Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020, in Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The Latest: Biden says 'Medicare for All' an 'expensive slog

February 27, 2020 - 1:20 pm

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

1:15 p.m.

Two days before the South Carolina primary, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden called Bernie Sanders' "Medicare for All" single-payer insurance proposal "a long, expensive slog" with little chance of passage.

Speaking Thursday at a small-town community health center in McClellanville, South Carolina, countered with his "public option" government insurance plan to compete in the existing private market. "The most important thing, I can actually get it passed," Biden said.

The former vice president also emphasized that his plan could benefit Americans who’ve missed out on Medicaid expansion after the 2010 Affordable Care Act because of their Republican governors.

Biden said his “public option” would “automatically enroll” about 200,000 residents who would have been eligible for an expanded Medicaid insurance program under the “Obamacare” law. But more than a dozen Republican-run states declined to expand Medicaid after the Supreme Court ruled that they couldn't be forced to do so.

Under what he called “Bidencare,” the former vice president, “the state couldn’t do anything about it.”

South Carolina is the last of the four early nominating contests, but it’s the first of the group that has not expanded Medicaid under the 2010 law. Several states with March 3 Super Tuesday primaries also have not expanded Medicaid, including Alabama, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas.

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12:45 p.m.

Former New York City Mike Bloomberg says he has the record and resources to flip Texas in the presidential election.

Speaking Thursday at a rally in Houston, Bloomberg argued that Democrats can win Texas if they nominate someone who can build a broad coalition that includes independent and moderate Republican voters. The last Democrat to win Texas in a presidential race was Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Bloomberg noted that former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat, lost a close race in 2018 for the U.S. Senate against Republican Ted Cruz. O'Rourke then ran for president before dropping out last year. Bloomberg said, “My friend Beto showed that we’re getting close.”

Bloomberg appeared in Texas as part of a trip through states that have their primaries next week on Super Tuesday.

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10:35 a.m.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg is launching a multi-million dollar television and digital advertising campaign in 12 of the 14 states holding primary elections on Tuesday, March 3.

The announcement comes on the heels of a strategy memo released by Buttigieg’s campaign manager describing the possible but tricky path to the nomination the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor faces.

Buttigieg, meanwhile, is campaigning in South Carolina, where his appeal among African American voters who make up the majority of the electorate in Saturday’s primary will be tested.

The memo from campaign manager Mike Schmuhl said Buttigieg has a path to the nomination, in part, if he holds down front-runner Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ winning margins on March 3.

Buttigieg’s television and on-line ad buy opens today in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, Vermont and Virginia.

Buttigieg has faced fundraising pressure, having spent twice what he raised in January en route to top-two finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire. He has been asking supporters to help him reach $13 million ahead of Super Tuesday.

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9:55 a.m.

The American Civil Liberties Union says it's dispatching dozens of trained volunteers across South Carolina to monitor voting precincts during Saturday's Democratic presidential primary.

The group said Thursday the 73 volunteers will report and address any problems with the help of legal advocates. They'll be at precincts in Berkeley, Charleston, Dorchester and Lexington counties as voters go to the polls.

The ACLU says anyone who sees any issues should report them to a voter protection hotline. Polls in South Carolina are open on Saturday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

South Carolina congressman Jim Clyburn endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday.

Biden has long led in polling in South Carolina. But Biden's lead has tightened in recent months, in part because of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ momentum after success in other early state contests. And California billionaire Tom Steyer has spent millions of dollars on ads in the state.

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Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”

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