Six Democratic presidential candidates faced off last night for the seventh and final time on the debate stage, less than three weeks until Iowans cast the first votes of the 2020 election.
It was a pretty lackluster debate, but here are the highlights.
1. CNN Moderator Addresses Warren’s Accusations As Fact
This week’s 2020 news kicked off with anonymous sources close to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren accusing Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders of telling Warren in a December 2018 meeting that a woman could not win the White House. The claims were published in a CNN story on the eve of the debate.
After the story broke, Warren herself asserted that Sanders indeed made the comments. Sanders categorically denied the claim and labeled the charges lodged against him as “ludicrous.”
CNN debate moderator and network political correspondent Abby Phillip, however, posed the question as a statement of fact during the primetime debate rather than an unproven allegation only corroborated by anonymous sources close to the Massachusetts senator.
“Sen. Warren, what did you think when Senator Sanders told you a woman could not win the election?” Phillip asked.
CNN: “Sen. Sanders, I do want to be clear here, you’re saying that you never told senator Warren that a woman could not win the election?"
SANDERS: "That is correct."
CNN: “Sen. Warren, what did you think when senator Sanders told you a woman could not win the election?" pic.twitter.com/BZ1NajmQE9
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) January 15, 2020
In sadly the most anticipated moment of the night, the two kept the exchange remarkably friendly and repeated their stated positions on the contents of the 2018 conversation.
“Bernie is my friend and I am not here to try to fight with Bernie,” Warren answered.
2. Sanders Fact-Checks Warren On Defeating GOP Incumbents
While making the case that a woman can indeed capture the White House, Warren argued that she and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the only two women on stage, were the only candidates who had defeated Republican incumbents in the last 30 years.
Sanders later disputed the assertion by noting that he ousted a Republican incumbent in Congress in 1990. Yes, 1990 is 30 years ago, but technically the 1990 general elections are 29 years and two months away.
The battle of the sexes is often a battle of hearing. Or math
Warren says she’s the only onstage candidate to beat an incumbent Republican in 30 years
Sanders however did it 29 years ago
— Marc Caputo (@MarcACaputo) January 15, 2020
3. Democratic Candidates Tackle Iran
Foreign policy was front-and-center Tuesday night after U.S. tensions with Iran reached new heights following a series of events spurring media hysteria about the United States being on the brink of a new Middle East war.
Iran fired more than a dozen missiles on two military bases in Iraq housing U.S. troops, resulting in zero fatalities, in retaliation for the American execution of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, a terrorist who was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans. Soon after the attacks on Iraqi bases, U.S. officials say Iran shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet, killing all 176 people aboard the aircraft.
Democratic candidates on stage took the opportunity to highlight their foreign policy credentials while taking jabs at their opponents’ records on foreign affairs and criticism towards President Donald Trump.
Sanders went after Biden for the former Delaware senator’s support for the war at the start of the century, characterizing it as “the worst foreign policy blunder in the modern history of this country.” On stage, Biden admitted his regret for voting for the war and touted his role in the Obama administration in pulling American troops out of Afghanistan.
Warren pivoted to turn a question on Iran into a lecture against government corruption condemning defense contracts between the Pentagon and private entities, while former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg highlighted his military experience as a naval intelligence officer.
Businessman Tom Steyer argued his foreign policy chops have been adequately groomed by conducting business abroad.
4. Amy Klobuchar Nukes Medicare For All
Health care surfaced on stage once again Wednesday night in a race that has been dominated by the topic. Klobuchar, who has worked to brand herself as a practical midwestern moderate in the contest, sharply criticized Warren’s plan for socialist health care dubbed “Medicare for All.”
“You would kick 149 million Americans off their current health insurance,” Klobuchar said, going on to point out that Warren has flip-flopped on the assessments of her radical plan. “Then, a few months ago you said no, you’re going to wait awhile to get there.”
Klobuchar absolutely destroys Warren on Medicare For All:
"You would kick 149 million Americans off their health insurance"
"Then you said no, you'll wait a while." pic.twitter.com/dh0eDOV14e
— Chris Martin (@chrisjdmartin) January 15, 2020
5. Democrats Show Split On Trade
With the Senate expected to vote on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement in the coming weeks after the House approved the NAFTA replacement last month, the candidates on stage were pressed on whether they supported the new trade deal.
Sanders said he remained opposed to the deal, citing environmental and labor concerns such as jobs leaving the United States. Warren, on the other hand, who is often critical of free-trade, said she would vote for it, arguing that it’s a step-up from the existing agreement.
“It will give some relief to our farmers, it will give some relief to our workers. I believe we accept that relief, we try to help the people who need help, and we get up the next day and fight for a better trade deal,” Warren said.
Buttigieg also said he supported the deal noting that while, according to him “it is not perfect,” “it has been approved.”