The stage is set for a Democratic presidential primary debate, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, in Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The Latest: Biden backer hopes his name comes up in debate

February 25, 2020 - 6:09 pm

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — The Latest on the 2020 Democratic primary contest (all times local):

6:05 p.m.

Prominent Joe Biden supporter and South Carolina state Sen. Dick Harpootlian said he wouldn’t mind hearing his name again on the Democratic debate stage.

Harpootlian has publicly chastised billionaire businessman Tom Steyer and fellow South Carolina legislator Jerry Govan after Steyer began paying Govan as an adviser on his presidential campaign. Govan leads the Legislature’s Black Caucus, and Harpootlian suggested Govan had sold his endorsement, drawing rebukes from many black lawmakers.

In a debate earlier this month in New Hampshire, Steyer demanded Biden condemn Harpootlian. Biden said only that he’d talked to Harpootlian about the matter.

As he walked into the debate site Tuesday evening in South Carolina, Harpootlian smirked when reminded of that exchange. Asked if he expected to hear his name on the Gaillard Center stage, his smile widened. “I hope so,” he said. “I hope so.”

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4:30 p.m.

As Democrats plan to debate ahead of the South Carolina presidential primary, Republicans are aiming to make an argument for President Donald Trump's reelection, regardless of his opponent in November.

The Republican National Committee and the South Carolina Republican Party are teaming up for digital billboards and a mobile billboard truck outside the venue where candidates are gathering Tuesday night in downtown Charleston.

The billboards post stats on 131,000 job gains in South Carolina during Trump's tenure, as well as tax cuts and "record low unemployment." Officials say the mobile billboard will roam streets near the debate venue until 9 p.m. Tuesday. Other digital billboards will stay up until Friday, when Trump visits the state for a rally in North Charleston.

Trump's visit comes just hours before polls open for the Democratic presidential primary. South Carolina GOP officials have opted not to hold a primary this year, clearing the way for Trump to focus on his reelection in a state where his support remains high.

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3:50 p.m.

California billionaire Tom Steyer is taking on Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden in a new ad as he looks to shore up support ahead of South Carolina's presidential primary.

In the ad released Tuesday, Steyer portrays himself as the best option for voters seeking an unconventional candidate who hasn't been in elected office for decades.

The narrator calls Biden "a good man" but says Biden has "admitted nothing will change if he's elected." Of Sanders, the narrator says the Vermont senator's "socialist plans" won't defeat President Donald Trump.

Steyer has said much of his candidacy is riding on success in South Carolina, the first early voting state to feature a largely black Democratic electorate. During months of campaigning in the state, Steyer has focused much of his message on the black community, which past polls have showed largely preferred Biden.

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1:45 p.m.

California billionaire Tom Steyer says he's ready to stick to his tack of taking Bernie Sanders on directly in Tuesday night's Democratic presidential debate.

Steyer told The Associated Press on Tuesday afternoon that he felt it "important to draw distinctions between what I stand for and what he stands for."

Steyer is among the candidates who have been portraying Sanders' policies as too extreme for the country, in an effort to stop the Vermont senator's momentum after several early-voting contests. Steyer said he opposed what he saw as Sanders' proposed "government takeover of large sections of the economy."

Earlier Tuesday, Steyer chatted with more than a dozen people at a campaign meet and greet at a historic mansion in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, before heading to the debate venue for a walk through.

South Carolina holds its primary on Saturday.

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1:30 p.m.

Supporters of former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg are escalating their attacks on Bernie Sanders over his record on gun control ahead of Tuesday night’s high-stakes Democratic debate in South Carolina.

Five Bloomberg backers, all of them current or former black officials, homed in on Sanders’ record on guns and criminal justice as particular areas of concern.

As the Vermont senator becomes the front-runner in the Democratic presidential primary, the Bloomberg backers say, more scrutiny should be paid to his past votes against the landmark gun control law known as the Brady Bill and his opposition to legislation that would allow gun manufacturers to be sued.

“Too often, Bernie Sanders has been on the wrong side of history, missing in action or unable to make progress on virtually every issue for black voters,” New York Rep. Gregory Meeks told reporters.

Sanders has since changed his position on liability suits against gunmakers, which Meeks suggested put him in the same spot as Bloomberg -- who has apologized for his administration’s use of the controversial “stop and frisk” policing strategy.

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11:45 a.m.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is meeting privately with leading black newspaper publishers as he tries to shore up African American support ahead of the South Carolina primary on Saturday.

Biden is meeting Tuesday with about a half dozen leaders of of the National Newspaper Publishers Association. The organization includes about 200 black-owned newspapers around the country, with a combined audience the group estimates at 20 million.

The former vice president is depending heavily on black voters as he looks for his first win of the primary season and attempts to blunt Bernie Sanders’ momentum after leading voting in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

Biden was expected in the meeting to discuss the affordable housing plan he announced Monday. He also may bring up his proposals for health care, which he has been emphasizing this week with heavily black audiences.

His proposals include a public option government insurance plan that would cover Americans who would have been covered by Medicaid expansion under the 2010 health care law but who live in states whose Republican governors refused to expand Medicaid.

South Carolina is among those states, as are several states that vote March 3 on Super Tuesday.

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12:50 a.m.

The State newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, is endorsing Democrat Pete Buttigieg for president.

The editors of the paper write in an editorial posted late Monday that the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is “the energetic, disciplined candidate who can offer voters a powerful yet pragmatic vision.”

The piece notes Democrats’ past success with younger outsiders such as Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. At 38, Buttigieg is younger than any of them.

Buttigieg has struggled to attract support from African Americans, but the editors credit him for accepting “responsibility to build trust with African American voters” and say he has “made important strides by releasing ambitious proposals.”

The piece asks, “Is his outreach genuine, and is it being undertaken in good faith?” And it answers, “We believe that it is.”

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The Buttigieg endorsement story at 12:50 a.m. has been corrected to delete reference to The State being the largest newspaper in South Carolina. The Post and Courier of Charleston has a larger total circulation.

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