The Hill's Campaign Report: High stakes at last Democratic debate before Super Tuesday

The Hill's Campaign Report: High stakes at last Democratic debate before Super Tuesday

Welcome to The Hill's Campaign Report, your daily rundown on all the latest news in the 2020 presidential, Senate and House races. Did someone forward this to you? Click here to subscribe.

We're Julia Manchester, Max Greenwood and Jonathan Easley. Here's what we're watching today on the campaign trail. 

 

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LEADING THE DAY:

Seven candidates will take the debate stage in Charleston, S.C., on Tuesday night as the race for the Democratic presidential nomination enters a critical seven-day stretch. 

Each of the seven has something on the line. Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSteyer endorses Biden for president Sanders says he wouldn't 'drop dead' if Trump decided on universal healthcare Sanders 2020 press secretary: Democratic leadership interested in 'corporate status quo' or 'they're planning to replace Joe' MORE (I-Vt.), the nominal frontrunner in the race, is likely to face attacks from all sides, and his ability to fend off that criticism could determine whether he enters the South Carolina primary and Super Tuesday with momentum.

The debate is even more critical for Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenSteyer endorses Biden for president Sanders 2020 press secretary: Democratic leadership interested in 'corporate status quo' or 'they're planning to replace Joe' Biden joins calls to release racial breakdowns of coronavirus cases, deaths MORE, whose longtime frontrunner status has faded in recent weeks amid disappointing finishes in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. His campaign sees South Carolina as something of a firewall for his candidacy, but there are signs that the primary there may be more competitive than previously thought.

At the same time, former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden faces tough task of uniting Democrats Sanders staffers will remain on campaign's health care plan through fall Former Clinton staffers invited to celebrate Sanders dropping out: report MORE is looking to rebound from a widely panned debate performance in Las Vegas last week, where he struggled to respond to criticism of his political and business record. He's not competing in the South Carolina primary, but the debate has the potential to either boost or stall his prospects heading into Super Tuesday, when he'll first appear on ballots across the country.

Meanwhile, former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden faces tough task of uniting Democrats Sanders campaign adviser on what went right and what went wrong Former Clinton staffers invited to celebrate Sanders dropping out: report MORE and Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSteyer endorses Biden for president Biden joins calls to release racial breakdowns of coronavirus cases, deaths The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden faces tough task of uniting Democrats MORE (D-Mass.) and Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: State officials push for more election funds | Coronavirus surveillance concerns ramp up pressure for privacy bill | Senators warned not to use Zoom | Agencies ask FCC to revoke China Telecom's license Senators, bipartisan state officials press Congress for more election funds The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden faces tough task of uniting Democrats MORE (D-Minn.) need to appeal to black voters, who make up roughly 60 percent of South Carolina's Democratic electorate, to prove that they are capable of building the kind of diverse coalition they'll need to clinch their party's nomination and defeat President TrumpDonald John TrumpSanders says he wouldn't 'drop dead' if Trump decided on universal healthcare Overnight Health Care: Trump officials lay groundwork for May reopening | Democrats ramp up talks with Mnuchin on next relief deal | Fauci says death toll could be around 60,000 Hillicon Valley: State officials push for more election funds | Coronavirus surveillance concerns ramp up pressure for privacy bill | Senators warned not to use Zoom | Agencies ask FCC to revoke China Telecom's license MORE in the November general election.

Also joining the candidates on stage is billionaire activist Tom SteyerTom SteyerSteyer endorses Biden for president Progressive advocates propose T 'green stimulus' plan Candidates want data privacy rules, except for their own campaigns MORE, who qualified for the debate in Charleston after failing to meet the mark for the Las Vegas debate. Steyer has spent heavily in South Carolina, and it has shown in the polls. Recent surveys show him running in third place behind Biden and Bloomberg, and Tuesday night's debate will give him an opportunity to strengthen his case in the Palmetto State.

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Something else to note: Tuesday's debate will be the last one for nearly three weeks, making it all the more crucial for the candidates. A poor performance or gaffe may end up sticking with them as the nominating contest heads into Super Tuesday and beyond.

Remember to check back tonight at TheHill.com for our live coverage of the debate.

--Max Greenwood

 

READ MORE: 

Five things to watch in the South Carolina debate, by Max

Warren is taking a crack at Bloomberg in a new ad.

Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden releases plans to expand Medicare, forgive student debt The Memo: Sanders's influence endures as campaign ends The two infectious diseases spreading across America MORE says she'll support the nominee -- even if it's Sanders.

Priorities USA, the largest Democratic super PAC, is going after Trump in two new ads released in battleground states.

 

FROM THE TRAIL:

The six Democrats competing with Sanders for the party's presidential nomination have a week left to stymie the self-described democratic socialist's rise, The Hill's Niall Stanage reports. After back-to-back wins in the New Hampshire primary and Nevada caucuses, Sanders is hoping to ride a wave of momentum into Super Tuesday, when roughly a third of delegates are up for grabs. If no other candidate emerges as a clear alternative to the Vermont senator, he could take an insurmountable delegate lead in the March 3 primaries, significantly easing his path to the nomination. Making the situation even more urgent for Sanders: despite calls from some Democrats for moderates to coalesce around a single candidate who can compete with Sanders, there's no evidence that that is about to happen. More on that below...

 

Sanders's rise to the front of the Democratic presidential pack and the still-crowded nature of the field's moderate lane is putting pressure on some candidates to drop out of the race, as fears mount that the Vermont senator could take an insurmountable delegate lead on Super Tuesday unless a leading alternative emerges, The Hill's Max Greenwood and Amie Parnes report. The pressure is most acute for Klobuchar and Steyer, who have yet to win a single state-wide contest. But others – Buttigieg, Warren and Biden – are also facing questions about their prospects in the race. Meanwhile, Bloomberg has yet to even appear on a primary ballot, prompting some Democrats to call for him to get out of the race and support another moderate that could take on Sanders. 

 

Sanders's strong showing among Latino voters in the Nevada caucuses over the weekend is fueling his hopes of high turnout in California and Texas, two states that are home to half the country's Latino population and that hold their presidential primaries on Super Tuesday, The Hill's Rafael Bernal reports. Like Nevada, Texas and California host a majority Mexican American Latino voter base, which Sanders has proven more than capable of wooing. But the Vermont senator may have more trouble winning over Latinos in Florida, many of whom are Cuban American, especially after a CNN interview that aired over the weekend in which he praised the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro for funding a literacy program. 

 

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) is adding six states to its 2020 target list, including Texas and Georgia, two longtime Republican strongholds that have become increasingly competitive in recent years, The Hill's Marty Johnson reports. Among the other states added to the DNC's "Battleground Build-up 2020" list: Ohio, Nevada, New Hampshire and Virginia.

 

PERSPECTIVES: 

Matt Taibbi: Russia isn't dividing us, our leaders are.

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Sally Goldenberg: Bloomberg's debate strategy: Nuke Bernie.

Dan Froomkin: A wake up call for the establishment.

The State (editorial board): Buttigieg for president.

 

FROM CONGRESS AND THE STATES:

Bloomberg's campaign has been sharing internal polling data with vulnerable House Democrats about how nominating Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) would jeopardize their majority, The Hill's Jonathan Easley reports.

 

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Twitter has pledged to proactively verify new candidates' accounts this election cycle, but an analysis by The Hill shows that effort falling short. Read Emily Birnbaum and Chris Mills Rodrigo on how the social media platform has failed to level the playing field for candidates challenging incumbents. 

 

POLL WATCH:

NBC NEWS/MARIST – SOUTH CAROLINA

Biden: 25 percent

Sanders: 24 percent

Steyer: 15 percent

Buttigieg: 9 percent

Warren: 8 percent

Klobuchar: 5 percent

Gabbard: 3 percent

 

PUBLIC POLICY POLLING – NORTH CAROLINA

Biden: 23 percent

Sanders: 20 percent

Bloomberg: 17 percent

Warren: 11 percent

Buttigieg: 9 percent

Klobuchar: 4 percent

Steyer: 3 percent

Gabbard: 1 percent

 

MARK YOUR CALENDARS:

There are 4 days until the South Carolina primary and 7 days until Super Tuesday.