- Seven Democratic presidential candidates took the stage in Charleston, South Carolina on Tuesday night for the tenth debate of the 2020 Democratic primary – and the final debate before Super Tuesday.
- The contentious debate was characterized by lots of raised voices, cross-talk, and pointed attacks.
- Notably, the CBS News debate moderators were widely panned for failing to keep the candidates in line, for disjointed questioning, and for failing to ask about the coronavirus until more than an hour into the debate.
- Here are the winners and losers.
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Tensions and pressure ran high on Wednesday night during the last Democratic debate before Saturday’s primary in Charleston, South Carolina and Super Tuesday next week.
The candidates followed through on their promises to go after one another on everything from policy to sexual harassment allegations.
Tuesday’s debate was widely perceived to be Sen Bernie Sanders‘ to lose. The Vermont lawmaker has cemented his status as the frontrunner after winning the popular vote in all three primary contests so far, and the majority of delegates in two of those states: New Hampshire and Nevada.
Sanders‘ faced a multitude of attacks – on everything from his electability to his record on guns – and managed to fend the majority off without dominating the night. This comes after Sanders was also spared much scrutiny at last week’s debate in Nevada, as his opponents focused heavily on attacking former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, the newcomer to the stage.
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg spent much of the night on defense, including in regard to his record as mayor and his behavior towards women.
Bloomberg was skewered during last Wednesday’s Democratic debate in Nevada, where his opponents attacked his unprecedented spending on the race, treatment of women, and support for „stop and frisk“ in New York City. His national approval rating took a hit as a result.
Tuesday’s debate didn’t go much better for Bloomberg. Warren again took him to task for comments he reportedly made about female employees decades ago, including allegedly telling a pregnant employee to have an abortion – a claim Bloomberg vehemently denies. And Sanders repeatedly attacked Bloomberg’s billionaire status and unprecedented spending on his own campaign.
Bloomberg was forced to once again apologize for implementing the racially discriminatory stop and frisk policy, which was deemed unconstitutional in 2013, and was grilled on his efforts to limit the consumption of sugary drinks in New York City.
The CBS News debate moderators were also widely panned by reporters and other observers online.
Many condemned the moderators for allowing the candidates to talk over each other and speak longer than the 1 minute and 15 seconds they were allotted per answer.
CBS needs this break more than the candidates. That was a chaotic start. The moderators need to step in more forcefully and regain control in the next segment.
— Michael M. Grynbaum (@grynbaum) February 26, 2020
Some critics were frustrated the candidates weren’t asked about the increasingly threatening Wuhan coronavirus until more than an hour into the debate. The CBS reporters and anchors were also criticized for asking Bloomberg about his record on sugary drinks before they asked the candidates about much more pertinent issues. Key issues like climate change and immigration weren’t discussed during the two-hour event.
Donald Trump disarmed our ability to deal with a pandemic and is lying about it to try to calm markets. Can moderators maybe ask about that?
— Ben Rhodes (@brhodes) February 26, 2020
Republicans watching the debate also criticized the moderators‘ management of the candidates.
The moderators tonight pic.twitter.com/gt8BMOjUyi
— Matt Whitlock (@mattdizwhitlock) February 26, 2020
Warren had a strong performance on Tuesday night and was left virtually unscathed while she went on the attack against Bloomberg and Biden and promoted herself as the most effective progressive in the race.
Warren started off the debate by pressing Bloomberg to release his former female employees from non-disclosure agreements and calling Bloomberg the „riskiest“ candidate in the race because of his controversial record. She also surfaced the allegation that the former mayor asked a pregnant female employee to have an abortion, and laid into Bloomberg for donating large sums to Republican candidates for office.
„I don’t care how much money Mayor Bloomberg has, the core of the Democratic Party will never trust him,“ Warren said.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) February 26, 2020
Warren also presented herself as the most effective progressive in the race. She argued that she would make a „better president“ than Sanders because she’s detail-oriented, willing to „do the hard work,“ and can get things done in Washington.
Elizabeth Warren called out Bernie Sanders in tonight's #DemDebate: “I dug in. I did the work. And then Bernie’s team trashed me for it. We need a president who is going to dig in, do the hard work, and actually get it done.”
— POLITICO (@politico) February 26, 2020
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