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The circus outside the 2020 Democratic debate in SC: Bernie Bros, Uncle Sam and onlookers

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The "Bernie Bros" arrived 5½ hours before the Democrats' presidential debate began.

The gaggle of young men bounded up the sidewalk, laughing, as they picked a spot in front of the Gaillard Center where seven of the eight remaining Democratic presidential candidates were set to square-off.

They tore into a cardboard box filled with signs, including a handmade one with the words "WORK IS HARD" scrawled in black marker.

Then they set up the 6-foot, 5-inch cereal box that said "Biden's Corn Pops." The front of the box promised it was filled with a "good source of malarkey."

When asked about the source of the cheeky materials, Trevin McKoy of Charleston said he didn't know who gave it to him.

"We aren’t with anyone. We were just given some signs," McKoy said, even though the cereal box said it was paid for by the Committee to Defend the President, a pro-Trump Super PAC.

The cardboard box had an address to Right Voter LLC, a Republican political consulting group.

McKoy, a 23-year-old College of Charleston student, said he just wanted to be involved in this national moment and facilitate discussion.

"It’s more effective than getting out here and screaming, ‘socialism sucks.' We’re all out here trying to have a good time and have fun with it," McKoy said. 

McKoy and his group of tongue-in-cheek "Bernie Bros" were among the hundreds of people who assembled outside the Gaillard Center in the hours leading up to the Democrats' 10th presidential TV forum.

Wearing an Uncle Sam-inspired outfit with a silver-sequined vest beneath a royal-blue blazer and red-and-white striped pants, Carol Dunitz of Ann Arbor, Mich., said she wouldn’t have missed it.

She has attended nearly all of the Democratic presidential debates. She missed the one in New Hampshire because of a snowstorm.

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Dunitz, who has written a theater piece called "2020: The Musical," passed out lyrics to two of the 20 songs she wrote, along with a poem about the process.

Meanwhile, an oversized truck driven by Peter Grove of Florence, Ala., continued to loop around the block surrounding the debate hall.

As he waited at a stoplight, he tipped his pink "Make America Great Again" hat to a reporter, and said he was proud to have driven 570 miles to share the pro-President Trump messages plastered to his vehicle.

A few feet away, a mesmerized Randy Holbrooks and his wife, Catherine, were watching it all unfold.

The couple from Seneca, traveled to Charleston this week to visit family but had no idea the debate was going on until they stumbled onto it while walking around downtown.

Randy Holbrooks said seeing the Joe Biden campaign bus driving around town was "pretty neat."

Holbrooks said he had been listening to talk radio shows, where pundits were carrying on about who may be a strong candidate and who should drop out of the race. He doesn't know what he wants to happen.

"I’ve kind of gotten mixed feelings," he said of the contest, noting he has watched some of the previous Democratic contests.

Holbrooks conceded the upcoming Saturday primary is "probably not for me."

"But I feel like our country still needs some help," the small business owner said.

A few steps away a person dressed in a dinosaur costume bounced around and called for lower prescription drug costs.

Reach Caitlin Byrd at 843-937-5590 and follow her on Twitter @MaryCaitlinByrd.

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