Bernie Sanders' Democratic rivals prepared to unleash a new wave of attacks against the party's presidential front-runner in a high-stakes debate Tuesday night. It's likely to be the final prime-time opportunity for several candidates to change the direction of the 2020 nomination fight, the AP reports. Almost all of the six other candidates set to debate in South Carolina went after Sanders in the hours leading up to the 8pm EST affair. Pete Buttigieg highlighted Sanders' call for a government-financed health care system as an example of his “polarization.” Joe Biden accused Sanders of trying to undermine President Barack Obama's 2012 reelection. Amy Klobuchar issued a memo warning of Sanders' "divisive politics" and Tom Steyer launched an ad assailing his "socialist plans." Mike Bloomberg attacked Sanders' record on gun control as five of his supporters, all current or former black elected officials, blasted Sanders for that as well as other priorities for the black community.
The new wave of infighting came as Democrats were set to meet for the party's 10th—and perhaps most consequential—debate of the 2020 primary season. It comes just four days before South Carolina's first-in-the-South primary and one week before more than a dozen states vote on Super Tuesday; the next debate won't be held until March 15. The night marks a major moment in Sanders' political career. After spending decades as an outside agitator accustomed to attacking the party establishment, he's suddenly the one on defense as the Democratic establishment fears he could soon build an insurmountable delegate lead. "It is a little funny to find myself as the so-called front-runner," the 78-year-old said Monday at a town hall. One candidate who hasn't yet taken Sanders on directly: Elizabeth Warren. Though she shares many of Sanders’ liberal policies and could benefit if he were to stumble, she’s been reluctant to tangle with him throughout the campaign.
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