Democratic debate in South Carolina

By Mike Hayes and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 4:47 p.m. ET, February 28, 2020
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10:59 p.m. ET, February 25, 2020

Here's who won the South Carolina debate

From CNN's Chris Cillizza

Win McNamee/Getty Image
Win McNamee/Getty Image

The 10th Democratic debate — this one in Charleston, South Carolina — is in the books.  

It was an incredibly contentious affair, with candidates shouting at (and over) one another as they scrambled to draw contrasts with each other in advance of the critical South Carolina primary on Saturday.

Here's who had the best and worst night:

  • Winners: Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump
  • Losers: Michael Bloomberg, Elizabeth Warren, the moderators, the live audience

Read Cillizza's take on why here.

10:58 p.m. ET, February 25, 2020

Klobuchar describes tonight's debate as "another slug fest"

From CNN’s Sara Loaiza

Scott Olson/Getty Images
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar described tonight's Democratic debate in South Carolina as "another slug fest."

"If we’re going to spend the next four months tearing the party apart, then we’ll be able to watch Donald Trump spend the next four years tearing the country apart," she told CNN's Dana Bash and Erin Burnett following the debate.

10:52 p.m. ET, February 25, 2020

Fact check: Sanders uses erroneous figure from think tank 

From CNN's Daniel Dale

Win McNamee/Getty Images
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Early in the debate, Sen. Bernie Sanders used an inaccurate figure that had been provided to his campaign by a progressive think tank that, among other things, keeps track of the fortunes of billionaires. 

“In the last three years, last three years, billionaires in this country saw an $850 billion increase in their wealth,” Sanders said. 

Facts First: The think tank that provided the figure says it is wrong, and says it takes responsibility for the error. 

Sanders was relying on a figure from the Institute for Policy Studies, according to the think tank senior scholar Chuck Collins but the number was inflated. “We informed Senator Sanders that US billionaires increased their wealth since Trump’s election by $850 billion. Our updated number is $710 billion, an increase of 30 percent,” Collins told CNN during the debate. 

“Senator Sanders was accurately using information that we provided, so we at Institute for Policy Studies are responsible for the error,” Collins added. 

He said that in 2016, there were 541 US billionaires with wealth totaling about $2.4 trillion. In 2019, he said, there were 607 US billionaires with wealth totaling about $3.1 trillion. 

Collins said he informed the Sanders campaign on Tuesday morning that there had been an error, after CNN contacted the campaign to ask for the source for the $850 billion number. It is not clear, though, whether Sanders himself was informed of the error prior to the debate. 

There is no doubt that the wealthiest Americans have gotten wealthier under President Trump, though others have also gained. 

According to the Federal Reserve, the combined wealth of the top 1% of American households increased 18% from the fourth quarter of 2016 to the third quarter of 2019 — from $29.18 to $34.53 trillion. The combined wealth of the bottom 50% of households increased 55%, but from a much smaller starting point — from $1.08 trillion to $1.67 trillion — and spread out across many more households. 

10:53 p.m. ET, February 25, 2020

Fact check: Klobuchar claims she's the most effective Democrat in the Senate

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez 

Win McNamee/Getty Images
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Sen. Amy Klobuchar claimed during tonight's Democratic debate that a Vanderbilt University study ranked her as the most effective Democrat in the Senate and that two of her competitors for the Democratic nomination, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, ranked among the bottom half of the list.  

Facts First: Klobuchar is right about herself. She did rank among the most effective members of the Senate and first among Democrats, according to that study. She’s also right that Warren ranked among the bottom half of Democrats. Her characterization of Sanders’ ineffectiveness within the Democratic Party, though, requires clarification. 

Klobuchar said during the debate in South Carolina that “according to Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, last Congress, I was the most effective Democrat in the US Senate on 15 metrics. Bernie and Elizabeth were in the bottom half. It matters — it matters if you can actually get things done." 

The Center for Effective Lawmaking at Vanderbilt evaluates the effectiveness of members of Congress and according to their evaluation of the 115th Congress (2017-2019), Klobuchar ranked as the most effective Democrat in the Senate.  

What Vanderbilt calls the “Legislative Effectiveness Score” is “based on 15 metrics that take into account the number of bills a legislator sponsors, how far each of those bills advances through the legislative process from introduction to (possibly) becoming law and its relative substantive significance.” The average Legislative Effectiveness Score is 1.0.  

 Klobuchar has a score of 2.815, ranking first among the 48 Democrats in the Senate during that time. And Warren has a score of .548 and ranks 32nd out of 48 Democrats in the Senate.  

Sanders caucuses with Democrats, but since he is elected as an independent in Congress, he was not ranked among those within the party as Klobuchar suggested. Sanders has a score of .159.

Sanders’ and Warren’s rankings are below 1.0, the average among all members of Congress. 

10:33 p.m. ET, February 25, 2020

Andrew Yang on how Sanders dodges questions during the debates: "He has a force field"

Former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang said Bernie Sanders is "like a fortress" under questioning on stage.

"I have been there. He has a force field. Everything you say it's like, 'Let me be clear. I'm going to talk about what I'm going to talk about. It's not really going to be what you ask me about,'" he said on CNN following the debate.

Yang added that Sanders will then "go into a Bernieism" rather than addressing the question.

10:26 p.m. ET, February 25, 2020

Fact check: At least one study found Sanders' "Medicare for All" plan would increase health spending

From CNN's Tami Luhby

Win McNamee/Getty Images
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders defended his sweeping plan to overhaul America’s health insurance system, saying “Medicare for All” will reduce the nation’s health care price tag.   

“What every study out there, conservative or progressive says, 'Medicare For All' will save money,” said Sanders, who came under fire for the cost of his proposal, which has been pegged at more than $30 trillion over a decade. 

Facts first: Although Sanders is correct that several studies have found "Medicare for All" would reduce health care spending, at least one study published last year found the opposite. 

A report from the left-leaning Urban Institute Health Policy Center showed that the nation's overall health care spending would rise by roughly $7 trillion to $59 trillion over a decade if Medicare for All goes into effect. The increase would be $720 billion for 2020 alone if the policy were enacted.    

That's because more people would be insured, more benefits would be covered and more medical services would be used since there'd be no cost for care. 

"You will in total spend more as a nation on health care from adding all the bells and whistles that are associated with these kinds of proposals," Linda Blumberg, an institute fellow, said when the study was published last October. 

10:24 p.m. ET, February 25, 2020

Here's how Trump responded to candidates criticizing his handling of coronavirus

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez

President Donald Trump took to Twitter to respond to the presidential candidates at tonight’s Democratic debate after they were critical of his response to the novel coronavirus.

“CDC and my Administration are doing a GREAT job of handling Coronavirus, including the very early closing of our borders to certain areas of the world. It was opposed by the Dems, ‘too soon’, but turned out to be the correct decision,” Trump tweeted. “No matter how well we do, however, the (…) Democrats talking point is that we are doing badly. If the virus disappeared tomorrow, they would say we did a really poor, and even incompetent, job. Not fair, but it is what it is. So far, by the way, we have not had one death. Let’s keep it that way!”

What happened: CNN previously reported that the Democratic candidates were asked tonight how they would address the growing epidemic if they were president.

Former Vice President Joe Biden talked about his experience dealing with the Ebola outbreak during his time in the Obama administration and went after Trump, saying Trump wiped out federal budgets for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sen. Bernie Sanders also went after the President for his comments that the coronavirus will stop spreading once the weather gets warmer.

"In the White House today, we have a self-described great genius — self-described — and this great genius has told us that this coronavirus is going to end in two months. April is the magical date that this great scientist we have in the White House has determined — I wish I was kidding, that is what he said,” Sanders said. 

10:20 p.m. ET, February 25, 2020

Fact check: Biden's claim that Sanders encouraged a primary challenge to Obama

From CNN's Andrew Kaczynski

 Win McNamee/Getty Images
 Win McNamee/Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden said Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders encouraged a primary challenge to President Barack Obama in 2012.

“He said we should primary Barack Obama,” Biden said. “Someone should.” 

Facts First: This is true. Sanders said on a radio show in July 2011 that a primary challenge to Obama would do “a good deal of service” to the country.

“So my suggestion is, I think one of the reasons the president has been able to move so far to the right is that there is no primary opposition to him, and I think it would do this country a good deal of service if people started thinking about candidates out there to begin contrasting what is a progressive agenda as opposed to what Obama is doing,” Sanders said on the Thom Hartmann Show in July 2011. 

“I think one of the reasons that President Obama has moved as far to the right as he has is he thinks he can go all the way and no one will stand up to him,” Sanders added.

On WNYC in March 2011, Sanders said a primary challenge to Obama would “enliven the debate.”

“I'm not a Democrat,” he said. “I'm the longest-serving independent. I think if a progressive Democrat wants to run, I think it would enliven the debate, raise some issues and people have a right to do that.”

Sanders went on to endorse Obama in 2012.

10:15 p.m. ET, February 25, 2020

Candidates lay out their mottos and the biggest misconceptions about them

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

The seven candidates gave a closing statement to wrap up tonight's debate, the last one before Saturday's primary in South Carolina and Super Tuesday.

Asked to describe the biggest misconception about them and their mottos, here's how they responded:

  • Joe Biden said his motto is, "When you get knocked down, get up, and everyone is entitled to be treated with dignity no matter what or who they are." He went on to say that he's committed to putting a black woman on the Supreme Court. On the biggest misconception, Biden said, "I have more hair than I think I do."
  • Michael Bloomberg joked that a misconception about him is that he's "6 feet tall." On his motto, the former New York Mayor was direct, "I've trained for this job for a long time and when I get it I'm going to do something, rather than just talk about it."
  • Pete Buttigieg said people think "I'm not passionate." The former South Bend, Indiana, mayor went on to say that he seeks to "live by the teachings that say if you would be a leader, you must first be a servant."
  • Bernie Sanders said the biggest misconception about him is that his ideas are "radical." He went on to cite a quote from Nelson Mandela as a motto he lives by, saying, "Everything is impossible until it happens."
  • Elizabeth Warren said one misconception about her "is that I don't eat very much." She added, "In fact, I eat all the time." On her motto, Warren quoted Bible Scripture: "In as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
  • Amy Klobuchar said the biggest misconception about her is that "I'm boring because I'm not." She added that her motto is "that politics is about improving people's lives." 
  • Tom Steyer said one misconception about him is that "somehow I'm defined by business success and money." On his personal motto, he said, "Every day, I write a cross on my hand to remind myself to tell the truth and do what's right, no matter what."