The Hill's Campaign Report: Gloves off in South Carolina

The Hill's Campaign Report: Gloves off in South Carolina
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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:

If Tuesday night's debate in Charleston, S.C., made anything clear it's this: The Democratic primary race is now a contest of everyone vs. everyone.

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden campaign: Trump and former vice president will have phone call about coronavirus Judge slams Wisconsin governor, lawmakers for not delaying election amid coronavirus outbreak The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden offers to talk coronavirus response with Trump MORE (I-Vt.), who has emerged as the race's nominal frontrunner following back-to-back wins in the New Hampshire primary and Nevada caucuses, took the brunt of the heat in the debate. Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden campaign: Trump and former vice president will have phone call about coronavirus Overnight Health Care: Trump resists pressure for nationwide stay-at-home order | Trump open to speaking to Biden about virus response | Fauci gets security detail | Outbreak creates emergency in nursing homes 16 things to know today about coronavirus outbreak MORE hammered the Vermont senator over his mixed record on gun control legislation and accusations that he considered a primary challenge against former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaPoll: More Republican voters think party is more united than Democratic voters Can you kill a virus with a gun? Biden's pick for vice president doesn't matter much MORE in 2012. And former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Pence defends response, says Trump never 'belittled' virus threat Reuters poll finds Sanders cutting Biden national lead to single digits Biden says he'll adopt plans from Sanders, Warren MORE accused Sanders of being nostalgic about the "revolution politics of the 1960s."

But Sanders wasn't the only candidate to take jabs. Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharBiden confirms he's considering Whitmer for VP Democratic senators call on domestic airlines to issue cash refunds for travelers Biden's pick for vice president doesn't matter much MORE (D-Minn.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenHillicon Valley: T-Mobile, Sprint complete merger | Warren pushes food delivery apps to classify workers as full employees | Lawsuit accuses Zoom of improperly sharing user data Warren calls on food delivery apps to classify workers as full employees Biden confirms he's considering Whitmer for VP MORE (D-Mass.) took turns attacking former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergFormer Bloomberg staffer seeks class-action lawsuit over layoffs Bloomberg spent over 0M on presidential campaign The Hill's Campaign Report: Officials in spotlight over coronavirus response MORE over his past stances on policies like stop-and-frisk. Biden accused billionaire activist Tom SteyerTom SteyerProgressive advocates propose T 'green stimulus' plan Candidates want data privacy rules, except for their own campaigns Budowsky: Biden should pull together a 'dream team of rivals' MORE of being a "Tommy Come Lately" to criminal justice reform. And Sanders claimed that Buttigieg was misleading voters about the cost of his "Medicare for All Who Want It" proposal. 

At times, the debate devolved into a shouting match, with the candidates interrupting one another and the moderators doing little if anything to maintain order on the stage. 

The free-for-all dynamic of the debate underscores the increasingly urgent position most of the candidates have found themselves in as they head into the South Carolina primary on Saturday. With Sanders's victories in New Hampshire and Nevada and no clear alternative emerging from the pack to challenge him, many of the candidates are scrambling to make their case, especially with Super Tuesday less than a week away.

There's also the very real possibility that Tuesday night's debate will be the last for some candidates. The next forum won't be held until March 15, nearly two weeks after Super Tuesday.  

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--Max Greenwood

 

READ MORE: 

Winners and losers from the South Carolina debate, by The Hill's Niall Stanage

Five takeaways from the Democratic debate, by Jonathan

Democrats duke it out in most negative debate so far, by Max and Julia

Candidates pile on front-runner Sanders at Democratic debate, by Jonathan

 

FROM THE TRAIL:

Biden scored a key endorsement on Wednesday from Rep. Jim ClyburnJames (Jim) Enos ClyburnPelosi: House 'not prepared' to vote remotely on coronavirus relief bill Coronavirus stimulus talks hit setback as crisis deepens Biden has broken all the 'rules' of presidential primaries MORE (D-S.C.), the highest ranking black member of Congress and one of the most influential Democrats in South Carolina, Max reports. The endorsement is a big get for Biden, coming just three days before the Palmetto State's Democratic presidential primary. Speaking at an event in North Charleston, S.C., Clyburn said that he has long known whom he would endorse for the Democratic nomination, but only recently decided to make his choice public. "I want the public to know that I'm voting for Joe Biden," he said. "South Carolina should be voting for Joe Biden."

 

Buttigieg's campaign acknowledged that Sanders will come out of Super Tuesday with a delegate advantage, but said that it believes the Vermont senator's lead won't be insurmountable if it can be held within 350 delegates, The Hill's Tal Axelrod reports. In a memo, the campaign outlined a strategy in which Buttigieg would instead seek to rack up delegates in post-Super Tuesday primaries. "If Sanders' expected delegate lead is not held within 350 delegates coming out of Super Tuesday, it helps solidify his pathway to becoming the nominee. The key to winning is to minimize Sanders' margins on Super Tuesday and rack up delegates in the following contests as the field winnows," the memo reads.

 

Traditional Democratic power brokers are opting to stay out of their party's presidential nominating contest, reflecting their wariness at taking sides in a primary field that has yet to significantly winnow, The Hill's Reid Wilson reports. Former Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidGOP embraces big stimulus after years of decrying it Five Latinas who could be Biden's running mate Winners and losers from Super Tuesday MORE (D-Nev.), the most influential Democrat in Nevada, chose uncommitted delegates on his early voting ballot. And days before the Nevada caucuses, the state's powerful Culinary Workers Union announced that it would not endorse a particular candidate, even though it had previously criticized Sanders's Medicare for All proposal. "We have a lot of friends that we have relationships with that are running for president. All of the candidates are talking about issues that impact unions and specifically working families," said Lee Saunders, president of the influential American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

 

Trump's reelection campaign will open 15 community centers in major cities across key swing states over the next few weeks as it ramps up outreach to black voters, who have long been the bedrock of the Democratic Party. Jonathan reports.

 

FROM CONGRESS AND THE STATES:

Republicans are looking to raise money and energize their base, believing they will have a path to reclaim a majority in the House if Democrats nominate Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist.

The GOP has an uphill climb to taking back the House, which would require flipping 18 Democratic-held seats. Republican House candidates have struggled to raise money this cycle, and Trump's deep unpopularity in suburban districts is an urgent concern for candidates up and down the ballot.

But GOP lawmakers and operatives charged with electing Republicans to the House view Sanders's success so far in the Democratic primary as a gift in swing districts, where Democrats won the House in 2018 by running moderate candidates in places where Trump's style has been a huge turnoff to independents and women. The Hill's Jonathan Easley and JulieGrace Brufke report.

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PERSPECTIVES:

Steve IsraelSteven (Steve) J. IsraelThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden offers to talk coronavirus response with Trump The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden looks for end to Democratic primary The bad record of this national crisis MORE: Why Mike Bloomberg has a shot

Abraham Unger: Why Bernie Sanders won the debate

Albert Hunt: To avoid November catastrophe, Democrats have to knock out Sanders

 

POLL WATCH:

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CLEMSON UNIVERSITY – SOUTH CAROLINA

Biden: 35 percent

Steyer: 17 percent

Sanders: 13 percent

Warren: 8 percent

Buttigieg: 8 percent

Klobuchar: 4 percent

Gabbard: 2 percent

 

EAST CAROLINA UNIVERSITY – SOUTH CAROLINA

Biden: 31 percent

Sanders: 23 percent

Steyer: 20 percent

Warren: 8 percent

Buttigieg: 6 percent

Klobuchar: 2 percent

Gabbard: 2 percent

 

KQED/NPR – CALIFORNIA

Sanders: 37 percent

Warren: 20 percent

Biden: 12 percent

Buttigieg: 11 percent

Bloomberg: 6 percent

Klobuchar: 5 percent

Steyer: 3 percent

Gabbard: 2 percent

 

MARK YOUR CALENDARS:

There are 3 days until the South Carolina primary and 6 days until Super Tuesday. 

 

ONE FUN THING:

SKYWALKER ENDORSEMENT: Star Wars legend Mark Hamill has said he will not be endorsing any of the Democratic contenders for president. On Wednesday, though, he did reveal his ideal vice presidential pick: former first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaLizzo donates lunch to hospital workers battling coronavirus Biden could be picking the next president: VP choice more important than ever Lobbying world MORE

 

 

The pick makes sense given Obama's star power and popularity within the Democratic party. However, don't bet on the former first lady getting into politics anytime soon. 

Obama told, The National, Amtrak's travel and culture magazine, that there is "zero chance" she would run for president. 

"There are so many ways to improve this country and build a better world, and I keep doing plenty of them, from working with young people to helping families lead healthier lives. But sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office will never be one of them. It's just not for me," Obama told the magazine. 

I mean, she didn't technically say vice president, but you never know! 

We'll see you tomorrow for the latest in the Democratic primary, and from the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which kicked off today at the National Harbor in Maryland.