Who won, who lost and the biggest takeaways from the South Carolina debate

Korecki: This debate may have just helped Biden seal the deal in South Carolina. As POLITICO reported on Sunday, powerful House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn is to endorse the former vice president Wednesday morning. Though the deal with Clyburn was already cut, Biden’s performance tonight only makes it an easier sell for Clyburn, who wields huge influence in South Carolina politics. The debate performance and Clyburn’s backing help create much-needed momentum moving into Saturday’s primary.

Siders: This debate was a non-event — but negative space matters. If Sanders had been bruised or Biden faltered, the trajectory of the race might have changed. Instead, Sanders and Biden head into the South Carolina primary largely where they were before, with the rest of the field falling in behind them.

What surprised you most during this debate?

Korecki: If there was one thing that made me sit up, it was this attack from Warren on Bloomberg, when she talked about getting pregnant at age 21, her first year on the job as a special education teacher, which Warren said cost her that job. That is part of a well-worn biographical story Warren has told again and again in this campaign, but what came next was different and very striking. “At least I didn’t have a boss who said to me, ‘Kill it,’ the way that Mayor Bloomberg is alleged to have said,” Warren said.

Bloomberg denied ever making the comment. But then he went on to give a massive concession to Warren that I found surprising: “And what the senator did suggest is we release these women from the nondisclosure agreement. I did that two days later, and my company has said we will not use nondisclosure agreements ever again. The senator has got it. And I don’t know what else she wants us to do … The trouble is with this senator enough is never enough.”

Siders: Term limits? The filibuster? Questions about candidates’ basic platform positions? This sounded like a second or third debate, not a contest one week before Super Tuesday. It was as though the Democratic Party is not on the edge of a Sanders runaway — and as though the moderators were not aware the campaign did not begin yesterday.

Schneider: Maybe this shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but Bloomberg is not good at telling jokes. Both times he tried it, both times it fell flat. Worse than flat, just awkward. Naked Cowboy? If you’ve never been to New York, does that even make sense? Bloomberg needed to really do well tonight, and I’m not sure he was able to force out the memory of his last debate performance in the minds of voters.

Otterbein: The debate was stunningly discombobulated. If I’m a non-junkie voter tuning into the debate, I think I’d come away from that thinking the Democratic Party was in disarray and the media didn’t do much to help me clarify my choices in the primary. Also, the moderators didn’t really treat Sanders like the frontrunner he is.

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