Live

Watch CBSN Live

2020 Daily Trail Markers: South Carolina primary eve edition

2020 presidential campaign spending nears $1B

After months of phone/text-banking, door-knocking, and politicking from Democratic presidential contenders, South Carolina voters will cast their final votes Saturday in the state's Democratic primary. Two months into 2020, after three states have weighed in, Bernie Sanders has emerged as the frontrunner, winning both Nevada and New Hampshire, and garnering the greatest number of votes in Iowa (though he came in slightly behind Pete Buttigieg in delegates). The Nevada caucuses were the first test of candidate's appeal to minority voters, given its substantial Hispanic population. Sanders was the most popular candidate among Latino voters, CBS News entrance polls showed. 

But in South Carolina, candidates like Biden and Tom Steyer are hoping for victories in the state. Campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell reports that registered Republicans will also be able to vote because of the state's open primaries, meaning all registered South Carolina voters can participate in either party's primary regardless of political affiliation.

Karen Martin, organizer of the Spartanburg Tea Party, is leading Trump 229 (229 for February 29th), an effort that's using social media and word-of-mouth to encourage Republicans to vote for Bernie Sanders on Saturday. Biden has been leading the race in South Carolina. Martin said that her small group was hoping to win enough support for Sanders to bump him into first place, above Joe Biden, who has been holding onto a shrinking lead in the state. Martin and her group say they're really pushing for closed primaries in the state, which would mean only registered party members would be able to vote in their party's primary. Disrupting the process, she suggested, might move the state to close its primaries. CBS News also spoke with Democratic county party leaders who are less concerned that the effort will "sabotage" the Democratic primary. "Many former Republicans are planning on voting Democratic this time, not to sabotage, but because they truly believe a Democratic candidate is the best one to elect this November," said Charleston County Democratic Party Chair Colleen Condon.

Find more from Mitchell on the history of the state's primary, the campaigns and why all of this matters here.

FROM THE CANDIDATES

BERNIE SANDERS

For the first time on the campaign trail, Sanders brought up coronavirus this morning in St. George, South Carolina, and he did it to take a stab at President Trump, reports CBS News campaign reporter Cara Korte. "Everybody knows there is a coronavirus spreading all over the world," said Sanders. "You would think that you'd have a President of the United States leading — working with scientists all over the world, bringing people together to figure out how we're gonna deal with this crisis." The senator continued: "He is here in South Carolina, he doesn't even have any opposition in the Republican primary," said Sanders. "How pathetic and how petty can you be?" he asked. Sanders then made a direct challenge to the president, saying, "Hey Mr. Trump, why don't you worry about the coronavirus rather than disrupting the Democratic primary right here in South Carolina?" Earlier in the rally, Sanders called the president a fraud and invoked President Abraham Lincoln saying, "You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you can't fool all the people all the time."

Additionally, Sanders criticized the billionaire class, Mike Bloomberg and his fellow Democratic candidates on campaign fundraising. It's not rare for Sanders to mock the wealthy. On Saturday, he told the crowd gathered in St. George that billionaires "aren't evil, they're ignorant." "They have not a clue [...] They don't know what goes on in the real world," said Sanders. A voter caught Sanders' attention in a discussion of his education plan. This woman said she was a teacher and has three additional jobs to survive, including driving for Uber and working as a barista. "What you just described is national disgrace," said Sanders. 

On Bloomberg, Sanders referenced Bloomberg's defense of his wealth during the CBS News debate. On Tuesday evening, Bloomberg said he worked hard to acquire his wealth. Sanders flipped that around to rouse the crowd, at one point exclaiming, "So does everybody else in America. Unless I'm wrong, most of you have not seen a $15 billion increase in your wealth in the last 3-years." Spreading out the criticisms, Sanders referenced opponents Super PACs and mocked the wealthy for being against his campaign. Finally, Sanders, while listing off elements of his agenda, joked about his ideas being "radical" and sarcastically referred to them as "communism."

PETE BUTTIGIEG

After finishing strong in Iowa and New Hampshire, Pete Buttigieg still faces considerable headwinds in appealing to black voters as the election calendar moves to South Carolina and Super Tuesday states, reports CBS News campaign reporter Jack Turman

Buttigieg frequently argued on the campaign trail that performing well in Iowa and New Hampshire, which are mostly white, would demonstrate his ability to win. And winning, he reasoned, would lend his candidacy credibility in states with more minority voters, including the next two to vote, Nevada and South Carolina. On the day of the New Hampshire primary, he told CBS News he'd heard from voters in those states that they wanted to see a candidate prove he or she can win. "I think there's going to be a level of clarity as we emerge from New Hampshire, where campaigns like mine that need to go out there and earn support and prove that we have the right message have a whole new chance to do it and are getting a second look from voters who really weren't tuning into us much before," Buttigieg said.

But the young former mayor of South Bend did not get much of bounce out of the first two states, finishing third in Nevada, behind Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. The Iowa Democratic Party's disastrous handling of its caucuses earlier this month were not helpful to Buttigieg. Its lengthy delay in reporting the results denied Buttigieg a boost after his finish at the top the field. Going into South Carolina, he's polling farther back, with 10% support in CBS News' most recent poll.  

MIKE BLOOMBERG

While campaigning in Houston, Bloomberg criticized Mr. Trump on his response to coronavirus, reports CBS News campaign reporter Tim Perry. Bloomberg said that the president had slashed funding for the Centers for Disease Control and fired the White House team in charge of pandemics. "He predicted this was all going to be over in two months," Bloomberg said. "But the president is not a scientist. (That's a nice way to put it.) He doesn't even believe in science!"  Bloomberg, while he was mayor, had to deal with the swine flu outbreak in 2009 and the West Nile virus in 2012. He told PBS "NewsHour's" Judy Woodruff that when he was mayor, "I had a person, a whole department that was there to address issues like swine flu and the air after 9/11, when people were breathing that air."

STATE-BY-STATE

SOUTH CAROLINA

On the eve of the South Carolina primary, President Trump is hosting a campaign rally in North Charleston. The early primary state counter-programming comes amid growing fears of the coronavirus threat and Wall Street's worst week since 2008, CBS News Campaign reporter Nicole Sganga reports. Mr. Trump's Friday night rally at North Charleston Coliseum and Performing Arts Center will begin at 7pm. Campaign officials expect to fill 13,000 arena seats.

The President appointed Vice President Mike Pence to lead the coronavirus task force Wednesday in the wake of warnings of "community spread" from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CBS News reports in the United States, at least 62 people were being treated for COVID-19 as of Thursday, the majority of them evacuated from Asia.

Democratic rivals and presidential contenders including Sanders, Biden and Steyer have all taken aim at Mr. Trumps' response to the COVID-19 in recent days, while campaigning through South Carolina. On Thursday, Steyer called the administration's response to the pandemic, "dramatically inadequate and incompetent," at a campaign rally in North Charleston, Mitchell reports.

TEXAS

A new poll from Univision News and the Center for Mexican American Studies at the University of Houston shows Sanders leading in Texas just four days before the state's primary on Super Tuesday, reports CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster. Sanders topped the poll with 26% of likely Democratic voters saying they were planning to support him. He was followed by Biden (20%), Bloomberg (20%), Warren (11%) and Buttigieg (6%). The rest were of the field were all at 2% or less. The poll was conducted from February 21 through February 26 with a margin of error of +/- 4.3%. It also looked at preference for Latino voters, who make up 30% of eligible voters in Texas with about  Pew Research. Thirty-one percent said they planned to support Sanders, followed by Bloomberg (23%), Biden (19%), Warren (8%) and Buttigieg (5%). The rest were under 5%. The margin of error for that section was +/- 5.5%. As for the top issues for Latino voters: Lowering health care costs was the top priority (35%), followed by improving wages (23%), creating more jobs (18%), protecting migrant rights (16%), stopping racist attacks against immigrants and Latinos (11%) and lowering taxes (10%).

CALIFORNIA

In the Golden State, two new polls showed Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders with big leads, report CBS News campaign reporters Musadiq Bidar and Alex Tin. A poll from CNN out Friday shows Sanders leading with 35% followed by Warren at 14% and Biden at 13%, Bloomberg at 12% and Buttigieg at 7%, to round out the top five. The University of California Berkeley also released a new poll on Friday showing Sanders ahead of the pack by a big margin. In that poll, Sanders leads with 34% support followed by Warren at 17%, Bloomberg at 12%, and Buttigieg at 11%. Biden comes in fifth at 8%.

California's First Partner, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, an award-winning filmmaker and a coveted endorsement for campaigns, announced Friday she is backing Warren. In a video posted on her Twitter account, Siebel Newsom said Warren "is the brightest person in the room and she actually cares about each and every one of you." Siebel Newsom urged voters to "think about your wives, your mothers, your sisters, and your daughters. Vote your conscience, not what the pundits and billionaires are telling you to do."

As of Friday afternoon, more than 3 million voters had mailed in their ballots, according to Political Data Inc. More than 16 million ballots, over 7 million to Democrats, were mailed in to voters this year. Several candidates are expected to campaign in California in the next five days as Super Tuesday looms. Warren, Sanders, Buttigieg, Biden, Steyer and Tulsi Gabbard all have planned events as of now.

ON THE $$$

AD SPENDING

Candidates and outside groups are on track to have spent more than $1 billion in the 2020 race by Super Tuesday, with Bloomberg is contributing about half of that sum. According to Kantar/CMAG, the billionaire businessman will have spent more than $500 million by March 3 in his unorthodox bid for the White House. According to CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice, he's the only candidate in the presidential race currently spending in all Super Tuesday states with just days to go before the primaries there and its massive delegate haul. The only other candidate who comes close is Sanders, who has bought ads in every state except his home state of Vermont.

Sanders, however does not come close to Bloomberg in terms how much he's spending in those states. Bloomberg is spending nearly $167 million on TV and radio ads in Super Tuesday states. In total, Sanders is spending roughly $16.5 million.

Other candidates who have placed ad buys in Super Tuesday states include Steyer with $42 million ($35 million of it in California alone), Klobuchar with $4.5 million so far, Buttigieg with nearly $2.2 million, Warren with nearly $2 million, and Biden with nearly $1.5 million. Gabbard has spent less than $150,000. The grand sum of all Democratic presidential candidates in Super Tuesday states on ad spending comes out to about $236 million so far, but there's still four days to go. Several candidates are also getting outside help from outside groups including the Persist PAC which supports Warren and has outspent her in Super Tuesday states, the Kitchen Table Conversations PAC that supports Klobuchar is spending at least $750,000 in Super Tuesday states, and the progressive group VoteVets that supports Buttigieg is placing ads in states including California.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome browser logo Chrome Safari browser logo Safari Continue