Democratic White House hopefuls rounded on leftist frontrunner Bernie Sanders at a feisty debate Tuesday, attacking him as too extreme for American voters and a flawed challenger to President Donald Trump.
Joe Biden, who needs a victory in South Carolina's crucial primary on Saturday to keep his campaign alive, hit Sanders as soft on gun control, while billionaire tycoon Michael Bloomberg claimed Russia was working to help Sanders win the nomination -- betting he would be defeated in November.
And Sanders' rivals joined in savaging the self-described democratic socialist as too radical to appeal to a broad swathe of Americans.
Fellow progressive Elizabeth Warren and centrists Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, all desperate to halt Sanders' momentum before it is too late, laid into his ability to deliver on costly programs such as universal health care and tuition-free college.
Buttigieg, a 38-year-old military veteran presenting himself as a unifier, warned a Sanders fight against Trump would spell "chaos" and divide the nation.
"I tell you what it adds up to," Buttigieg said, "it ends up as four more years of Donald Trump."
Sanders is in pole position in South Carolina, the last step before "Super Tuesday" on March 3 when 14 states vote and a whopping third of all delegates are up for grabs.
Talking over one another in often contentious exchanges, the seven candidates aggressively vied for attention, locking horns on everything from housing to China policy, and whether or not to move the US embassy from Jerusalem back to Tel Aviv.
Meanwhile, according to a Reuters/Ipsos national poll released on Tuesday, Sanders has widened his lead and overtaken Joe Biden in support among African Americans.