumulated any delegates.

But an important caveat: This is after just three contests, and just 2.5% of the delegates have been allocated. The magic number to become the Democratic nominee is 1,991. That represents a 50%-plus-one majority of the 3,979 total pledged delegates up for grabs. So Sanders has just 0.2% of what he needs to become the nominee.

See the full breakdown of delegates by state here.

Of course, there’s the very real possibility that no one gets an absolute majority of delegates, as required by the Democratic National Committee. In that case, if he’s ahead, Sanders would argue that he deserves to be the nominee because he’s the pledged-delegate leader. In the last debate, none of the other candidates agreed with that sentiment.

South Carolina offers the most delegates so far — 54, which is more than half of what has been allocated already but is still a small fraction in the grand scheme of the race. But what it will importantly offer is another data point on how the candidates perform with black voters, who made up 61% of the electorate in South Carolina in 2016.

And since half the states on Super Tuesday have significant African American Democratic voting populations, how the candidates do Saturday will be important. Biden won them in Nevada but only narrowly over Sanders.

The reason Sanders looks like the front-runner is his broadened coalition, including black voters, and his overwhelming performance with Latinos. And Latinos make up very important blocs of voters in California and Texas, the two biggest prizes on Super Tuesday, a week from today.

↑ Back to top

Biden Lags In Travel To South Carolina

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who is hoping for a solid win in South Carolina on Saturday, has held fewer events in the state compared with his top competitors, according to a count by the Post and Courier.

As of today, Biden totals at 26 events — almost half as many as billionaire businessman Tom Steyer, who has also prioritized South Carolina.

Steyer has held 44 events in the state and has spent over $23 million on advertising there, according to data through Feb. 25 from Advertising Analytics.

The current front-runner for the Democratic nomination, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, has held 35 events in the state, one less than former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Sanders did not do well in the 2016 South Carolina primary — getting only 26% of the vote — but he goes in this time with better chances, following two wins and a virtual tie in the first three contests.

After tonight’s debate, Sanders will hold four rallies over the next three days, leading up to Saturday’s primary.

↑ Back to top

Trump Takes Rally Roadshow To South Carolina On Friday

Republicans canceled their primary race in South Carolina this year. But that’s not stopping President Trump from holding a rally there.

Trump will be in North Charleston on Friday night for the latest in a series of rallies he has held to counterprogram the Democratic races. He has held similar events in Nevada, New Hampshire and Iowa. And on Monday, Trump will hold a rally in Charlotte, N.C., ahead of that state’s primary — one of a large group of Super Tuesday races.

While in South Carolina, Trump also plans to headline a fundraiser for Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of his closest allies in the Senate.

↑ Back to top

Welcome To The 10th Democratic Debate!

A lot is on the line in Charleston, S.C., in this 10th Democratic presidential debate of this cycle. South Carolina, which votes Saturday, has the most delegates at stake so far, with 54. But more importantly, Sen. Bernie Sanders has emerged as the front-runner after the first three states, and this could be more moderate candidates’ last chance to stop him.

No one has more riding on South Carolina, though, than Joe Biden. The former vice president has to show he can land some attacks on Sanders and outperform former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who will be on the stage again.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren took Bloomberg to task over nondisclosure agreements and how women were treated at his company, and Bloomberg also struggled to explain the New York City police policy of “stop and frisk.”

South Carolina is largely about black voters — 61% of the state’s Democratic primary voters in 2016 were African American. And Bloomberg needs their support when he will be on the ballot a week from today on Super Tuesday, when half the states that vote have significant black Democratic voting populations.

Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar got stuck in the last debate, sparring with one another. They need to get out of each other’s way and elevate. But they are facing a difficult choke point in their campaigns — neither did well with voters of color in Nevada, and if they can’t finish better than expected in South Carolina, it’s hard to see their viable paths to a delegate lead.

Here’s more on what to watch for tonight.

↑ Back to top