Sanders parries attacks from all sides in Democratic presidential debate

US presidential leader Bernie Sanders was brutally attacked Tuesday night during an unusually loud Democratic debate in South Carolina. The high-stakes event is the final debate before “Super Tuesday” on March 3, when 14 states hold their primaries.

US Democratic candidates have gathered on a stage in South Carolina, which will hold its primary elections on February 29 – the fourth presidential nomination contest after Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

After a victory in the Nevada caucus February 21, senator from Vermont Bernie Sandersfaced with blows from other candidates in the South Carolina debate, which led him to wryly ask, “I hear my name mentioned a little bit tonight. I wonder why?”

The candidates wereted no time putting Sanders on the defensive. At the start of the discussion, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg bluntly told Sanders, “Russia helps you get elected,” referring to reports that Russia is trying to help the Sanders presidential campaign.

Sanders deflected Bloomberg’s move: “Hey, Mr. Putin, if I’m president of the United States, believe me, you will no longer interfere in the American elections.”

Former Mayor of South Bend, Indiana Pete Buttigieg replied, “I’ll tell you what the Russians want. They don’t have a political party. They want chaos, and chaos is what keeps us going. come.”

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren also shot Sanders, saying, “Bernie and I agree on many things, but I think I would make a better president than Bernie. Citing her previous work against big banks and health insurance companies, she added, “I dug. I did the job. And then Bernie’s team ransacked me for that, ”causing visible dismay and nods from Sanders.

Former Vice President Joe Biden criticized Sanders’ gun file, criticizing his decision to vote against the 1993 Prevention of Violence with Handguns Act (the Brady Bill), which required mandatory background checks and periods of waiting for gun purchases.

“Bernie voted five times against the Brady Bill … and wanted a 12-hour waiting period,” said Biden.

Referring to the 2015 mass shooting in a church near the scene of the debate, Biden added: “I’m not saying [Sanders is]responsible for the nine deaths, but this man could not have obtained this weapon within the waiting period. “

Sanders admitted that opposing Brady Bill was a “bad vote” on his part.

Sanders has also been criticized for not having a specific plan to fund his Medicare for All plan. This follows an interview broadcast on the American magazine 60 minutesin which Sanders said controversially that his health plan would cost the nation $ 30 trillion.

Warren said, “Bernie and I both want to see universal health care. But Bernie’s plan doesn’t explain how to get there, doesn’t show how we’re going to get enough allies, and doesn’t show enough how we ‘are going to pay for it. “

As expected, the moderators asked Sanders about his praise Fidel Castro in the same 60-minute interview, in which he said, “You know? When Fidel Castro took office, do you know what he did? He had a huge literacy program. Is this a bad thing? Even if Fidel Castro did it? “

Sanders defended himself by saying that former US President Barack Obama had expressed similar beliefs: “What I said was what Barack Obama said about Cuba. Cuba has made progress in education. “

‘Kill him’

Perhaps the biggest shock of the evening came during an exchange between Warren and Bloomberg regarding the treatment of its eponymous media company by certain employees. She first raised the subject during the Nevada debate.

Warren said that at the age of 21, she worked as a special education teacher until she was fired for pregnancy. She said, “At least I didn’t have a boss who said,” Kill him, “as mayor Bloomberg said to one of his pregnant employees.” It was a reference to a Washington Post Reportthat Bloomberg used these words to an employee in 1995. Bloomberg denied the charge.

Warren reiterated his previous calls for Bloomberg to release his former employees from the Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) which prevent them from speaking out about harassment or gender discrimination they may have suffered. Bloomberg replied that he would indeed free women from NDA. He published this decision on his official campaign website February 21.

He replied to Warren, “No one has accused me of doing anything other than just making a comment or two.” He then complained that the issue was over-discussed and said that he was going to get away from the subject: “I’m going to focus on some of these other things.”

Bloomberg’s performance in the Nevada debate has been widely criticized. Speaking on CNN on Wednesday, former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang was blunt: “I don’t think he has had enough training.”

The heat is on

The pressure for solid performance was high for all competitors. Biden must win South Carolina to keep his campaign alive and said he expected to finish first Saturday. The data journalism site fivethirtyeight predicts Biden to win primary, although national polls show Sanders remains at the top with 27.7%, Biden at second distance 16.1% and Warren with 13.0%

Bloomberg’s candidacy has always been long, and his debating performances have done nothing to close the gap. he jumped late in the raceand was not on the ballot in the first four states, opting instead to take a dip on Super Tuesday. He has now spent over $ 500 million on campaign advertising.

Super Tuesday falls on March 3 of this year, when 15 American courts will hold votes (14 state primaries plus a caucus in American Samoa) as well as Democrats abroad, with 34% of all delegates to to win.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)