Less than three weeks before the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses kick off the 2020 election season, the six Democratic candidates who participated in Tuesday night’s debate in Des Moines seemed to go after each other as much as they did President Donald Trump.
The debate, sponsored by CNN and the Des Moines Register, featured just half of the dozen Democrats still in the race who are hoping to gain their party’s nomination: former Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and businessman Tom Steyer.
The first part of the debate focused on foreign policy, in particular the situation in the Middle East, with Sanders attacking Biden over his vote as a Delaware senator over the Iraqi invasion in the early 2000s.
“That was a mistake and I acknowledge that,” Biden said in response.
Buttigieg, meanwhile, played up his experience as a U.S. Navy intelligence officer when it comes to foreign policy, while Klobuchar noted her experience on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Sanders said he objected to both the Vietnam War and Iraqi War because they were “based on lies” and that Trump is now lying about Iran.
Recent news reports about an alleged conversation during the last election between Sanders and Warren over the possibility of a woman becoming president also came up.
“The question has been raised, but the men on this stage have lost 10 elections collectively,” Warren said.
Sanders noted that Democrats were the first party to elect a Catholic president – John Kennedy – and the first African American president – Barack Obama.
Toward the end of the debate, the candidates tended to agree more on massive spending increases on issues like education and health care. They also tended to agree on trade policy and Trump’s impeachment.
About 30 minutes before the debate began, DNC Chair Tom Perez took the stage to try and fire up the crowd.
“This election is not about them,” he said regarding the candidates. “It’s about the future of our democracy.”
Perez, a former assistant attorney general and secretary of labor under President Barack Obama, said all of the Democratic candidates had signed a pledge to support the eventual nominee in an effort to defeat Trump in November. He also referred to the ongoing impeachment effort by Democrats against Trump, calling California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi from California “the most impactful House Speaker” in history.