WASHINGTON – Six Democratic presidential candidates spoke to voters last Tuesday in their last national request before Iowa’s first meeting on February 3.
While some candidates rose on this occasion, others struggled to make waves.
Here’s a look at the winners and losers:
The four leaders
All eyes were on the four candidates who have been electoral leaders for several months: former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
All four have temporarily led the poll in Iowa and are caught in a tight race in New Hampshire, the main goal of which is just behind Iowa.
Warren and Sanders faced each other over whether a woman could become president, and their exchange on the subject was the only really controversial moment between them.
A CNN article published on Monday reported that Sanders said at a Warren-Sanders meeting in 2018 that Warren allegedly said he didn’t think a woman could win the presidency.
Sanders has firmly refuted that he ever said that. Warren made her own statement after hours of media questions on Monday saying Sanders had told her that. Both candidates tried to de-escalate the situation after a day of back and forth in the media.
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On Tuesday’s debate stage, Sanders again denied ever telling Warren that he didn’t think a woman could be president.
“How could anyone not believe in a million years that a woman could become President of the United States?” He asked.
Warren claimed that Sanders said this to her, but then turned her answer into a discussion about the eligibility that candidates faced, saying that the candidates “outperform” the male candidates on stage.
“The only people on this stage who have won every election are women,” she said.
Biden, who is a national leader but has given up in the Iowa polls, has been succinct with many of his responses and made his points clearer than in previous debates. Buttigeig also stayed away from real mistakes.
In short, the top candidates avoided big mistakes and did nothing that would significantly affect their current position in the top candidate level.
In most democratic debates in the 2020 election cycle, health care almost always dominated the first half hour of the discussion.
This time a foreign policy discussion opened the debate. The conversation focused mainly on Iran as tensions with the United States increased after the murder of an Iranian general.
When asked by the moderators whether they would allow Iran to procure a nuclear weapon, Buttigieg and Senator Amy Klobuchar both said no.
“No,” said Buttigieg. “Ensuring that Iran doesn’t develop a nuclear weapon will of course be a priority.”
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A little dust surfaced during the foreign policy discussion between Sanders and Biden, in which Sanders criticized Biden for voting for the Iraq war. Sanders said the Iraq war was “the worst mistake in modern history” and has recently intensified his criticism of Biden’s foreign policy history.
The candidates not only spoke about Iran, but also about North Korea. When asked if he, like President Donald Trump, would meet Kim Jong Un from North Korea without preconditions, Biden said, “No, not now.”
“We gave him everything he was looking for,” Biden said of Kim. “Legitimacy.”
It goes without saying that the state of Hawkeye took center stage on Tuesday, where the debate took place just minutes from downtown Des Moines.
However, the focus was on some issues related to Iowa voters, including infrastructure, childcare, and health insurance.
The moderators took turns asking the questions from real Iowans.
In one case, childcare – an issue that has not been discussed in any other debate – was raised due to concerns from a local mother who said that two thirds of her salary was spent on childcare.
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Warren used the opportunity to describe her own experience of childcare during her first real teaching career as a mother of two young children. Warren, who announced that her property tax would fund general childcare, said that she was ready to quit her job until her aunt intervened to help.
“I was there,” said Warren. “It was childcare that really brought me down.”
The race continues after February 3rd, but Iowa had its moment in the spotlight Tuesday.
The Minnesota Senator has not yet reached double-digit numbers in Iowa or national polls and wanted to benefit from strong performance in the December debate.
But her one-liners didn’t land so well in a largely quiet discussion room, and she had very little interaction with her competitors – interactions that had excelled in December.
“This debate is not real,” she said at one point, and she kept talking long after the moderators tried to continue.
She also stumbled upon the possibility of having a president.
Klobuchar listed female politicians who had replaced Republican incumbents, and mentioned Democratic governor Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, who, however, was apparently speechless when she looked for Kansas, governor Laura Kelly.
“Kansas just got a governor and she defeated Kris Kobach. And her name is – I am very proud to know her – and her name is Gov. Kelly,” said Klobuchar.
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Variety and color picker
Tuesday’s debate was the least varied in the 2020 election cycle, and included only one issue that explicitly mentioned the color picker.
Only three of the color candidates – Andrew Yang, the former Massachusetts governor, Deval Patrick, and Hawaii’s congressman, Tulsi Gabbard – are still in the Democratic primary and none have qualified for the debate.
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The only question that specifically mentioned the color picker came almost 10 minutes before the end of the debate and was only directed at Buttigieg for his lack of support among black voters. He replied and the moderators went on.
The democratic field at times included a Latino man, an Asian-American man, a Samoan American, three black men and a black woman. In addition to ethnic and ethnic diversity, the field also included a gay man and a record number of women.
Sen. Cory Booker was the last color candidate to end his campaign on Monday.
Black, Latin American and Asian American voters are key to democratic election victories and are largely democratic, and Tuesday’s debate has failed to recognize this fact.
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Steyer is behind the leaders in both Iowa and the national polls and didn’t have a significant moment on Tuesday that could have changed this narrative.
Steyer, a billionaire who qualified for a debate the day before the deadline, also received the least speaking time for the candidates.
He stumbled when asked for his signature on climate change. The moderator of the debate, Brianne Pfannenstiel, pointed out that Steyer “made $ 1.6 billion in investments in coal, oil and gas.”
Steyer said he invested in all sectors of the economy and separated from fossil fuels over ten years ago. However, this was not a particularly strong reproach for his previous investments.
This article originally appeared in the US TODAY: Democratic Debate: Winners and Losers of the January Debate