The Democratic presidential candidates jockeyed for position in South Carolina on Wednesday after a contentious debate the night before in Charleston in which they sparred over key policy areas including health-care costs, gun control and foreign affairs in a testy debate — and talked over one another a lot.

Biden picked up a key endorsement the morning after the debate from House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), a kingmaker in Palmetto State politics. The debate came ahead of a key primary this weekend in South Carolina and a rapid acceleration in the race for the nomination next week, on Super Tuesday, when 14 states and two other jurisdictions hold nominating contests.

Seven Democrats took the stage for the 10th Democratic debate: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.); former vice president Joe Biden; former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg; Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.); Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.); investor Tom Steyer; and former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg. Several candidates attacked Sanders for the costs of his health-care proposals, and others squared off with Bloomberg over a range of policy matters, including his massive wealth.

March 3, 2020 at 5:10 PM EST
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‘Never Trump’ Republicans vote for Biden in Democratic primary

By Colby Itkowitz and Matt Viser

Some of the disaffected Republicans who describe themselves as “Never Trumpers” voted in Super Tuesday primaries for Biden, many of them participating for the first time in a Democratic primary.

Tim Miller, a former Republican consultant who worked for Jeb Bush’s 2016 campaign, cast his ballot for Biden in California. John Weaver, a longtime Republican who helped run Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaigns, voted for Biden in Texas. Longtime conservative commentators Bill Kristol and Matt Lewis supported Biden in Virginia, as did former FBI director James B. Comey, who had been a Republican for most of his life.

“Just voted to return decency to the White House and beat the hell outta @realDonaldTrump,” Weaver tweeted. “Proud to have voted in the Democratic primary for @JoeBiden #TeamJoe.”

Lewis tweeted: “1. This is the ‘Buckley rule’ (albeit, within the confines of a Dem primary). Biden is the most conservative candidate — who can win. 2. I am also voting to stop a socialist. The last thing this country needs is a binary choice between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump!!”

Tara Setmayer, a conservative CNN commentator, also voted for Biden in Virginia, tweeting: “I just cast my first ballot for a Democratic candidate for president in my life. Without hesitation, I voted for @JoeBiden here in #VAprimary.”

“Trust me,” she tweeted later. “There are a lot more of us out there!”

February 26, 2020 at 9:40 PM EST
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Sanders offers some personal reflection at campaign stop

By Sean Sullivan

GOLDSBORO, N.C. — “Who is Bernie Sanders? Sometimes I wish I knew.”

That was how the senator from Vermont began his introduction at a church here Wednesday evening, where he touched on a variety of subjects ranging from his family — something he is normally reluctant to discuss — to his grievances with the news media and debate moderators and his exasperation with critics of his views on health care.

Speaking at an event hosted by the Rev. William Barber and the Poor People’s Campaign, he spoke of growing up in Brooklyn in a family of modest means and recounted the story of his father’s immigrant journey to America. Sanders said that when he was a child, when he read about “the slaughter of the Jewish people,” it reduced him to tears.

For a candidate who is not usually inclined to share his personal story, it was an unusually detailed and candid retelling.

“That has left a lasting impact in who I am as a person,” the senator said.

Sanders, who rarely holds question-and-answer sessions with groups of reporters, also repeatedly alleged that the news media does not ask him questions about how to combat income inequality and problems in the nation’s health-care system. He also seemed to revel in his status as a top target of his rivals at Tuesday night’s debate, a reflection of his standing atop the polls.

“I had to keep ducking and weaving,” he told the audience. Sanders also rejected the notion that believing health care is a human right should be seen as radical. “What an extremist! Communist! Oh, my God,” he said, mocking his critics’ assessment of his ideas.

February 26, 2020 at 7:45 PM EST
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Trump blames stock market dip on Democratic presidential candidates

By Colby Itkowitz

The coronavirus is not the only reason the stock market dropped this week — it’s also the fault of the Democratic presidential candidates, Trump said during a news conference to update the public on the virus.

Trump claimed that when investors see the “Democratic candidates standing on that stage making fools of themselves, when they look at the statements made … I think that has a huge effect.”

Financial experts point to the potential disruption to the global markets due to the coronavirus as the reason stocks are down.

Trump said that’s true but that “you can add quite a bit of sell-off” to the fear that a Democrat will win the White House.

“After I win the election the stock market is going to boom like it’s never boomed before,” he said.

February 26, 2020 at 5:55 PM EST
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Warren pitches herself as a ‘fighter’ who took on big banks

By Amy B Wang

Campaigning in South Carolina, Warren continued pitching herself as a “fighter” who would be willing to “dig” into the details and make actual change once in office.

Though she didn’t call out other candidates by name on a tele-town hall Wednesday, Warren echoed a message she had conveyed on the debate stage the previous night — and that she has increasingly made in recent weeks — when she carefully drew a distinction between herself and Sanders. In essence, she said, Sanders talked a good talk on a progressive agenda; she would walk the walk.

On the call Wednesday, Warren emphasized her work creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with President Barack Obama.

“I can get stuff done,” she told an undecided voter on the call. “For example, that consumer agency? Everybody told me, ‘Give up now, girl, because you cannot make this happen.’ And I just refused to give up. I got out there, took on the big banks. They were spending a million dollars a day lobbying against me. … And yet, I got in that fight. I took them on. I built the coalitions … and got that thing passed into law, and I’ve done that again and again.”

Warren also noted that she got the CEO of Wells Fargo fired and led the charge against cuts to Social Security in 2013.

“And I’ve done a lot of that with very little power,” Warren said on the call. “You put me in a position where I’m president of the United States, boy, I will use the power I have to make a real difference.”

February 26, 2020 at 5:09 PM EST
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Obama demands South Carolina stations pull misleading ad attacking Biden

By Michael Scherer and Anu Narayanswamy

Former president Barack Obama is calling on South Carolina television stations to stop running an ad from a pro-Trump super PAC that uses his words out of context in a misleading attack on Biden.

The Committee to Defend the President reported to the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday spending more than $250,000 in South Carolina to oppose Biden.

The group, which placed a similar amount of anti-Biden advertising in Nevada earlier this month, circulated an ad that falsely suggests that words Obama spoke in the narration of his own book were meant to describe Biden.

Read more here.

February 26, 2020 at 5:00 PM EST
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Sanders takes aim at Trump over New York Times lawsuit

By Felicia Sonmez

Hours after Trump’s campaign announced that it was suing the New York Times, Sanders responded with a statement sharply criticizing the president over the move.

“Trump has called the press the ‘enemy of the people,’ and now — taking a page from his dictator friends around the world — is trying to dismantle the right to a free press in the First Amendment by suing the New York Times for publishing an opinion column about his dangerous relationship with Russia,” Sanders said.

He added: “Enough. Donald Trump is the most dangerous president in modern history, and this November we will defeat him, restore the rule of law, and protect our constitutional rights.”

Sanders has frequently railed against the “corporate media.” In August, the U.S. senator from Vermont took aim at The Washington Post in two separate town halls, accusing the newspaper of being biased against his campaign due to his criticism of Amazon’s labor practices and tax record.

Sanders did not cite any evidence for his claims at the time; he later clarified that he was speaking about corporate media more broadly. The Post is owned by Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, and operates independently of Amazon.

February 26, 2020 at 3:48 PM EST
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Democratic Senate candidates endorsed by DSCC are not backing Sanders

By Colby Itkowitz

Party establishment-backed candidates in three Senate races crucial to the Democrats’ path to winning control of the Senate are divided over their preferred 2020 presidential candidate.

MJ Hegar, running as the establishment’s pick to take on incumbent Sen. John Cornyn (R) in Texas, announced that she had voted early for Warren.

Last week, Cal Cunningham in North Carolina said he voted early for Buttigieg. And earlier this month, Theresa Greenfield in Iowa caucused for Klobuchar.

It’s little surprise that Sanders, the race’s current front-runner, wouldn’t receive support from candidates sanctioned by the national Democrats’ official campaign arms. Despite being in Congress for nearly 30 years, Sanders remains an outsider. He has eight congressional endorsements, but just one is from a senator — fellow Vermonter Patrick J. Leahy (D).

February 26, 2020 at 3:37 PM EST
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John Legend stumps for Warren in South Carolina

By Annie Linskey

ORANGEBURG, S.C. — Singer John Legend performed two songs, including one about a slow burn love affair, at Warren’s town hall Wednesday afternoon at a college auditorium here, introducing a new soundtrack for the candidate as she moves into the next phase of the campaign.

“This ain’t a movie, love. No fairy-tale conclusion, y’all,” Legend sang, sitting at a grand piano on a stage as the audience of largely black women stood and sang along. “It gets more confusing every day.”

It’s an appropriate choice for a campaign that so far has posted a third-place finish in Iowa and fourth place in New Hampshire and Nevada. But it remains optimistic that it can begin making big inroads in the delegate count after March 3, when 14 states vote, even though the campaign cannot name a state where it is confident Warren will prevail.

Despite Warren’s poor finishes so far, there is a head-scratching aspect of her campaign: Warren has been raising bucketloads of money online after strong debate performances, which will keep her massive operation going for at least a few more weeks. And she’s attracting thousands of people to events in places like Seattle and Denver.

The energy suggests that Warren’s campaign can persist, even without wins on the horizon. Warren also now benefits from a well-funded super PAC that’s blasting her message out in states that vote next week.

Legend, making brief remarks to introduce Warren, stressed that voters should try to tune out the punditry and focus on what Warren says she’d do in the White House.

“I know that Donald Trump is an existential threat to this nation, and everybody’s hoping and praying we pick the most electable candidate from the Democratic Party,” Legend said.

“But the fact is, I can’t predict who the most electable nominee is,” Legend said in his remarks. “And you probably can’t, either. So I’m going to vote based on who I think would make the best president.”

February 26, 2020 at 3:16 PM EST
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Trump campaign sues New York Times over year-old story related to Russia

By Colby Itkowitz

The Trump campaign filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the New York Times over an op-ed published in March that it alleges was defamatory for linking the campaign with Russia.

The lawsuit, filed in New York State Court, alleges that the newspaper “has engaged in a systematic pattern of bias against the Campaign, designed to maliciously interfere with and damage its reputation and seek to cause the organization to fail.”

The article was an opinion piece written by former Times executive editor Max Frankel, called “The Real Trump-Russia Quid Pro Quo,” that said there was a “deal” between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. The campaign claims the article forces it to “expend funds on corrective advertisements” and is seeking damages.

These lawsuits are very difficult to win, especially in this case, because it involves an opinion piece and not a news article.

February 26, 2020 at 2:17 PM EST
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Biden making first ad buys in Super Tuesday states

By Matt Viser

Biden’s campaign is planning to make its first advertising buys in Super Tuesday states, spending six figures across seven states in an attempt to lay the groundwork beyond South Carolina.

Biden’s campaign is planning to run an ad featuring then-President Barack Obama giving Biden the Medal of Freedom in several southern states with large African American populations. The ad will air in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

Biden is being heavily outspent by his rivals, according to data from the firm Advertising Analytics. All other campaigns have made significant investments throughout the race and have much more planned in coming days.

Over the next week, Bloomberg is spending $35 million, while businessman Steyer is spending $5.9 million, and Sanders is spending $3.6 million. Klobuchar is at $1.1 million — with another $356,000 from a super PAC backing her — while Warren is spending $628,000, with another $307,000 from the super PAC supporting her. Buttigieg is spending about $25,000, according to the data.

February 26, 2020 at 1:36 PM EST
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Prospect of Sanders as presidential nominee divides Senate Democrats

By Paul Kane

Senate Democrats, who have worked more closely with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) than anyone else in the past 13 years, split into several factions when considering the increasing likelihood of the self-proclaimed democratic socialist as their standard-bearer against President Trump.

Some question whether Sanders and his liberal agenda can appeal to suburban swing voters critical to the party’s hopes of claiming GOP Senate seats in Colorado, Maine, Arizona and North Carolina. “I think winning a primary election and winning a general election are two different things,” said Sen. Michael F. Bennet (Colo.), a failed 2020 contender himself.

Others say the key is forging unity once the presidential primary contest is settled, bringing together all sides to help Democratic chances up and down the ballot. “I’m not in the freakout caucus. I think the main thing is that we need to come together and support the eventual nominee, whoever that nominee is,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), who has previously chaired House and Senate campaign committees.

Read more here.

February 26, 2020 at 1:27 PM EST
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Sen. Rubio says Sanders is a Marxist, not a democratic socialist

By John Wagner

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) continued to press his argument Wednesday that Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, is actually a Marxist — offering a preview of the kind of Republican attacks the senator from Vermont could face if he becomes the Democratic nominee.

“Bernie Sanders is actually not a socialist. His sympathies and ideas are Marxist,” Rubio said in a tweet, referring to the ideology named for 19th-century German philosopher Karl Marx.

Rubio attached a clip of an appearance on Fox News from Tuesday night in which he made that argument.

“This is Marxism, and Marxism is based on the belief that no person has any value as an individual, that your value is that you’re a member of a class,” Rubio told host Sean Hannity. “Second, Marxism is based on the belief that an employer and an employee, a worker and an owner, can’t both help each other and both be better off.”

February 26, 2020 at 1:17 PM EST
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Sanders attacks Biden’s record, says it makes it harder to compete against Trump

By Sean Sullivan

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — Sanders attacked Biden on Wednesday, arguing that the former vice president’s policy record will impede his ability to marshal an effective movement against President Trump.

“I say to my good friend Joe Biden: Joe, you can’t do it when you have voted for terrible trade policies,” said Sanders, who went on to assail Biden’s vote for a bankruptcy bill and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

His comments reflected the state of the race ahead of Saturday’s South Carolina primary. Polls here show that Biden and Sanders are the two leading candidates.

Sanders spoke to a predominantly white audience here. He spent the morning at a breakfast hosted by the Rev. Al Sharpton, where multiple candidates spoke. The audience there was mostly African American.

February 26, 2020 at 12:52 PM EST
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Bloomberg debuts ad focused on coronavirus

By John Wagner

Bloomberg on Wednesday unveiled a new television ad, slated to run in Super Tuesday states, suggesting that he is well equipped to manage the spread of coronavirus.

The 30-second spot, the latest in a barrage that the former mayor of New York is funding with his own money, opens with news footage about the arrival of coronavirus cases in the United States and the effect on financial markets.

“Managing a crisis is what Mike Bloomberg does,” a narrator says. “In the aftermath of 9/11, he steadied and rebuilt America’s largest city, oversaw emergency response to natural disasters, upgraded hospital preparedness to manage health crises, and he’s funding cutting-edge research to contain epidemics.”

The ad comes as the coronavirus crisis increasingly becomes a focus for the Democratic contenders — and demands more of President Trump’s time. In response to the epidemic, Warren has released an infectious-diseases plan.

Trump, meanwhile, has announced a 6 p.m. news conference Wednesday with officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others to discuss the spread of the virus. His planned appearance comes as Democratic congressional leaders accuse him of not moving swiftly enough.

In morning tweets, Trump accused the media of stoking panic about financial markets.