CBS News Democratic Primary Debate Charleston, South Carolina Transcript Part 1

CBS Democratic Debate
The10th Democratic Debate Courtesy CBS News)

This is part 1 of the rush transcript from CBS News Democratic primary debate on February 25, 2020 in Charleston, South Carolina.


O’DONNELL: Good evening, and welcome.

The Democratic presidential primary here in South Carolina, the first primary in the South, is just four days away.

KING: And Super Tuesday is just a week away. And this is the biggest primary day of the year, as voters in 14 states cast ballots, and many of them tell us they have not actually made up their mind.

So, this debate, when you think about it tonight, may be the last, best chance for the candidates to make their case to South Carolina and Super Tuesday voters.

O’DONNELL: And CBS News is proud too bring you this debate, along with our co-sponsors.

They are the Democratic National Committee and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute, a nonpartisan organization committed to educating voters and training political leaders.

KING: And we are partnering tonight also with Twitter.

So, you at home can participate in this debate. How do you do that? Send us your questions for the candidates using the Twitter hashtag #DemDebate.

O’DONNELL: Now, here are the rules for the next two hours.

When you are asked a question, you will have one minute and 15 seconds to answer, and 45 seconds for follow-ups.

So, let’s begin.

Senator Sanders, we haven’t had a national unemployment rate this low for this long in 50 years. Here in South Carolina, the unemployment rate is even lower.

How will you convince voters that a Democratic socialist can do better than President Trump with the economy?

SANDERS: Well, you’re right. The economy is doing really great for people like Mr. Bloomberg and other billionaires.


SANDERS: In the last three years, last three years, billionaires in this country saw an $850 billion increase in their wealth.

But you know what? For the ordinary American, things are not so good. Last year, real wage increases for the average worker were less than 1 percent. Half of our people are living paycheck to paycheck; 87 million Americans have no health insurance or are underinsured; 45 million people are struggling with student debt; 500,000 people tonight are sleeping out on the street, including 30,000 veterans.

That is not an economy that’s working for the American people. That’s an economy working for the 1 percent.

We’re going to create an economy for all, not just wealthy campaign contributors.


O’DONNELL: Mayor Bloomberg…




O’DONNELL: Mayor Bloomberg, I’ll let you respond to that.

Do you think Senator Sanders’ economy would be better for America than President Trump’s?

BLOOMBERG: I — I think that Donald Trump thinks it would be better if he’s president. I do not think so.

Vladimir Putin thinks that Donald Trump should be president of the United States.

And that’s why Russia is helping you get elected, so you will lose to him.

SANDERS: Oh, Mr. Bloomberg.

Let me tell Mr. Putin, OK, I’m not a good friend of President Xi of China. I think President Xi is an authoritarian leader.

And let me tell Mr. Putin, who interfered in the 2016 election, try to bring Americans against Americans, hey, Mr. Putin, if I’m president of the United States, trust me, you’re not going to interfere in any more American elections.


O’DONNELL: Senator Warren?

BUTTIGIEG: Look, we know what the president — what Russia wants. It’s chaos.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, look, the way I see this is that Bernie is winning right now because the Democratic Party is a progressive party, and progressive ideas are popular ideas, even if there are a lot of people on this stage who don’t want to say so.


WARREN: You know, but Bernie and I agree on a lot of things, but I think I would make a better president than Bernie.

And the reason for that is that getting a progressive agenda enacted is going to be really hard, and it’s going to take someone who digs into the details to make it happen.

Bernie and I both wanted to help rein in Wall Street. In 2008, we both got our chance. But I dug in. I fought the big banks. I built the coalitions, and I won.

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 into it, and doesn’t show enough about how we’re going to pay for it.


WARREN: I dug in. I did the work. 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. Progressives have got one shot. And we need to spend it with a leader who will get something done.

KING: Mayor Buttigieg, we want to bring you in this conversation.


KING: Why would the Russians want to be working on behalf of Bernie Sanders?

BUTTIGIEG: I will tell you what the Russians want. They don’t have a political party. They want chaos.

And chaos is what is coming our way. I mean, look, if you think the last four years has been chaotic, divisive, toxic, exhausting, imagine spending the better part of 2020 with Bernie Sanders vs. Donald Trump.


BUTTIGIEG: Think about what that will be like for this country.


BUTTIGIEG: And, meanwhile, folks at home, from South Carolina to South Bend, are trying to figure out what any of this means for us, because it’s right that there is a progressive majority, an American majority that wants to see real change, wants to see wages go up, and go up faster than the cost of health and saving for retirement.

But, also, there’s a majority of the American people who I think right now just want to be able to turn on the TV, see their president, and actually feel their blood pressure go down a little bit, instead of up through the roof.


BUTTIGIEG: We have an opportunity to set a different tone.

O’DONNELL: Mr. Steyer.

KING: Mr. Steyer.

STEYER: Bernie Sanders’ analysis is right.

The difference is, I don’t like his solutions. I don’t believe that a government takeover of large parts of the economy makes any sense for working people or for families.

I think that what we need to do is to present an alternative that includes a vibrant, competitive private sector.

But we all know, unchecked capitalism has failed. The answer is not for the government to take over the private sector, though. The answer is for us to break the corporate stranglehold on our government and have the government work for the people again.

KING: Vice President Biden?


STEYER: We need to — well, let me just finish, because we need to have an alternative to Donald Trump.

I’m talking about doubling the minimum wage, cutting taxes by 10 percent for everybody who makes less than $250,000 and creating over 4.5 million good-paying union jobs.


STEYER: Donald Trump thinks — he’s incompetent as a steward of the American economy. We have to show that we can create a growing, prosperous economy that works for American working people.

O’DONNELL: Thank you, Mr. Steyer.


KING: Mr. Steyer, thank you. Your time is up.


KING: Vice President Biden?

BIDEN: You know, when we talk about progressive, let’s talk about being progressive.

Walking distance of here is Mother Emanuel Church, nine people shot dead by a white supremacist.

Bernie voted five times against the Brady Bill and wanted a waiting period…


BIDEN: No, let me finish.

Transcription by ASC Services LLC.

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