Rivals Target Bernie Sanders At The Outset Of Latest Democratic Debate

Bernie Sanders was the early target of attacks at the Democratic debate on Tuesday, as rivals sought to slow his momentum as the front runner for the nomination.

“I am hearing my name mentioned a bit tonight,” Sanders quipped after the first ten minutes. “I wonder why.”

Sanders was asked the first question — why would voters choose his agenda of Democratic socialism over a robust economy under Donald Trump.

“The economy is doing great for people like Mr. Bloomberg,” Sanders said, before explaining how the economy was working “for the 1 percent.”

Bloomberg responded with a biting dig at reports that Russians are trying to interfere in the election to help Sanders.

“Vladimir Putin thinks that Donald Trump should be President of the United States and that’s why Russia is helping you get elected Bernie Sanders,” Bloomberg said.

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Pete Buttigieg said that the Russians, more than anything, “want chaos,” but he quickly turned that into an attack on Sanders.

“Imagine spending the better part of 2020 with Bernie Sanders versus Donald Trump,” he said. “Think about what that will be like for this country.”

Joe Biden cited reports that in 2012, Sanders considered challenging President Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination.

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

Even Elizabeth Warren, who shares some of Sanders’ progressive goals, criticized him. “Bernie and I agree on a lot of things. But I think I would be a better president than Bernie,” she said.

She said that she would be able to get things done, pointing to her meticulous policy proposals.

“I dug in. I did the work,” Warren said. “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.”

The first 30 minutes of the debate were somewhat chaotic, as co-moderators Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell at times struggled to gain control as the candidates talked over each other. At one point, Sanders even said, “Moderator! My turn.”

The Democratic infighting reflected what was at stake. The debate is the final event before the South Carolina primary on Saturday, as well as Super Tuesday on March 3, when 14 states will vote and select more than one-third of the delegates. The field is likely to narrow after that, particularly if Sanders establishes a significant lead in the race. As co-moderator King said at the outset, “This debate may be the last best chance for the candidates to make their case to voters.”

Seven candidates were on the debate stage at the Charleston Gaillard Center, with hundreds of reporters and other media figures watching from a filing center in a nearby ballroom.

The debate was the tenth this cycle but the first hosted by CBS News, with sister cable network BET providing a simulcast and Twitter as a partner. Last week’s debate in Las Vegas, hosted by NBC News and MSNBC, drew almost 20 million viewers, setting a record for a Democratic primary debate.

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