Candidates are falling like dominoes in the 2020 presidential race, and only six qualified for Tuesday night's seventh Democratic presidential debate.
The last before the Iowa caucus on February 3, this debate was the smallest one so far. It was also the least diverse, with Sen. Cory Booker recently dropping out and neither Andrew Yang nor Rep. Tulsi Gabbard qualifying. (Anyone up for starting #DebateSoWhite?) This stirred up questions about race, representation, and who should and should not be on that stage.
Another conflict on the table? On Monday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren released a statement confirming reports that in a December 2018 meeting, Sen. Bernie Sanders told her a woman could not win the 2020 election (calling up the argument that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in 2016). It looks like they kept their pledge not to go after each other about this in the debate, though: Warren took the high road when asked about the incident.
The two-hour-and-15-minute debate, co-hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register, took place at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, and was moderated by CNN's Wolf Blitzer and Abby Phillip, and the Register's Brianne Pfannenstiel. The candidates on stage were former VP Joe Biden, Sanders, Warren, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, and billionaire Tom Steyer. Ahead, we live-blogged all the key moments you need to know about.
Amy Klobuchar has the receipts when it comes to foreign policy.
Pulling no surprise punches, the first question (and first half-hour) of the night is about Iran and the candidates’ stances on getting into another possible war. While many candidates give vaguer anti-war answers about taking the troops out of the Middle East and cutting our defense budget, Klobuchar chimes in with actual numbers. Not only does Klobuchar say she’d get the U.S. back into the Iranian nuclear agreement, which she helped to shape, she outlines which troops she would keep.
"I would leave some troops there, but not on the level that Donald Trump is taking us right now," she says. "Afghanistan, I have long wanted to bring our troops home. I would do that. Some would remain for counterterrorism and training. In Syria, I would not have removed the 150 troops from the border with Turkey. I think that was a mistake. I think it made our allies and many others much more vulnerable to ISIS. And then when it comes to Iraq, right now, I would leave our troops there, despite the mess that has been created by Donald Trump."
Between Klobuchar’s, err, bold brows, and Buttigieg’s well-groomed arches, it seems that the candidates’ eyebrows are taking a front seat at this debate. And while there are obviously more important things to talk about, we kind of can't look away. #SorryNotSorry
Bernie Sanders is low-key on a roll.
Sanders' strongest moments are during discussions on trade and foreign policy. He passionately says that NAFTA and PNTR were written to increase the profits of multinational companies, prioritizing America’s GDP but ultimately costing Americans greatly. “We need corporate responsibility here,” Sanders says. Sanders also shines when highlighting the ways in which labor, trade, and climate change are connected. Also important: Sanders is the only candidate on stage to have voted against moving forward with Iran sanctions and save the nuclear deal in 2017.
Elizabeth Warren takes the classy route — and says women can and will win.
When the inevitable question surrounding the recent beef between Sanders and Warren arrives, Bernie denies that he ever said he thinks a woman can't win the presidential race. But Warren, instead of accusing him of lying (she did claim to the media that he said it), says, "Bernie is my friend, and I am not here to try to fight with Bernie." She then uses this moment to remind everyone of the power of women in politics.
“Can a woman beat Donald Trump? Look at the men on this stage. Collectively, they have lost 10 elections. The only people on this stage who have won every single election that they've been in are the women...Amy and me,” Warren says to laughter and applause. (So who run the world again?)
It's no wonder "President Elizabeth Warren" starts trending shortly after. She's on fire tonight.
Amy Klobuchar jumps on the bandwagon, talking about her wins.
After Warren reminds everyone of the wins she and Klobuchar — the only women on the stage — have already had, Klobuchar uses the moment to talk up her victories. "I have won in the reddest of districts," she says. "I have won in the suburban areas, in the rural areas. I have brought people with me. ... Every single person that I have beaten, my Republican opponents, have gotten out of politics for good."
Elizabeth Warren doubles down on childcare for all.
Warren talks about covering childcare with her wealth tax, and highlights her own experience. "I remember when I was a young mom," she says. "I had two little kids, and I had my first real university teaching job. It was hard work. I was excited. But it was childcare that nearly brought me down. We went through one childcare after another, and it just didn't work. If I hadn't been saved by my Aunt Bee, I was ready to quit my job. And I think about how many women of my generation just got knocked off the track and never got back on, how many of my daughter's generation get knocked off the track and don't get back on, how many mamas and daddies today are getting knocked off the track and never get back on."
Amy Klobuchar speaks directly to the "sandwich generation."
Tom Steyer has officially come out to play.
As the billionaire on stage, Steyer is asked if his kids should receive free public college from programs like the ones Warren and Sanders have proposed. Plain and simple, Steyer answers “no,” and talks about the wealth tax he has proposed. "We need to redistribute money so every kid has a chance, so we're not legislating inequality for the next generation, and so we actually invest in every single kid, specifically poor kids, specifically Black kids, specifically brown kids," he says, in perhaps his peak moment of the night.
But, then again, there’s this everlasting reminder of who Tom Steyer is...
Who is the theoretical billionaire who's itching to send his kid to the state school? I never understand this. He's buying a new campus for Yale to get Dylan Jr into the freshman class— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) January 15, 2020
And then, there's his refusal to blink.
Pete Buttigieg's standing with Black voters gets called into question again.
In perhaps one of the least boring moments of the debate, CNN correspondent Abby Phillip calls out Buttigieg’s lack of support from Black voters despite his insistence that he has it. “You've been campaigning for a year now and polling shows you with next to no Black support, support that you'll need in order to beat Donald Trump. Is it possible that Black voters have gotten to know you and have simply decided to choose another candidate?” Phillip asks.
The candidate responds, “The Black voters who know me best are supporting me. It's why I have the most support in South Bend. It's why, among elected Black officials in my community who have gotten into this race, by far most of them are supporting me," which elicits a few laughs from the nosebleed seats.
Capping off a rather, um, safe debate night, candidates give their closing statements. Klobuchar flexes on her ability to get things done, Steyer refers to Americans as his "teammates," Sanders gives the 1% his daily shoutout, Buttigieg expresses his wish to "send Trumpism into the dust bin of history," and Biden expounds on character and decency.
But it's Warren who shakes up the crowd by bringing up all of the subjects that haven't been addressed: disability, gun violence, poverty, violence against trans women of color, climate change’s effect on Black and brown communities, and mental illness. Rounding out a strong night, Warren proclaims, "I come here tonight with a heart filled with hope. And it's filled with hope because I see this as our moment in history, our moment when no one is left on the sidelines, our moment when we understand that it comes to us to decide the future of this country, our moment when we build the movement to make real change. Hope and courage. That is how I will make you proud every day, as your nominee and as the first woman president of the United States of America."