5 takeaways from the fiery Democratic debate as South Carolina and Super Tuesday loom

David Catanese, Alex Roarty, Emily Cadei and Adam Wollner, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in Political News

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- The 10th Democratic presidential primary debate in South Carolina was a predictable sequel to last week's fiery fracas in Las Vegas. It was gloves off, bitter and, at times, personal.

But like most spin-offs, the novelty of a seven-way food fight lost its luster and appeared to wear on all of the candidates, who as a whole, looked more sullen and defensive than sunny and optimistic as they often spoke over one another and the moderators.

The testy atmosphere was understandable. With just days before the South Carolina primary and ensuing slew of Super Tuesday contests, the writing is on the wall for many campaigns. More than a third of delegates will be determined in the next week, and time is running out for a durable and singular alternative to Bernie Sanders to emerge.

Here are five takeaways from the debate:


Sanders finally had the kitchen sink thrown at him Tuesday.


Will any of it leave lasting damage?

Sanders faced criticism over his past positions on gun control (from Joe Biden), his ability to help down-ticket Democrats win (from Pete Buttigieg), the cost of his single-payer health care proposal (from Amy Klobuchar), his opposition to ending the legislative filibuster (from Elizabeth Warren), the support his campaign has reportedly received from Russia (from Michael Bloomberg), and the extreme reach of his policy agenda (from Tom Steyer). The overall effect was that of a field of Democratic candidates probing to see where Sanders might be vulnerable but not sure which one area to focus on.

"I'm hearing my name mentioned a bit tonight," Sanders said, drawing laughs. "I wonder why?"

The relentless criticism against Sanders was a first for a debate in the 2020 primary, despite the Vermont senator's place as the race's front-runner. And it clearly reflected a recognition that if Sanders' momentum isn't slowed immediately, he could earn a huge delegate advantage in next week's Super Tuesday contests, particularly in the big states of California and Texas.


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