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South Carolina heats up

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg marches outside a

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg marches outside a McDonald's on the west side of Charleston with workers and protesters demanding the company pay $15 per hour on Monday. Credit: Newsday/Lane Filler

Daily Point

Live from Charleston

CHARLESTON, South Carolina — By Monday afternoon, presidential candidates and their campaigns were descending on this city for a week of electioneering, along with hordes of media looking for stories and advocates hoping to garner attention for their causes.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and billionaire former Mayor Mike Bloomberg were all in town, and with a Democratic presidential debate Tuesday night, Charleston will dominate the candidates’ attention through the early part of the week. Besides, Charleston and the rest of the low country are the center of the state’s Democratic Party apparatus and its voters.

The Charleston schedule Monday definitely reflected the National Democratic Party of the moment, featuring the kind of infighting and divisive chants that make GOP hearts swell.

At 1:30 p.m., Buttigieg walked toward a McDonald’s on the west side of Charleston at the head of a crowd of about 150 protesters chanting for a $15-an-hour wage from the fast-food giant. The march was organized by “Fight For $15.” Unions are not big in South Carolina, with less than 2% of workers organized, and many of the marchers were from out of state. However, organizers said a few workers from the restaurant they were marching on had officially gone on strike Monday morning.

“Hold the burgers, hold the fries, make our paychecks supersize,” they yelled.

Their effort was complicated by a large group of “Black Voters Matter” advocates, also from out of state, who supported the wage hike but not Buttigieg’s presence at the head of the march.

They chanted “Where was $15 in South Bend, Pete can’t be our president!” Buttigieg has been assailed on this point often, as South Bend pays many city employees less than $15 an hour.

“Pete’s taking advantage of our folks,” said Cliff Albright of Atlanta, co-founder of Black Voters Matter. “It’s just a photo-op ... He could have passed a $15 wage as mayor.” Albright said his group has not yet endorsed but definitely supports the more progressive candidates, naming Warren and Sanders.

As the march ended, Buttigieg spoke for just a few seconds, voicing support for the cause, before being hustled around the parking lot and into a waiting black Suburban as both media members and Black Voters Matter marchers shouted questions that went unanswered.

A few minutes later, Charleston police asked the crowd to disperse over a megaphone and it did. Nearly everyone seemingly headed to the next events — Warren at 5:30 p.m. on Bay Street, Biden at 7:30 p.m. at the College of Charleston, the Democratic Party “First in the South” 8 p.m. dinner, and CNN town halls later Tuesday night.

—Lane Filler @lanefiller

Talking Point

Bloomberg's election predilections

Mike Bloomberg’s splashy entrance into the presidential race — including a new Siena College poll that has him behind only Sen. Bernie Sanders in New York — prompted The Point to look at the former New York City mayor’s own voting record here. 

Bloomberg’s voter file with the NYC Board of Elections dates to the late 1980s, when he enrolled as a Democrat. He has a history of filing party-enrollment changes just ahead of potential races. He switched to the GOP in October 2000, less than a year before he ran in the Republican primary for mayor. He became unaffiliated with any party in 2007 around the time of considering an independent presidential run. 

And he filed paperwork to come back to the Democratic fold in October 2018, a year ahead of announcing his 2020 bid. 

As a member of no party between 2007 and 2018, the billionaire, who is now amid a contentious Democratic primary contest, was unable to vote in the contentious 2008 and 2016 presidential primaries. 

He does, however, have a long history of voting in elections of all kinds in New York including 46 ballots cast since 1989, according to his file.

He always voted in person in Manhattan apart from two recent instances of voting absentee.

Those two exceptions included the midterm elections in November 2018. Bloomberg’s campaign confirmed that he was in Singapore for the New Economy Forum he established that year. A Bloomberg tweet from the day before Election Day shows the philanthropist in the gentler climes of Honolulu for a philanthropic function, decked out in a lei and khakis. 

For the special election for NYC public advocate in February 2019, Bloomberg also voted absentee as he was in Nevada for an event celebrating the passage of gun background check legislation there. 

But already, the peripatetic New Yorker was being asked whether he’d run for president. 

"I haven't made a decision yet," he said in Las Vegas, according to The Associated Press. 

And he’d already cast a ballot in the public advocate race back home, no civic duty ignored — and none for a hungry presidential press corps to catch. 

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

Safe space

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Quick Points

  • After the Nevada Democratic caucuses, where she finished a distant fourth, Sen. Elizabeth Warren told supporters, “Right now I can feel the momentum.” She’s the only one.
  • Meanwhile, billionaire Tom Steyer qualified to rejoin the debate stage Tuesday night in South Carolina, thereby delivering on the fevered dream held by .... Tom Steyer.
  • Mainstream Democrats intent on derailing Sen. Bernie Sanders in the 2020 presidential primary process need to answer a question: If they succeed, will his derailed supporters get back on the Democratic track in November?
  • A U.S.-backed peace plan for Afghanistan hinges on both sides observing a weeklong truce. After 18 years of violence and mayhem, will a one-week truce really be convincing proof that peace is possible?
  • Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg says an old video clip of him praising Donald Trump now being used against him by the campaigns of Trump and Democratic rival former Vice President Joe Biden is evidence only that he was trying to build a working relationship with one of the city’s biggest developers. So that must mean the old video Bloomberg has been running of President Barack Obama praising his leadership is evidence only that Obama was trying to build a working relationship with Bloomberg.
  • If the coronavirus outbreak worsens in the United States, the nation could face shortages of about 150 relevant prescription drugs, which are made from ingredients largely supplied by China, which is where the coronavirus has hit hardest and where exports have been slashed and, well, you see where this is going.

—Michael Dobie @mwdobie