Sen. Bernie Sanders stood in the middle of Tuesday's debate stage as the clear frontrunner of Democratic nominating race, a position he has only ascended to in recent weeks.
Standing in the middle put Sanders on the defensive, especially from more moderate candidates such as Mayors Michael Bloomberg and Pete Buttigieg.
According to an NBC News analysis , Sanders took 33 attacks from his opponents. Sanders' opponents sustained 33 attacks combined, with Sanders landing the most punches with 19.
The debate came four days before Saturday's South Carolina primary and next week's 14-state Super Tuesday race.
Sanders defends Cuba comments
Two days after a controversial interview aired on CBS’s “60 Minutes” where Sanders offered mild support of past Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, Sanders stood by the comments he made.
"Authoritarianism of any stripe is bad," Sanders said on Tuesday. "But that's different from saying governments occasionally do something good."
Buttigieg fired back.
"We've got to be a lot smarter about this and look to the future," Buttigieg said.
Steyer targeted by Biden
With businessman Tom Steyer placing third in recent polls, he was on the defensive on Tuesday. Steyer has largely been ignored by other candidates in past debates, but Biden took aim at the surging billionaire.
“He, in fact, bought a system that was a private prison system after he knew that in fact what happened was they hog tied young men in prison here in this state,” Biden said.
Steyer has said it was a “mistake” to be involved in the private prison system.
“I bought stock in a prison company thinking they do a better job, and I investigated that, and I sold it,” Steyer said.
Warren keeps pressure on Bloomberg
After a continuous exchange in last week’s debate, Sen. Elizabeth Warren kept up her attacks on Bloomberg, especially on a number of non-disclosure agreements signed by employees of Bloomberg’s business.
Following last week’s debate, Bloomberg announced that he was releasing three women from non-disclosure agreements. Bloomberg said that the women took offense to a “joke” Bloomberg has said in the past. But Warren says that Bloomberg’s employees should be able to speak out if compelled.
"I don't care how much money Mayor Bloomberg has. The core of the Democratic Party will never trust him. He has not earned their trust. I will," Warren said.
Bloomberg credited Warren with pushing him to eliminate the non-disclosure agreements, but added, “"The trouble is, with this senator, enough is never enough.”
Warren then went on to echo claims that Bloomberg once encouraged a female employee to “kill” her unborn baby. Bloomberg said the claim was untrue.