All eyes were on South Carolina Tuesday night for another heated Democratic presidential debate, this time between seven candidates: Former VP Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, as well as billionaires Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg.
Biden is clearly the crowd favourite in South Carolina — walking into the Gaillard Center in Charleston, we saw a huge group of his supporters waving signs and dancing to "Turn Down For What" — and is expected to win the state, considering his history here and influential endorsements from politicians such as Rep. Jim Clyburn (who announced his endorsement Wednesday morning after the debate).
But with Super Tuesday coming up next week, everyone was watching the candidate who has racked up the most delegates so far: Sanders, who recently won the Nevada caucuses. It was unsurprising that Sanders was a target of virtually all of the other candidates at tonight's debate. After Bloomberg agreed to release women from his company's NDAs at Warren's urging, we were also watching for the Massachusetts senator to again take him to task for his treatment of women.
It was a rather messy debate with no clear winners. Ahead, we've mapped out all of the biggest moments from the South Carolina debate.
Liz backs up Bernie’s progressive ideas (but says she’d be a better president).
"Bernie and I agree on a lot of things, but I think I would make a better president than Bernie," because she has the details and tenacity to enact her progressive agenda, says Warren, who's been making this argument for a while, particularly as it relates to getting to universal healthcare. "I dug in. I did the work. And then Bernie's team trashed me for it," she pointedly says about her plan for Medicare for All. Pete Buttigieg adds that if we think America’s divisive now, wait until we have a Trump vs. Bernie showdown. "Imagine spending the better part of 2020 with Bernie Sanders vs. Donald Trump."
Gayle grills the candidates on stop and frisk.
Gayle King came prepared to ask tough questions tonight, and she immediately turns the attention to Bloomberg’s history with stop and frisk in New York City. King says that although Bloomberg has apologized for stop and frisk, she wants to know exactly what he is apologising for. "We let it get out of control and when I realised that, I cut it back by 95%," Bloomberg responds. "And I've apologised and asked for forgiveness. I've met with black leaders to try to get an understanding of how I can better position myself and what I should have done and what I should do next time." Then, Mayor Pete — who himself has faced criticism on race relations — has a bit of a hero moment, calling out the fact that every candidate on the debate stage is white.
Elizabeth Warren hammers Bloomberg on his comments and NDAs — again.
After she talks about her experience with pregnancy discrimination, Warren calls Bloomberg on allegedly having told a coworker to "kill it" when finding out she's pregnant, which he claims he never said. Bloomberg then says he thinks he’s done enough by releasing women at his company from their NDAs, purporting that he's never been accused of making more than a "joke" that he "probably" shouldn't have made. For Warren, this isn't enough — the senator who has gone after Bloomberg's history of offensive comments about women is planning to continue holding him accountable at every turn.
Bernie Sanders: “Here’s how we’re going to pay for it.”
Bernie Sanders released a document detailing how he’s going to pay for Medicare for All and other plans earlier this week. When the moderators ask him about his spending plans, the other candidates pile on about why they don’t believe they’re realistic. It's the first of many moments in the night when Sanders, as the frontrunner, is targeted.
Warren says Democrats won’t get gun reform passed without abolishing the filibuster.
Amy Klobuchar brings up her bill to close the boyfriend loophole.
Amy Klobuchar praises her bill calling to close the "boyfriend loophole," which is a legislation gap allowing physically abusive dating partners and ex-boyfriends with convictions to continue accessing guns. Biden immediately takes credit for it — although after some heated back-and-forth, they establish that he wrote the Violence Against Women Act, not the bill to close the boyfriend loophole.
Bloomberg thinks he won the last debate...?
Here’s what Bloomberg meant when he mentioned the naked cowboy.
Bloomberg seems to be full of jokes tonight, and one of them is a shoutout to New York's infamous Naked Cowboy — a Times Square staple. For those outside of NYC, the Naked Cowboy is an actor and singer who performs in Times Square wearing only a cowboy hat, tighty-whities, and a strategically placed guitar.
Bernie Sanders wants to legalise marijuana on day 1
Sanders is famously the pro-weed candidate — and his position is not necessarily shared by everyone on stage. Bloomberg, for instance, says that we should decriminalise possession of small amounts, but that there's not enough research to make it completely legal everywhere. All of the marijuana talk sets off a lively debate on criminal justice, and then it comes back to Bernie, who says: "We will change the Federal Controlled Substance Act, which, if you can believe it, now equates heroin with marijuana. That's insane." He adds: "We're going to provide help to the African-American, Latino, Native American community to start businesses to sell legal marijuana, rather than let a few corporations control the legalised marijuana market."
The candidates are asked about coronavirus.
Moderators ask the candidates how they would handle the coronavirus outbreak. Klobuchar stresses that Americans should educate themselves by understanding how the CDC is handling the coronavirus, while Biden blames Trump for cutting funding of the CDC.
Bernie & Pete spend a full two minutes screaming over each other.
Several of the candidates (but mostly Pete Buttigieg) continue to criticize Bernie for "praising" authoritarian leaders after his comments about Fidel Castro's regime have angered some, particularly in the Cuban community in Florida. Bernie has clarified that he does not condone Castro’s authoritarian tactics, but simply stated the fact that he increased literacy in his country. As Buttigieg keeps digging, Bernie can't seem to get a word in, and the two end up screaming over each other for what seems like an eternity (even debate moderators could not get a word in during their simultaneous rants).
Bernie's team hit back on Pete for his comments.
Bernie & Bloomberg are asked about their plans for Israel as Jewish candidates.
Bernie says that he is proud of being Jewish, but there is a "reactionary racist" running Israel in the form of Benjamin Netanyahu. "I happen to believe that what our foreign policy in the Mideast should be about is absolutely protecting the independence and security of Israel, but you cannot ignore the suffering of the Palestinian people." Bloomberg, the other Jewish candidate on stage, says the "only solution here is a two-state solution." He also speaks against moving the American embassy back from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv.
Candidates close out the debate by listing their personal mottos.
Tom Steyer: "Every day, I write a cross on my hand to remind myself to tell the truth and do what's right, no matter what."
Amy Klobuchar: "Politics is about improving people's lives."
Joe Biden: "When you get knocked down, get up. And everyone is entitled to be treated with dignity, no matter what, no matter who they are. Also, that everyone should be represented," he says, adding that he wants to make sure there is a black woman on the Supreme Court — so far there have been zero.
Bernie Sanders: "Everything is impossible until it happens." (Quoting Nelson Mandela.)
Elizabeth Warren: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of these, the least of thy brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Quoting Matthew 25.)
Pete Buttigieg: "I seek to live by the teachings that say if you would be a leader, you must first be a servant. And, of course, the teaching, not unique to the Christian tradition, but a big part of it, that holds that we are to treat others as we would be treated."
Mike Bloomberg: "I've trained for this job for a long time and when I get it I'm going to do something rather than just talk about it."