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The Latest: Buttigieg camp raises doubt about Nevada results

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Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during services, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020, at the Royal Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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

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.

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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.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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