(L-R) Democratic presidential hopefuls billionaire-philanthropist Tom Steyer, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, Former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar stand on stage ahead of the seventh Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register at the Drake University campus in Des Moines, Iowa on January 14, 2020.
Kerem Yucel | AFP | Getty Images
The 2020 Democratic presidential contenders took the stage together Tuesday for the final time before nominating contests start.
A largely cordial primary race has turned more adversarial in recent days with less than three weeks to go until the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses, the first time a state will award delegates in 2020.
Tuesday’s Democratic debate, hosted by the Des Moines Register and CNN, took place at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.
As debate qualifying standards get tougher and more candidates drop out of the race, the number of participants has dwindled. Only six Democratic candidates took the stage together Tuesday in a field that has skewed older and whiter as it narrows.
- Former Vice President Joe Biden
- Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg
- Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.
- Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
- Billionaire activist Tom Steyer
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
The contenders first faced questions about their credentials to handle the rising specter of war in the Middle East following the U.S. killing of Iran’s top general, Qasem Soleimani, earlier this month. Candidates have tried to leverage their foreign policy records to garner support amid the sharpened focus on Iran.
Sanders highlighted his opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq and push last year to stop U.S. support for a Saudi-led intervention in Yemen. Biden, meanwhile, said he worked during the Obama administration to end the Iraq War — while admitting it was a “mistake” to authorize the use of military force in the country when he was in the Senate.
Sanders defended his decision as a House member to vote for a military force authorization in Afghanistan, and again attempted to distance his record on Iraq from Biden’s.
“I took to the floor, I did everything I could to prevent that war. Joe saw it differently,” he said.
Klobuchar, asked whether she would remove forces from the Middle East, said she would “leave some troops there.” Warren, meanwhile, contended that “we need to get our combat troops out.” Buttigieg, an Afghanistan veteran, criticized the president for sending more troops to the region.
Tensions among the top candidates escalated in the days before the debate. Warren said Monday that Sanders told her during a 2018 meeting that a woman could not win the presidential election — a charge Sanders denied. It followed reports that Sanders’ campaign volunteer talking points cast Warren as a candidate who draws support from more wealthy, educated Democrats.
Recent Iowa polls have found four Democrats have a realistic shot at winning the most delegates in the first-in-the-nation caucuses. Biden has 20.7% of support, about even with Sanders at 20.3%, according to a RealClearPolitics polling average.
Buttigieg and Warren follow at 18.7% and 16%, respectively.