Former Sen. Reid calls for end of caucuses

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Former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid listens during an interview Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on presidential campaign developments (all times local):

7:25 p.m.

Former Sen. Harry Reid says the Democratic Party should eliminate caucuses. Reid made the statement the day after his home state of Nevada’s caucus. Final results had still not been tallied but it went smoother than Iowa where irregularities in the vote count made it impossible to determine a winner. Reid said he believes “it’s time for the Democratic Party to move to primaries everywhere.” Caucuses have been criticized for being inaccessible to the majority of voters, requiring a multi-hour commitment. Reid also called for Nevada to be the first state to select a nominee. It is more racially diverse than the two states now before it, overwhelmingly white New Hampshire and Iowa.

7:10 p.m.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren continued to slam her favorite target, former New York Mayor and billionaire Mike Bloomberg, but held back from criticizing front-runner Bernie Sanders other than questioning his priorities on Senate procedure.

Speaking to reporters in Denver, Warren wouldn’t say whether a Sanders nomination would be a risk for the Democratic Party. “I think that Michael Bloomberg is the riskiest candidate standing on that stage because of his history of hiding his taxes, his history of harassment of women and his history of defending racist policies,” Warren said in response to the question about Sanders. She only mentioned Sanders’ name once, when she noted that they differ on the filibuster — Warren wants to abolish it, Sanders does not.

“I think I’m the least risky candidate,” she added, citing her progressive values and record of results.

One woman in the audience asked Warren to explain the benefits of democratic socialism. Warren said: “you’ve got the wrong candidate.” Warren said she was not a socialist. “I believe in markets,” she said, adding quickly “markets without rules are theft.”

5:20 p.m.

As he campaigned in suburban Virginia Sunday, Pete Buttigieg is continuing his attacks against Bernie Sanders as too divisive.

Speaking to a crowd of thousands gathered at a high school football field, Buttigieg said that while “I respect my friend, Senator Sanders,” the way to build a winning coalition “is to call people into our tent, not to call them names online.”

Sanders has come under fire in recent weeks for the controversial conduct of some of his massive online following, after supporters of his launched misogynistic attacks against leaders of a Nevada union. Sanders has denounced their behavior.

Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Ind., went on to say that to win the presidency, Democrats need a nominee who will focus on “mobilizing, not polarizing the American majority.”

And he pointed to concerns some Democrats have expressed that Sanders would hurt candidates down-ballot if he were at the top of the ticket. The nominee, Buttigieg said, must understand “that we dare not treat the presidency like it’s the only office that matters,” and Democrats need to choose someone who can “not just take back the White House, but keep the House in the right hands and send (Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell packing.”

3:05 p.m.

Bernie Sanders is predicting victory in Texas not only in the Democratic primary but in November’s general election.

The Vermont senator adopted the tone of a candidate who has already secured the nomination before thousands of cheering supporters who filled a basketball arena on the campus of the University of Houston on Sunday.

Referring to supporters of President Donald Trump, Sanders said, “Don’t tell anybody because these folks get very agitated and nervous” before continuing, “We are going to win here.”

Sanders meant during the primary’s “Super Tuesday” on March 3, but also said “in November we’re going to defeat Trump here.”

Sanders said Texas “maybe more than any other state has the possibility of transforming this country” since “on television, they say Texas is a conservative state, it’s a red state. I don’t believe it for a minute.”

The senator said if working class, black and Hispanics Texans “come out to vote, we’re going to win.”

He also called Trump “a bully” and a “vindictive person who can’t even get along with the people who he appoints.”

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2:30 p.m.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden says he isn’t worried about billionaire Tom Steyer cutting into his strength among African Americans in South Carolina’s primary this coming Saturday.

Biden was in North Charleston on Sunday, and was asked what he thinks Steyer could muster in the primary. Biden’s response: “I think the same amount he took in Nevada. Nothing.”

Steyer finished well back in the pack in Nevada’s caucuses on Saturday, with Biden second to Bernie Sanders.

Steyer has spent heavily on ads in South Carolina and polls suggest he’s cut into Biden’s advantages among black voters in the state. Biden seemed worried enough to criticize Steyer for making some of his personal fortune by investing in private prisons.

Also Sunday, Biden says he’s not banking on the endorsement of an influential South Carolina congressman before the primary.

Biden says that when it comes to James Clyburn, “I’m not counting on anything.” Biden did say Clyburn’s blessing “will be a big deal.”

Clyburn said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet The Press” that he will endorse on Wednesday — after Tuesday night’s debate in Charleston.

Clyburn is close to Biden but the congressman said Sunday that he’s heard from Democrats who have been disappointed in Biden’s debate performances.

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2 p.m.

Elizabeth Warren is promising to legalize marijuana, throw out past marijuana convictions and support other countries that want to legalize.

The Massachusetts senator’s plan released Sunday would also fund marijuana research and end prohibitions on Department of Veterans Affairs doctors from prescribing medical marijuana. It would also reverse Trump administration federal guidance on immigrants working in the marijuana industry, even in states where it is legal, from being barred from seeking U.S. citizenship.

Warren promised to work with Congress to get most of her ideas passed into law, but promised to appoint agency heads who support marijuana legalization and ease prohibitions through the federal rulemaking process in her first 100 days as president.

Many top Democratic presidential candidates similarly support legalizing marijuana and wiping out past convictions. But Warren announced the plan during a campaign visit to Denver, noting that Colorado legalized marijuana in 2012 and that nine states and the District of Columbia have followed suit.

She also said that she would undo Republican-led efforts in Congress to block the nation’s capital’s taxation and regulation of marijuana using spending bills — despite the city’s citizens voting to legalize it in 2014.

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1:45 p.m.

The Nevada Democratic Party says it’s not planning to offer a more detailed breakdown of the votes from its caucuses as requested by Pete Buttigieg’s campaign and appears to be inviting the campaign to follow recount rules instead.

The Buttigieg campaign late Saturday night sent a letter to the party raising questions about the caucus results, which showed Buttigieg in third, saying it had received more than 200 reports of problems integrating early votes and allocating votes on a second round of caucus voting.

The campaign asked the party to release a more detailed breakdown of votes and address concerns before releasing final results.

Party spokeswoman Molly Forgey said the party is continuing to verify and report results and is not going to offer a more detailed breakdown than it already planned to provide.

Forgey says “there is a formal method for requesting a challenge of results” laid out in the party’s recount guidance.

The party’s rules say any request for a recount must be filed by 5 p.m. Monday.

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12:50 p.m.

Pete Buttigieg’s campaign is raising questions about the results of Nevada’s caucuses and asking the state Democratic Party to address more than 200 reports of problems allocating votes Saturday.

In a letter sent to the Nevada State Democratic Party late Saturday night and provided to The Associated Press on Sunday, the Buttigieg campaign said the process of integrating four days of early voting into in-person caucuses held Saturday was “plagued with errors and inconsistencies.” It cited instances where people running caucuses did not appear to follow rules that could have allowed candidates to pick up more support on a second round of voting.

The campaign is calling for the party to release more detail of the votes and address concerns before releasing final results.

Bernie Sanders won Nevada’s caucuses, with Joe Biden a distant second and Buttigieg in third.

Buttigieg’s deputy campaign manager Hari Sevugan says in a statement that the campaign’s own data shows a “razor thin” margin for second place and questioned whether the “irregularities and a number of unresolved questions” could change the final results.

The party did not respond to a message Sunday seeking comment on the letter.

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12:30 p.m.

Joe Biden has told parishioners at a black church in North Charleston, South Carolina, that the 2020 presidential election can “rip out the roots of systemic racism” if voters help him win the Democratic nomination and go on to defeat President Donald Trump.

The former vice president drew an ovation when he declared from the pulpit of Royal Missionary Baptist Church that Trump is “more George Wallace than George Washington.”

Biden is looking to South Carolina’s primary Saturday for his first victory of the 2020 campaign.

After back-of-the-pack finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire, Biden rebounded in Nevada on Saturday but was a distant second to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Biden is hoping his strong ties to the black community will make the difference in South Carolina. It’s the first state on the 2020 election calendar with a majority black electorate among Democrats.

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12:20 p.m.

Tom Steyer’s campaign says the California billionaire has qualified for Tuesday night’s Democratic presidential debate in South Carolina.

His campaign says the climate activist had drawn enough support in two polls to meet the requirements for a place on the debate stage. South Carolina’s primary is this coming Saturday.

Also set for the debate are former Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

South Carolina is one of the two states in which Steyer has invested the most heavily. The other is Nevada, where he’s in a close race with Klobuchar for fifth place in the presidential caucuses that were held Saturday.

Over recent months, Steyer has been gaining momentum as he campaigned multiple times in South Carolina. It’s the first early-voting state with a heavily black electorate.

Steyer has frequently focused on issues he sees as important to black voters, including support for historically black colleges and universities, as well as reparations.

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11:45 a.m.

Joe Biden says some of the behavior of Bernie Sanders’ supporters is “Trump-like stuff” and is calling on the Vermont senator to condemn them.

Speaking on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Biden referenced the protesters identifying as Sanders supporters who occupied his Iowa campaign office and “misogynist” attacks on leaders of the Culinary Union in Nevada by individuals also identified as Sanders backers. The former vice president said there should be “absolute condemnation of the conduct of these folks” and added the behavior is “Trump-like stuff … not stuff that we’ve done in Democratic primaries before.”

Sanders has suggested some of the vitriol that appears to be coming from his supporters may be fueled by Russian intrusion in the campaign. He recently acknowledged receiving a briefing from U.S. officials that Russians are working to help his candidacy.

But Biden expressed skepticism of Sanders’ assertion that the Russians may be behind the worst behavior, saying, “I guess anything’s possible, but they’re identified as Bernie supporters.”

He also called on the intelligence community to brief the rest of the Democratic field on what they’ve told Sanders about Russian involvement in the campaign.

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11:20 a.m.

Pete Buttigieg is making a pitch to some black voters in South Carolina, saying he knows he’s asking essentially for those who may not know him to trust him with their lives if he becomes president.

Buttigieg said during services on Sunday morning at First Baptist Church in Charleston that he found it “humbling” to be before a black congregation during Black History Month asking for support in Saturday’s presidential primary.

Buttigieg has acknowledged struggles gaining traction among the black voters who make up the majority of the Democratic primary electorate in South Carolina.

Buttigieg said Sunday that his campaign was comprised of more than 40% black staffers and that his time as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has given him insights as to how to try to identify with the black community.

He told the congregation that “nobody this side of Paradise can fix anything alone.”

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10:40 a.m.

President Donald Trump is congratulating Bernie Sanders for his Nevada caucus win.

Speaking to reporters before boarding Air Force One en route to India, the president declared it a “great win” for the Vermont senator but added “we’ll see what happens” with the rest of the nomination fight.

Trump added of Sanders, “I don’t care who I run against, I just hope that they treat him fairly.” He went on to say, without proof, that “there’s a lot of bad things going on” and that he hopes it won’t be a “rigged deal” in the primary.

Some of Sanders’ supporters in 2016 charged that the primary was rigged against him, and a portion stayed home on Election Day, which many political observers believe helped contribute to Trump’s win over Hillary Clinton that year. Sanders has said he expects fair treatment from party leadership this cycle.

Trump also weighed in on recent news that Sanders has been briefed by U.S. officials that Russians are working to help his candidacy. The president said that “nobody told me about it” and speculated, without evidence, that the news was a “leak” from Democrats on Capitol Hill because “they don’t want Bernie Sanders to represent them.”

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10:25 a.m.

South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn is cautioning Democrats not to declare a nomination winner before South Carolina votes.

Bernie Sanders comes out of a strong win in Nevada Saturday after winning the two prior primaries with momentum heading into the next contest, in South Carolina next Saturday. But while the Vermont senator seems increasingly to be the odds-on favorite for the nomination, Clyburn insisted that South Carolina still has a role to play.

He tells NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “If you can win South Carolina decisively, it can set the stage for Super Tuesday.”

Clyburn, the dean of the South Carolina delegation and House Minority Whip, said he plans to make an endorsement in the race Wednesday. His endorsement of Barack Obama in 2008 helped the then-senator clinch the Democratic nomination, and he’s currently believed to favor Joe Biden in the race.

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This version corrects in 12:30 p.m. Biden item that South Carolina is the first state on the election calendar with a majority black electorate among Democrats.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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