1/14/2020 12:58:00 PM Sharper jabs expected in tonight's debate
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Rougher shoving and sharper jabs are expected as a tighter field of Democrats takes the stage for Tuesday night’s final debate before Iowa’s leadoff presidential caucuses.
Just six candidates are gathering in Des Moines, all anxious for a televised boost before the Feb. 3 caucuses that could give one or more of them momentum for the primaries that will then come hot and heavy. Or the Iowa results could all but end their White House hopes.
State polling shows Iowans’ preferences too close to call.
Some of the fiercest clashes could center on Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, fellow progressives who until now have largely avoided criticizing each other.
Warren chastised Sanders over the weekend following a report that his campaign instructed volunteers to speak poorly of her to win over undecided voters. The tensions escalated on Monday after CNN reported Sanders told Warren in a private 2018 meeting that he didn’t think a woman could win the election, a charge that Sanders vigorously denied but that Warren said was true.
The feuding will likely expand to include nearly every candidate on stage. Sanders has recently stepped up his attacks on former Vice President Joe Biden over his past support of the Iraq War, broad free-trade agreements and entitlement reform, among other issues. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who has had several strong debates, will be looking for another opportunity to highlight her candidacy as she remains mired in the middle of the pack in polling. Billionaire Tom Steyer will have to answer criticism that he’s trying to buy his way to the White House.
And with two surveys showing Pete Buttigieg losing support in Iowa, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, will need a breakout moment to regain strength before the caucuses.
Those shifting dynamics mean tonight’s debate could be unlike any of the others that came before it this cycle. The generally polite disputes over policy items including health care and immigration are about to be replaced by increasingly bitter and personal knocks. And it will happen as many Democratic voters are just beginning to tune into the race.
The debate, on the campus of Drake University and televised on CNN, marks the first forum with an all-white lineup. Businessman Andrew Yang, an Asian American candidate who appeared in the December debate, failed to hit the polling threshold for Tuesday’s event. And New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker ended his campaign on Monday after he didn’t make the debate stage, leaving just one black candidate — former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick — in the race.
This will be the first debate since Trump authorized the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, which heightened tensions throughout the Middle East.