The Note: Biden banks on Obama legacy as South Carolina closes in

If Joe Biden goes down, he won’t go down alone.

February 26, 2020, 6:00 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

If Joe Biden goes down, he won't go down alone.

The former vice president has company as he enters the last few days of his must-win state, out of a messy debate that showed the conflicting impulses in a crowded field.

He is expected to get a boost and a valuable visual Wednesday morning. House Majority Whip James Clyburn -- the leading Democratic voice in South Carolina -- is poised to endorse Biden's candidacy, according to multiple people close to Biden.

Rep. Jim Clyburn speaks on stage before the tenth Democratic 2020 presidential debate at the Gaillard Center in Charleston, South Carolina, Feb. 25, 2020.
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

And Biden's still-publicly-silent former partner is with him always. It's key to Biden's appeal among black voters, and critical to his argument against the front-runner, Sen. Bernie Sanders.

"We got a lot done," Biden said of the Obama-Biden years, as he suggested that Sanders stood in former President Barack Obama's way at times.

With its crosstalk and crossfire, Tuesday's debate showed how complicated candidates' arguments remain as the early voting phase comes to a close.

Democratic presidential hopefuls participate in the tenth Democratic primary debate at the Gaillard Center in Charleston, South Carolina, Feb. 25, 2020.
Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

For this moment, in one state at least, Biden's message can be clear. He wants to show that the Obama coalition still matters, in a state that ratified the former president's ambitions a long dozen years ago.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

Despite all the yelling it was clear the bulk of the candidates came to the stage with one shared goal: to take the new front-runner down a notch.

Within the first few minutes of the debate, Sanders was criticized for his stance on guns, the price tag of his proposals and the news the Russian government may be working to boost his campaign online.

Still, regardless of the rapid-fire criticism aimed his way, many of the lines against Sanders seemed to lack staying power on the stage. Some drew boos from the crowd, some got him riled, but a lot of them were just a little stale.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, though, started the debate acknowledging that clearly some of Sanders' proposals are in fact popular. After all, he is the one who has been winning.

By sticking to the same tired attacks against the senator, many of the candidates looked arguably oblivious to the results voters have been delivering so far in this primary.

That said, new arguments leveled at Sanders landed much more.

As the debate went on, Sanders repeatedly struggled as he tried to explain his comments about Fidel Castro this week.

"We're not going to win these critical, critical House and Senate races if people in those races have to explain why the nominee of the Democratic Party is telling people to look at the bright side of the Castro regime," Buttigieg said.

Warren laid out why she thinks she would be a more effective president than Sanders, hitting home his record on the Hill.

Democratic presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden participate in the tenth Democratic primary debate at the Gaillard Center in Charleston, South Carolina, Feb. 25, 2020.
Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

And Biden, too, picked up a new line of attack against Sanders, arguing that in 2012 he seemed to welcome a primary challenge against Obama.

That line of attack alone, which his team tried to hammer home, could really resonate in South Carolina this week, especially with crucial African American voters.

The TIP with Soo Rin Kim

As the critical make-or-break Super Tuesday draws closer, candidates have started making big investments across the 14 states that will vote on March 3 and divvy up over one-third of national delegates on a single night.

With the South Carolina primary still around the corner, 2020 presidential hopefuls have already spent more than $221 million in Super Tuesday states, with tens of millions of dollars blanketing the airwaves in California, Texas and Virginia, according to ad spending data from CMAG.

Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg speaks during the tenth Democratic 2020 presidential debate at the Gaillard Center in Charleston, South Carolina, Feb. 25, 2020.
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has just reached the $500 million mark in total spending, accounts for nearly 75% the Democrats' total Super Tuesday ad spending. Of the non-billionaire candidates, Sanders, who has been able to make early investments thanks to his massive fundraising hauls, is leading the pack with $14.7 million, while Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren have been adding seven-figure buys. Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Biden, who have both been focused on South Carolina until now, are catching up with smaller buys in only a handful of Super Tuesday states.

Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg speaks during the tenth Democratic 2020 presidential debate at the Gaillard Center in Charleston, South Carolina, Feb. 25, 2020.
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

With only three days in between Saturday's primary and Super Tuesday, the contenders are seeking to be everywhere all at once as the competition ramps up onto a national map, with some bolstered by super PACs supporting the candidates, such as the pro-Warren Persist PAC, pro-Buttigieg VoteVets PAC and pro-Klobuchar Kitchen Table Conversations PAC announcing seven- and six-figure ads leading up to next week.


ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. Wednesday morning's episode features a full recap of Tuesday night's Democratic debate in South Carolina. Then, ABC News Senior National correspondent Terry Moran explains why Attorney General William Barr is once again in the spotlight over tweets from President Donald Trump criticizing the Roger Stone case.

ABC News' "Powerhouse Politics" Podcast. ABC News Political Director Rick Klein and Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl speak with Anita Dunn. The former top adviser to President Barack Obama and long-time aide to former Vice President Joe Biden took on an expanded role in his presidential campaign earlier this month following his fourth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses.


  • President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump return to the White House in the morning from Germany, following their two-day visit to India.
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Tom Steyer attend the National Action Network South Carolina Ministers' Civil Rights Breakfast at 7:30 a.m. in Charleston, South Carolina.
  • Klobuchar holds a campaign event at noon in Charleston, South Carolina.
  • Steyer holds a meet-and-greet event in Georgetown, South Carolina, at 1 p.m., and another in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, at 6:30 p.m.
  • Biden will hold a community event in Georgetown, South Carolina, at 1:45 p.m.
  • Warren will hold Get Out The Vote events with musician John Legend in Orangeburg, South Carolina, at 12:30 p.m., and in Charleston, at 6:15 p.m. She will also hold a tele-town hall with an introduction from Legend at 4 p.m.
  • The Conservative Political Action Conference will begin at 6 p.m. in National Harbor, Maryland.
  • Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Biden, Klobuchar and Warren will speak at a CNN town hall in Charleston, South Carolina, beginning at 7 p.m.
  • Download the ABC News app and select "The Note" as an item of interest to receive the day's sharpest political analysis. The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the day's top stories in politics. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.

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