RECAP: Final Democratic Debate Before First Votes Are Cast | Shlomo Rudman

The contenders for the 2020 Democratic nomination for President faced off on Tuesday night in the final head-to-head match before the Iowa caucuses take place on February 3rd. The debate, hosted by CNN in partnership with the Des Moines Register, was held at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, and included six candidates: former vice president Joe Biden, former mayor of South Bend, Indiana Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, and billionaire businessman Tom Steyer.

The debate covered a broad range of topics, but most prominent among them were foreign policy, health care, and the electability of a female presidential candidate.

With tensions between the United States and Iran at a decades-long high, the candidates all attacked President Trump for what they said is reckless foreign policy and jumping from crisis to crisis without having any actual plan. They argued that they would make better commanders-in-chief than the president, and work in coalition with other countries to counter threats posed by rogue nations. Bernie Sanders attacked Joe Biden for having supported the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, saying that while Biden listened to President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, he “didn’t believe them for a moment.” Biden’s support for the Iraq War has been a thorn in his side throughout this race, but it isn’t clear if he has actually lost any support from primary voters because of it.

On health care, Sanders and Warren continued to advocate for their Medicare-For-All plans, which would do away with private health insurance in favor of a single-payer system. Biden, Klobuchar, and Buttigieg said that Medicare-for-All would bankrupt the country and attacked Sanders and Warren for being unable to give proper answers on how they would fund it. Warren had previously released a plan to fund her proposal which many moderates, including Joe Biden, have said are unrealistic.

Also discussed was the electability of a female in a presidential election. A heated debate sprang up in the days prior to the debate after a report claimed that Bernie Sanders had told Elizabeth Warren in a private meeting that a female cannot win the election in 2020. While Sanders vehemently denied the story, Warren seemingly confirmed the report. During the debate, Senator Warren threw shade at the male candidates on stage, saying that they collectively lost 10 elections. “The only people on this stage who have won every single election that they’ve been in are the women, Amy [Klobuchar] and me!” Warren said. For his part, Sanders said that he would never suggest a woman couldn’t win the presidency. “How could anybody in a million years not believe that a woman could not be president of the United States?” asked Sanders. Still, following the debate, Sanders and Warren seemed to engage in a testy exchange, after Warren apparently refused to shake hands with Sanders. Tom Steyer, who was standing near the two, claims that he doesn’t know what took place during that exchange and he was just “trying to get out of the way as fast as possible.”

Some other subjects that were raised included how the candidates would react to expected attacks from President Trump during the general election, Buttigieg’s lack of appeal to black voters, Steyer’s personal wealth, their views on impeachment, climate change, and subsidies for higher education.

There was no clear winner of the debate, though many analysts believe that frontrunner Joe Biden, who, by virtue of not suffering any major attacks or gaffes, came out on top. In his closing statement, Biden drew sharp distinctions between himself and President Trump, and vowed to “restore the soul of the nation,” a phrase he has used extensively on the campaign trail.

Mike Bloomberg, who is also running for the presidential nomination but did not meet the requirements to be on the debate stage, used social media to draw attention to his candidacy during the debate. Posting odd and sometimes amusing content on Twitter, Bloomberg managed to detract some attention from the debate to himself.

The latest Monmouth University poll of Iowa Democrats has Joe Biden leading with 24% support, followed by Sanders (18%), Buttigieg (17%), Warren (15%), Klobuchar (8%), and Steyer (4%). The first in the nation Iowa caucuses will take place on February 3rd and will provide election-watchers with a better feel for how the race for the Democratic nomination for president will ultimately play out.

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  1. In a way, this is sad. The Democratic party has a lot of good people in it & they have some good ideas. Many of us benefit, directly & indirectly from programs introduced by Democrats in distant & not too distant past. However, this year, between the impeachment proceedings and then criticizing the President for taking out Salimani, an evil man by all accounts, has, basically sealed the fate for them for this presidential election cycle. Some pundits say Trump will win 45 states. I dont think it’ll be that bad but it may be close to it.

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