What to Expect from the South Carolina Democratic Debate

CHARLESTON, SC — The 10th Democratic presidential primary debate takes place in Charleston, South Carolina Tuesday and is not only the last debate before the SC Democratic primary on Saturday, but the last debate before Super Tuesday. 

The debate starts at 8 p.m. EST Tuesday. CBS News is co-hosting the debate with the Congressional Black Caucus Institute, and that will give viewers some indication of the type of questions that could be asked. 

Why This Debate Matters

The South Carolina primary on Saturday is the last of the four early primaries, and the first in the South. The debate is also the last before Super Tuesday on March 3, when 14 states will pick their Democratic candidates, including California and Texas, two of the biggest prizes. Some of those states are also partial or full open primary states, which means it won’t just be Democrats voting that day.

So this is the last chance for the candidates to speak to the nation and share their policies to voters before they go to the polls. The next two primary dates equal over 1,350 delegates to the Democratic National Convention. Historically Super Tuesday helps to winnow out some of the underperforming candidates.

How Did Candidates Qualify for the Debate?

To qualify for this debate, a candidate must do one of two things:

Have at least one pledged delegate from Iowa, New Hampshire or Nevada.

Or they can meet polling requirements, which are:

Receive 10 percent or more support in at least four polls (a combination of national or single-state polls);

Or Receive 12 percent or more support in two qualified single state polls.

This time around seven candidates have qualified:

  •     Joe Biden
  •     Mike Bloomberg
  •     Pete Buttigieg
  •     Amy Klobuchar
  •     Bernie Sanders
  •     Tom Steyer
  •     Elizabeth Warren

What Can We Expect to See in the Debate?

Sanders’s on Castro: In an interview on 60 Minutes, Sanders’s defended remarks he’d made in support of the Fidel Castro in Cuba decades ago, saying not everything the Castro Regime did was bad. The remarks sparked a fervor online. With Sanders as the current candidate to beat, look for these remarks to come up in the debate, giving candidates a chance to respond.

Biden’s Last Stand? It’s widely believed South Carolina will be important to the former vice president’s future on the campaign trail. In the past Biden called the state his firewall – a comment he recently contradicted. He is on top of the polls but Sanders is gaining.

Billionaire vs. Billionaire: Bloomberg needs a better performance in this debate than his disastrous appearance in Nevada, especially since he starts appearing on the ballots on Super Tuesday. He will also have to contend with an additional candidate this time – billionaire Tom Steyer will also be on the stage this time. As Steyer also needs a good show, we may see the two men go at it to show their differences.

What Else Should Kentuckians Listen for in Tuesday’s Debate?

Civil Rights: With the Congressional Black Caucus Institute co-hosting, expect civil rights and voting rights issues to make an appearance. This could include closing racial gaps in several aspects like student loan debt, education, and wealth; it could include mass incarceration, stop and frisk policies, and possibly reparations, which has been talked about in previous debates.

Health Care: A new CBS poll showed health care is the number one issue for voters in South Carolina, with 41 percent believing that. So there’s more than a good chance health care will be a top topic in the debate. It’s been a big topic in pretty much every debate.