The Latest: Biden criticizes Sanders for ‘bad vote’ on guns


CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) – The Latest on the 2020 Democratic primary contest (all times local):

8:55 p.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is yet again going after Bernie Sanders for what he characterized as softness toward the gun manufacturing industry.

Biden said at the Democratic presidential debate in Charleston, South Carolina, on Tuesday night that Sanders’ position on gun makers “has caused carnage on our streets.”

In response, Sanders said he has “cast thousands of votes, including bad votes. That was a bad vote.” The issue came up after an introductory question that included mention of the 2015 massacre at Mother Emanuel AME Church – just steps from the debate venue – in which nine black Bible study participants were slain during a racist shooting.

Sanders, in 2005, supported a proposal backed by the National Rifle Association granting gun manufacturers broad legal protections. He has repeatedly been put on the defensive during the 2020 campaign on his perceived support for the gun manufacturing industry.

In a turn on the issue, Pete Buttigieg also took on Sanders, saying his position on guns wasn’t an old one but “is a current bad position that Bernie Sanders holds.”


8:45 p.m.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg says the cost of Bernie Sanders’ health care plan “adds up to four more years of Donald Trump.”

He also says it would make California Republican Kevin McCarthy the speaker of the House and stop Democrats from winning back control of the U.S. Senate.

At Tuesday night’s debate, Buttigieg echoed Democrats who have warned that a Sanders nomination would harm candidates running in down-ticket races. Buttigieg says Democratic candidates who flipped House seats in 2018 don’t want to defend Sanders’ policies on “Medicare for All.”

He said, “The time has come for us to stop acting like the presidency is the only office that matters.”


8:40 p.m.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders says his government-based “Medicare for All” health care plan won’t cost as much as many estimate and is the best possible option for the country.

The Vermont senator said during Tuesday night’s debate in Charleston, South Carolina, that it’s best to guarantee health care for everyone, not rely on a variety of separate insurance plans.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar said that more was needed in the health care debate than “broken promises that sound good on bumper stickers.” The rest of the field lobbed criticism at Sanders on Tuesday’s stage as expected, given his elevated profile following wins in earlier contests.

California billionaire Tom Steyer said that Sanders’ plan “shows a huge risk for the Democratic Party.”


8:35 p.m.

Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren is slamming rival Mike Bloomberg over a news report that he told a female employee to “kill it” when she became pregnant. The former New York City mayor denies it.

Invoking her own personal story of discrimination on the job after she became pregnant, Warren escalated her push to get Bloomberg to release all former employees from nondisclosure agreements they signed while working at his media company. The two Democratic presidential hopefuls are tangling on Tuesday night at a pivotal debate in South Carolina, which holds its primary on Saturday.

Bloomberg is denying that he made the incendiary remark to a former female employee: “Never said it, period.”

He is also apologizing for off-color remarks he is reported to have made to female employees, but he has declined to address Warren’s call that he issue a more blanket release from nondisclosure agreements than the three women he has recently released.


8:30 p.m.

Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg says he has been preparing for the role of president since the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Responding to criticism Tuesday from Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren that he is the “riskiest” candidate in the Democratic presidential field, Bloomberg says he’s the choice “that makes the most sense.”

He says: “I have the experience, I have the resources, and I have the record.”

Bloomberg adds that he is best positioned to run the country because he ran the city of New York.

He says: “I have been training for this job since I stepped on the pile that was still smoldering on 9/11.”


8:15 p.m.

Elizabeth Warren is going straight at fellow progressive Bernie Sanders as the latest Democratic presidential debate begins.

Warren said Tuesday that she would be a better president than Sanders because she’ll be able to get more progressive policies passed. She said she’s “dug in” when it comes to fighting big banks and actually explaining how she’d enact universal health care.

Warren said: “Progressives have got one shot, and we need to spend it with a leader who is going to get something done.”

Warren and Sanders share many of the same policy goals. But Sanders has performed far better in the early presidential nominating contests.

Her comments mark some of the sharpest contrasts she’s drawn with him so far. Sanders’ opponents have argued that he’s been ineffective during his three decades in Congress.


8 p.m.

The Democratic presidential debate is kicking off in South Carolina ahead of the state’s weekend primary.

Seven candidates are participating in Tuesday night’s high-stakes debate in Charleston. It could be the White House hopefuls’ final prime-time opportunity to change the direction of the 2020 nomination fight, with Bernie Sanders as the party’s presidential front-runner.

Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg was the focus of last week’s debate for his highly anticipated debut, but after a bad performance froze his momentum, the knives are out for the 78-year-old Vermont senator.

Sanders’ handling of the pressure could be crucial in determining whether he stays at the top of the Democratic pack.

Tuesday’s forum comes just four days before South Carolina’s first-in-the-South primary and one week before more than a dozen states vote on Super Tuesday.


7:05 p.m.

Hours before the Democratic presidential candidates took the debate stage, Vice President Mike Pence trained his focus on Bernie Sanders while campaigning in Michigan.

Pence on Tuesday swatted away a question from a reporter about whether Sanders would prove to be a tougher opponent in the battleground state. Trump was the first Republican presidential candidate to win Michigan since George H.W. Bush took the state in 1988.

But the vice president suggested that Sanders’ advocacy for “Medicare for All,” which would effectively end private insurance, wouldn’t sit well with rank-and-file United Automobile Workers union members in the state’s auto industry.

Pence said, “Telling hundreds of thousands of UAW workers that they’ll lose their health insurance doesn’t sound like a winning message.”

Trump’s Democratic rivals are set to debate Tuesday night in Charleston, South Carolina, ahead of the state’s Saturday primary.


6:30 p.m.

Mike Bloomberg is set to speak at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual conference next week, a move that puts him at odds with fellow Jewish Democratic presidential rival Bernie Sanders.

Sanders has vowed to skip AIPAC’s conference, aligning with liberal activists who pushed every Democratic White House candidate to rule out an appearance. The decision by the Vermont senator is drawing sharp criticism from pro-Israel members of Congress and the Anti Defamation League, making Bloomberg’s decision to attend a point of sharp contrast with his opponent.

Sanders and Bloomberg will face off Tuesday night at a pivotal Democratic primary debate in Charleston, South Carolina.

Sanders and another Democratic hopeful, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, have said they would skip AIPAC’s conference amid liberal concerns about its unwavering alignment with the conservative Israeli government to the exclusion of Palestinians. Sanders has said the group gives airtime to “leaders who express bigotry.”


6:05 p.m.

Prominent Joe Biden supporter and South Carolina state Sen. Dick Harpootlian said he wouldn’t mind hearing his name again on the Democratic debate stage.

Harpootlian has publicly chastised billionaire businessman Tom Steyer and fellow South Carolina legislator Jerry Govan after Steyer began paying Govan as an adviser on his presidential campaign. Govan leads the Legislature’s Black Caucus, and Harpootlian suggested Govan had sold his endorsement, drawing rebukes from many black lawmakers.

In a debate earlier this month in New Hampshire, Steyer demanded Biden condemn Harpootlian. Biden said only that he’d talked to Harpootlian about the matter.

As he walked into the debate site Tuesday evening in South Carolina, Harpootlian smirked when reminded of that exchange. Asked if he expected to hear his name on the Gaillard Center stage, his smile widened. “I hope so,” he said. “I hope so.”


4:30 p.m.

As Democrats plan to debate ahead of the South Carolina presidential primary, Republicans are aiming to make an argument for President Donald Trump’s reelection, regardless of his opponent in November.

The Republican National Committee and the South Carolina Republican Party are teaming up for digital billboards and a mobile billboard truck outside the venue where candidates are gathering Tuesday night in downtown Charleston.

The billboards post stats on 131,000 job gains in South Carolina during Trump’s tenure, as well as tax cuts and “record low unemployment.” Officials say the mobile billboard will roam streets near the debate venue until 9 p.m. Tuesday. Other digital billboards will stay up until Friday, when Trump visits the state for a rally in North Charleston.

Trump’s visit comes just hours before polls open for the Democratic presidential primary. South Carolina GOP officials have opted not to hold a primary this year, clearing the way for Trump to focus on his reelection in a state where his support remains high.


3:50 p.m.

California billionaire Tom Steyer is taking on Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden in a new ad as he looks to shore up support ahead of South Carolina’s presidential primary.

In the ad released Tuesday, Steyer portrays himself as the best option for voters seeking an unconventional candidate who hasn’t been in elected office for decades.

The narrator calls Biden “a good man” but says Biden has “admitted nothing will change if he’s elected.” Of Sanders, the narrator says the Vermont senator’s “socialist plans” won’t defeat President Donald Trump.

Steyer has said much of his candidacy is riding on success in South Carolina, the first early voting state to feature a largely black Democratic electorate. During months of campaigning in the state, Steyer has focused much of his message on the black community, which past polls have showed largely preferred Biden.


1:45 p.m.

California billionaire Tom Steyer says he’s ready to stick to his tack of taking Bernie Sanders on directly in Tuesday night’s Democratic presidential debate.

Steyer told The Associated Press on Tuesday afternoon that he felt it “important to draw distinctions between what I stand for and what he stands for.”

Steyer is among the candidates who have been portraying Sanders’ policies as too extreme for the country, in an effort to stop the Vermont senator’s momentum after several early-voting contests. Steyer said he opposed what he saw as Sanders’ proposed “government takeover of large sections of the economy.”

Earlier Tuesday, Steyer chatted with more than a dozen people at a campaign meet and greet at a historic mansion in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, before heading to the debate venue for a walk through.

South Carolina holds its primary on Saturday.


1:30 p.m.

Supporters of former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg are escalating their attacks on Bernie Sanders over his record on gun control ahead of Tuesday night’s high-stakes Democratic debate in South Carolina.

Five Bloomberg backers, all of them current or former black officials, homed in on Sanders’ record on guns and criminal justice as particular areas of concern.

As the Vermont senator becomes the front-runner in the Democratic presidential primary, the Bloomberg backers say, more scrutiny should be paid to his past votes against the landmark gun control law known as the Brady Bill and his opposition to legislation that would allow gun manufacturers to be sued.

“Too often, Bernie Sanders has been on the wrong side of history, missing in action or unable to make progress on virtually every issue for black voters,” New York Rep. Gregory Meeks told reporters.

Sanders has since changed his position on liability suits against gunmakers, which Meeks suggested put him in the same spot as Bloomberg — who has apologized for his administration’s use of the controversial “stop and frisk” policing strategy.


11:45 a.m.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is meeting privately with leading black newspaper publishers as he tries to shore up African American support ahead of the South Carolina primary on Saturday.

Biden is meeting Tuesday with about a half dozen leaders of of the National Newspaper Publishers Association. The organization includes about 200 black-owned newspapers around the country, with a combined audience the group estimates at 20 million.

The former vice president is depending heavily on black voters as he looks for his first win of the primary season and attempts to blunt Bernie Sanders’ momentum after leading voting in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

Biden was expected in the meeting to discuss the affordable housing plan he announced Monday. He also may bring up his proposals for health care, which he has been emphasizing this week with heavily black audiences.

His proposals include a public option government insurance plan that would cover Americans who would have been covered by Medicaid expansion under the 2010 health care law but who live in states whose Republican governors refused to expand Medicaid.

South Carolina is among those states, as are several states that vote March 3 on Super Tuesday.


12:50 a.m.

The State newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, is endorsing Democrat Pete Buttigieg for president.

The editors of the paper write in an editorial posted late Monday that the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is “the energetic, disciplined candidate who can offer voters a powerful yet pragmatic vision.”

The piece notes Democrats’ past success with younger outsiders such as Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. At 38, Buttigieg is younger than any of them.

Buttigieg has struggled to attract support from African Americans, but the editors credit him for accepting “responsibility to build trust with African American voters” and say he has “made important strides by releasing ambitious proposals.”

The piece asks, “Is his outreach genuine, and is it being undertaken in good faith?” And it answers, “We believe that it is.”


The Buttigieg endorsement story at 12:50 a.m. has been corrected to delete reference to The State being the largest newspaper in South Carolina. The Post and Courier of Charleston has a larger total circulation.

From left, Democratic presidential candidates, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and businessman Tom Steyer participate in a Democratic presidential primary debate at the Gaillard Center, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, in Charleston, S.C., co-hosted by CBS News and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)