After being savaged in the previous Democratic presidential candidate debate, all eyes will be billionaire Mike Bloomberg to see if he can recover tonight and his campaign is definitely coming out swinging as Bernie dominates the pack.
Seven Democratic presidential candidates qualified for the South Carolina debate:
Former Vice President Joe Biden
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg
Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders
Businessman Tom Steyer
Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard did not qualify for the debate stage in South Carolina.
As Politico reports, after the disastrous first outing - his net favorability rating dropped 20 points in the aftermath, according to Morning Consult - Bloomberg’s debate goals in the Charleston, S.C., debate are twofold:
Persuade viewers that Sanders is too divisive to defeat President Donald Trump in November,
while sidestepping landmines surrounding complaints from women at his private media company and his race-based policing practices as mayor.
“The debate tomorrow night and the campaign in general … needs to be about one candidate and that’s Bernie Sanders,” Dan Kanninen, a top strategist overseeing Bloomberg’s states operation, said in a conference call with reporters Monday morning.
“We’ve been saying for some time that the nature of this contest means someone with even a small plurality of delegates can come away with an outsize and disproportionate delegate lead.”
“We've trained our eyes on [Bernie]. Something the rest of the field has failed to do eight debates prior and a year in a campaign,” a top aide said in an interview.
However, since the last debate, Bloomberg's odds plummeted as Bernie's soared...
But, most worryingly for the DNC et al., the odds of a Trump win have surged in line with Bernie's rise...
Which makes us wonder if tonight will be different... with the candidates ganging up on Bernie and toeing the establishment line.
Here the five key things to watch in tonight's debate according to The Hill:
Sanders is going to come under attack
Sanders is heading into the debate as the primary race’s nominal front-runner following a near-win in Iowa and back-to-back victories in New Hampshire and Nevada, giving his opponents all the more reason to go on the attack. Already, some campaigns have telegraphed plans to go after Sanders on Tuesday night. Dan Kanninen, an adviser to Bloomberg’s campaign, told reporters on Monday that the debate “needs to be about one candidate and that’s Bernie Sanders.” Meanwhile, Biden has stepped up attacks on the Vermont senator in recent days, launching a digital ad in South Carolina that accused him of plotting to undercut former President Barack Obama. Buttigieg has also shown a willingness to aggressively take on Sanders, using a speech after the Nevada caucuses on Saturday to sharpen contrasts between himself and the senator. All the candidates have a common goal in targeting Sanders: to cast themselves as a leading alternative to a front-runner who some Democrats fear will be a liability to the party if he clinches the nomination. The situation is now viewed as more urgent than ever, especially with Super Tuesday just a week away. Bloomberg’s and Buttigieg’s campaigns have already warned that the March 3 primaries could give Sanders an “insurmountable” delegate lead in the race unless a moderate alternative is able to emerge from the crowded pack.
Candidates will make appeals to black voters
South Carolina may be the fourth state to vote in the Democratic nominating contest, but it’s the first in which a majority – about 60 percent – of the Democratic electorate is black. Expect the candidates to make explicit appeals to those voters when they take the stage in Charleston on Tuesday night. For Biden, who has long held a polling edge over his rivals in support among black voters, Tuesday’s debate may be more of a test of whether he can hold onto that support. The former vice president has faced criticism over his past stances on issues affecting black communities – the 1994 crime bill or his opposition to mandatory school busing in the 1970s, for instance – and recent polls suggest his advantage may be fading. He’s also facing competition from billionaire activist Tom Steyer, who has spent heavily in the state and is aggressively courting black voters. Recent polls show the former hedge fund manager with some strength in South Carolina, but he’s also likely to face attacks for his business record, including his past investments in private prisons. For Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), in particular, there’s a sense of urgency to the South Carolina debate. All three have struggled to build strong support among black voters in the Palmetto State, with recent polls showing them lingering in single digits. An NBC News/Marist survey released on Monday showed Warren with 7 percent support among black voters, while Buttigieg and Klobuchar notched 4 percent and 3 percent, respectively. The debate may offer them their last big chance before the primary on Saturday to make a case to those voters.
Can Warren have a second big night?
Warren came alive in the Democratic debate in Las Vegas last week, delivering the kind of incisive attacks against Bloomberg and other rivals that many of her supporters had been hoping for for months and fueling a fundraising surge that netted her more than $5 million in the day that followed. The Massachusetts senator is likely to try to recreate that energy on Tuesday night when she takes the debate stage in Charleston. But unlike the Las Vegas debate, the one in South Carolina carries more urgency. She’s running in fourth place in recent polls in the state and Tuesday’s debate offers one of her last chances to improve her standing. One key question is whether – or how aggressively – she’ll go after Sanders. The senators two are longtime allies and both occupy the primary field’s progressive lane. On one hand, attacking Sanders too sharply risks isolating many of the liberal voters that Warren will likely need to succeed in the race. On the other, she hasn’t yet notched any victories in the nominating contest and time is running out for her to show that she can be a competitive candidate.
Bloomberg gets a chance for a bounce-back
In the roughly three months since he launched his presidential bid, Bloomberg propelled himself near the top of national polls with a free-spending advertising campaign that cast him as the only candidate capable of taking on President Trump in the 2020 general election. But the image that Bloomberg had spent hundreds of millions of dollars cultivating took a massive hit last week as he struggled to fend off rapid-fire attacks from his rivals on the debate stage in Las Vegas. Throughout the forum, he stumbled through responses, often appearing out of touch and unrepentant for past policy positions. Tuesday night’s debate will give him an opportunity to try to revive his image. Making it even more important for Bloomberg is the fact that Super Tuesday is just a week away. The former New York City mayor declined to compete in the first four primary and caucus states and opted instead to anchor his presidential prospects on a strong showing in the March 3 primary contests. There won’t be another debate for another three weeks, meaning that the forum in Charleston on Tuesday night will be his last chance for a while to show he has what it takes to win.
How nasty will the attacks get?
As the race for the Democratic presidential nomination has become more urgent, the candidates’ attacks on one another have grown more bitter and personal, and it appears increasingly likely that that shift may set the tone for Tuesday night’s debate. In his digital ad attacking Sanders as being disloyal to Obama this week, Biden asserted that the Vermont senator “can’t be trusted.” Buttigieg mounted his most explicit attacks yet on the Sanders in a post-Nevada caucuses speech that accused his rival of “ignoring, dismissing, or even attacking the very Democrats we absolutely must send to Capitol Hill.” And that’s not to mention the flurry of attacks that characterized the last debate in Las Vegas. The debate in Charleston may end up being the most hostile yet. Not only will there be more candidates on stage than in Las Vegas, but it may end up being the last debate for some of the candidates, especially those that fall flat in the South Carolina primary or on Super Tuesday. Consequently, it’s possible that the candidates see little downside to getting nasty or personal on Tuesday night.
The debate, co-hosted by CBS News and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute, will begin at 8 p.m. EST. Watch Live here...