Live Updates as Voters Head to the Polls

A new ad from Michael R. Bloomberg implores viewers: “Don’t fall for negative untrue attacks against Mike Bloomberg.”

Why, a viewer might ask? Well, the ad would like you to hear some kind words from former President Barack Obama:

The Bloomberg campaign has been running an extensive advertising campaign seeking to tie the former mayor of New York City to the former president, having spent $22.4 million on television ads alone featuring Mr. Obama and his onetime praise.

Mr. Bloomberg’s repeated use of Mr. Obama has drawn criticism from his rivals, most notably Mr. Biden, who pointed to critical comments Mr. Bloomberg had made about the former president.

The repeated use of Mr. Obama in campaigns is not unique to Mr. Bloomberg. Five candidates — Mr. Bloomberg, Mr. Biden, Tom Steyer and Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — have used the president’s likeness in their ads.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Among voters casting their ballots Saturday at a middle school here was Kevin Gray, a longtime activist who served as state director for Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign in 1988.

As he left the polling place, Mr. Gray said he had voted for Senator Bernie Sanders. “It was a choice between Bernie and Elizabeth. I really wanted Warren but it seems like she’s imploding,” said Mr. Gray, 62.

“This idea that Bernie can’t win, I don’t know if I can buy that. And the idea of Joe Biden being a progressive is just ludicrous.”

Credit…Stephanie Saul/The New York Times

Mr. Gray also put in a good word for Tom Steyer’s campaign, comparing his outreach to black voters here to Mr. Jackson’s tactics during the 1988 election.

“They all come to South Carolina and visit colleges, churches and fish fries,” he said. “They don’t go where people live and reach out to people. That’s what made Jesse so successful in 1988. To Steyer’s credit, that’s how he’s been running his campaign.”

Mr. Gray said he was opening a new restaurant next week in Columbia, Railroad BBQ, where Mr. Jackson and his team have been hanging out this week.

As Joseph R. Biden Jr. has reminded voters many times, his is a story of tenacity — of looking straight into the eye of adversity and triumphing over it. And now, after losing three contests in a row, he finds himself in South Carolina, a state full of voters who he says know him and know his record.

“It’s a little like going home,” Mr. Biden said.

Credit…Travis Dove for The New York Times

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, poised for a poor outcome in South Carolina’s Saturday primary, predicted he’d “stun the world” three days later.

“I feel a wind at my back as we continue our campaign here,” he told a few dozen supporters at a canvass kickoff in a residential neighborhood Saturday morning. “Then it is on to Super Tuesday, which is less than 72 hours from now, and we are going to stun the world.”

After speaking for two minutes, Mr. Buttigieg left for an afternoon event in Nashville. He is scheduled to fly back east later in the day to watch South Carolina’s returns with supporters in Raleigh, N.C.

Before leaving the canvass kickoff, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., reminded his supporters to remain upbeat no matter the results Saturday.

“I can’t thank you enough — please keep at it and let’s have some fun along the way too. Don’t forget the part about joy.”

Representative Rashida Tlaib of Michigan joined Bernie Sanders’s campaign manager and others in criticizing a CNN chyron on Saturday that equated Mr. Sanders and his campaign’s momentum with the spread of coronavirus.

A photo of the chyron posted to Twitter displayed the question: “CAN EITHER CORONAVIRUS OR BERNIE SANDERS BE STOPPED?”

On Saturday morning, Mr. Sanders’s campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, retweeted the photo and wrote: “Just got to laugh at their foolish panic.” Mr. Shakir’s post was then quote-tweeted by Ms. Tlaib, the progressive first-term congresswoman who is among Mr. Sanders’s most high-profile endorsers.

“Nah,” she wrote, responding to Mr. Shakir. “It makes me work harder. Corporate media doesn’t care about the impact they have with their words and actions.”

A spokeswoman for the CNN show on which the language appeared did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Credit…Brittainy Newman/The New York Times

TYSONS, Va. — One after another, women who have worked with Michael R. Bloomberg stood onstage in a hotel ballroom and told the crowd how long they had done so. Twenty-five years. Twenty years. Eleven years. And on and on and on.

“His trust in the people who work for him is unmatched,” said Fatima Shama, who served as immigrant affairs commissioner for Mr. Bloomberg when he was mayor of New York City and now works for his campaign. “His respect for us as professionals, as women, is unquestionable. It has been an amazing opportunity for me, as a woman, to work with Mike.”

With Mr. Bloomberg’s candidacy damaged by scrutiny of his past sexist comments and his use of nondisclosure agreements for female employees, his campaign on Saturday held a “Women for Mike” rally in that sought to portray him in a very different light.

Mr. Bloomberg presented himself as an advocate for women and credited his success to the women around him.

“Well, good morning, women for Mike,” Mr. Bloomberg told the crowd. “I am Mike for women. Nice to meet you.” Then he began with a joke about Ms. Shama’s glowing introduction: “You gave it exactly the way I wrote it.”

“All of my success, everything I’ve done, is thanks to the strong women that I’ve been lucky enough to have around me,” Mr. Bloomberg said at the rally, where fruit skewers and pastries were available for attendees, along with free T-shirts.

Mr. Bloomberg spoke of his mother, Charlotte, who died in 2011 at age 102. He described her as “the most important female influence in my life.”

And he promised, as president, to fight to “protect the health and rights of all women,” citing goals like protecting abortion rights and fighting wage discrimination.

“Fixing the damage done by Donald Trump isn’t enough,” he said. “It’s not as if this country was a utopia for women before 2016. And you can just go ask my friend Hillary Clinton — she’ll tell you.”

Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Speaking with reporters after a short event, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts declined to say whether her home state was a must-win for her campaign, after a recent poll showed Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont leading her there among Democrats and another showed a statistical dead heat.

Ms. Warren, who also called on Mr. Sanders to denounce the racial discrimination non-disclosure agreement his aligned group Our Revolution made with a former staffer, repeated her frequent mantra: “Me and Bernie have been friends for a long time,” meant to downplay any semblance of tension between the two progressive candidates.

However, as Mr. Sanders is set to hold two rallies in the state this weekend, some of Ms. Warren’s supporters have expressed displeasure. The candidate did not.

“I know that Massachusetts is a very progressive state and progressive ideas are very popular,” she said. “And so I’m sure that’s why Bernie is campaigning there.”

For more on the race in Massachusetts:

Credit…Brittainy Newman/The New York Times

TYSONS, Va. — Michael R. Bloomberg’s presidential campaign, in another sign of its expansive operations around the country, said on Saturday that it would host more than 2,400 events in 30 states during the final weekend before the crucial Super Tuesday contests.

The Bloomberg campaign said the events would include house parties, phone banks and canvasses, and that more than 75 surrogates would participate.

Mr. Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor, took the unusual step of skipping the first four nominating contests, including the South Carolina primary that is being held on Saturday.

As a result, the primaries taking place in 14 states on Tuesday will be the first test of his appeal at the ballot box — as well as the first test of the mammoth campaign operation he has on the ground around the country.

Just in Super Tuesday states, the Bloomberg campaign says it has more than 100 offices, including 24 in California, nearly 20 in Texas, eight in North Carolina and seven each in Virginia and Tennessee.

Mr. Bloomberg is spending the weekend campaigning in Super Tuesday states as well. He began Saturday in the Washington suburbs with a “Women for Mike” rally in Tysons, and he planned to campaign in North Carolina, Alabama and Texas over the course of the weekend.

Credit…Stephanie Saul/The New York Times

COLUMBIA, S.C. — At the city’s Ward 3, near the University of South Carolina, a couple was having a friendly argument over whether Senator Bernie Sanders or Senator Elizabeth Warren would be the best Democratic nominee.

John Tamasco, a software engineer, had decided to vote for Mr. Sanders.

“He doesn’t take PAC money. He’s pushing Medicare for all,” said Mr. Tamasco, 30. “A lot of people will benefit from the policies he’s pushing. He talks about the disease of despair.”

His wife, C.J. Tamasco, 28, who runs social media for the University of South Carolina, instead cast her vote for Ms. Warren.

“The primary is the time to vote for the ideal candidate,” she said. “I like that she’s a woman. It’s time. It’s past time.”

The family dog, Queso, is also a Warren supporter, Ms. Tamasco added.

Many of the Democratic candidates will spend their South Carolina primary day outside the state as they seek to rally support before Super Tuesday, March 3. Here’s a look at where the candidates plan to be and the types of events they have scheduled across the country:

  • Bernie Sanders plans to hold three rallies — the first in Boston in the afternoon and two later in the day in Virginia.

  • Joseph R. Biden Jr. plans to hold a community event in Raleigh, N.C., in the afternoon and then attend a primary night party in Columbia, S.C., in the evening.

  • Elizabeth Warren is expected to hold an event in Little Rock, Ark., and then travel to Houston for a town hall at night.

  • Amy Klobuchar is expected to be in Richmond, Va. and Portland, Me., for events before heading to a dinner in Charlotte, N.C., with state Democrats at night.

  • Pete Buttigieg plans to hold town halls in Nashville and Raleigh, N.C.

  • Tom Steyer is scheduled to attend a primary night party in Columbia, S.C.

GREENVILLE, S.C. — Joseph R. Biden Jr., typically a fitness buff, admitted on Saturday morning that he was struggling with South Carolina’s culinary temptations.

“I’ve eaten too much,” he told reporters on primary morning. “I haven’t been working out. This is the first time this last week that I haven’t worked out every morning and I’m getting worried, man. And I tell ya what, you know, I’m eating too much.”

Mr. Biden, a practicing Catholic, was asked what he had given up for Lent. He declined to say, per his wife’s instructions, he said, but confirmed that it was not ice cream this year.

“I usually give up ice cream every Lent, but it’s become too much a campaign slogan,” he said.

Black voters in South Carolina may not end up uniting behind a single Democratic candidate in Saturday’s primary as they did in 2008 and 2016. Many support Joseph R. Biden Jr., but some like Tom Steyer, Bernie Sanders or other Democrats still in the race. Indeed, this cycle, there are noticeable splits in the black vote along ideological and generational lines.

But, broadly speaking, African-American voters across the state have sought to make one thing clear this week — and it is something on which they tend to agree if even they are not all backing the same candidate: Toss out whatever assumptions you might have about electability based on primary contests in mostly white states; we’ll make up minds for ourselves.

“We’re the base, and we’re yet to express ourselves,” said David Cakley, a church deacon from Goose Creek, S.C, referring to black voters.

Added Mayor Stephen K. Benjamin of Columbia, S.C.: “The South got something to say.”

Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts hosted a small rally and canvass kickoff with volunteers Saturday, as the campaign braced for a South Carolina primary where Ms. Warren is not expected to place within the top three.

She offered short remarks that trailed closely to her stump speech, touting her wealth tax proposal and the “big, structural change” it would represent.

“Three years of Donald Trump as president and people are scared,” Ms. Warren said. “Our democracy hangs in the balance. And you, in South Carolina, have a decision to make.”

“Americans are at our best when we see a problem, we call it out for what it is, and then — we fight back,” Ms. Warren said.

The most recent polling has Ms. Warren in fourth place in today’s primary, held down by her single-digit numbers with the black electorate that makes up the majority of South Carolina Democrats.

In a sign the campaign is already looking ahead to Super Tuesday, she is headed to Arkansas and Texas for rallies later in the day, and surrogates have set expectations that those states will go better than South Carolina.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Voting in Saturday’s primary began with a trickle this morning. Only a handful of people had shown up at polling places about an hour after polls opened at 7 a.m.

“It’s kind of slow,” said Robert Jones, the poll captain at Dreher High School, the polling location for the city’s affluent Ward 16, where only 19 people out of the ward’s 600 active Democrats had cast their ballots by 8 a.m.

One of them was Michael Moore, a retired iron worker. “I voted for Steyer,” Mr. Moore said as he was leaving the polling place.

Mr. Moore, 68, said he was worried that several of the other candidates were too old to be president, and that was one of the reasons he chose Mr. Steyer, 62, a former hedge fund manager. “He just seems to have an energy about him that comes across,” Mr. Moore said.

Also leaving the polling site were Mark and Gina Marriner, a married couple who said they had wanted to vote for Mr. Steyer but chose former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. in the end.

“We didn’t think Steyer had a chance in the long run,” said Ms. Marriner, an antique art dealer. “We preferred Steyer but felt that Biden was the best chance to beat Trump.”

Mr. Marriner, a retired employee of the state health and environmental agency who was drawn to Mr. Steyer’s environmental record, suggested that the businessman turned environmental activist would be good as head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

About a mile away at a Masonic Temple, voters in Ward 9 were also sleeping in, according to Benjamin Tyler, the captain.

“It’s going to be kind of slow,” Mr. Tyler said. “A lot of people are voting absentee.”

Mr. Tyler, a retired firefighter who runs a landscaping company, said he became a poll captain after first working as a poll watcher.

“I fell in love with the process,” Mr. Tyler said. “I wanted to be a part of something in the community.”

GREENVILLE, S.C. — Joseph R. Biden Jr. appeared stunned on Saturday morning when a reporter informed him that President Donald Trump had called coronavirus the Democrats’ “new hoax.”

“Some of the stuff he says is so bizarre that you can laugh at it,” he said. “When you say things like that it just so diminishes the, the faith that people around the world have in the United States. The president of the United States said it’s a hoax? That’s hard to beli— even for him it’s hard to believe. I mean it’s just bizarre. Absolutely bizarre.”

Mr. Biden’s remarks came as he prepared to greet voters here early on the morning of the South Carolina primary.

Asked later whether the president could still be trusted, he replied, “I know he’s a stable genius, but it’s, it’s ridiculous the things he’s saying.”

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Tom Steyer’s final get-out-the-vote rally Friday night was a star-studded event at Allen University, the historically black college here.

DJ Jazzy Jeff, the Philadelphia-born hip-hop artist who once played Will Smith’s best friend on “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” took the stage, as did the gospel star Yolanda Adams, the rapper Juvenile, and Mr. Steyer himself:

Before singing “America, The Beautiful,” Ms. Adams urged the crowd to vote. “This is one of those elections and primaries that make a difference. Because what’s going on in our country is not good. They’ve got us scared with this coronavirus. They’ve got us scared with a lot of things. But you can’t walk in fear. Because if you walk in fear, you’re paralyzed,” she said.

State Senator John Scott, speaking on behalf of Mr. Steyer before his arrival, urged the 200 or so attendees — many of them Allen University students — to turn out to the polls on Saturday. “I want you to remember this: It’s in your hands. For those of you who have not voted, you need to please consider Tom, because Tom is the real deal.”

Mr. Scott emphasized Mr. Steyer’s call to fund historically black colleges with $125 billion over 10 years, more than any other candidate has proposed.

Tadejah Petty, 23, of Gaffney, S.C., said she planned to vote for Mr. Steyer in Saturday’s primary. “He seems very legit talking about what he wants to do for America,” Ms. Petty said.

The music was the big draw for some students, who said they could not vote in the South Carolina primary. “I’m a music major,” said Jamari Pratt of Camden, N.J., 19, who said he had been lured to the event by the entertainers and had never heard of Mr. Steyer.

Credit…Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times

The Democratic Party’s most faithful constituency is expected to account for over half the electorate in South Carolina on Saturday and their votes could prove pivotal to the direction of this turbulent race.

If black voters rally behind Joseph R. Biden Jr., the former vice president, it could resurrect his campaign and reshape the direction of a primary that appeared to be moving in Senator Bernie Sanders’s direction following his success in the first three states.

Increasingly, the question in South Carolina, among Biden supporters and foes alike, is not whether he wins but the size of his margin. Public polls show him leading by double digits, as the billionaire Tom Steyer’s support appears to be slipping despite his avalanche of spending in the state.

The margin is especially important, because it will indicate the depth of Mr. Biden’s support among black voters. And that could offer some insights about how strong he will be when 14 more states, many of them also in the South, vote on Super Tuesday.

That margin is also significant because it will indicate how much progress Mr. Sanders has made with African-Americans since he struggled to win their support, particularly in the South, in his 2016 bid.

Further, a larger victory will also hand Mr. Biden a better case for why moderate Democrats should abandon their flirtation with Michael R. Bloomberg, who did not compete in the early states.

Unlike the first three states, which got the vast majority of the field’s attention in the days leading up to those contests, Mr. Biden’s advantage lured some of the other candidates to Super Tuesday states.

But Saturday will also offer some insights as to which of the candidates who have struggled with non-white voters — Pete Buttigieg and Senators Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren — can make at least some inroads with African-Americans.

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