The CNN/Des Moines Register Democratic presidential debate in Des Moines begins at 9 p.m. EST (8 p.m. CST) Tuesday. Six Democratic candidates will take the stage at the Sheslow Auditorium for their final presidential debate before the Feb. 3 Iowa caucus.
Here’s what’s happening:
Candidates rack up new endorsements
Endorsements of candidates have been increasing as voting gets closer – and several campaigns rolled out more before the debate.
Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg snagged the backing of Waterloo, Iowa, Mayor Quentin Hart. Iowa media described it as a big get because Hart is the first black mayor of Iowa’s most diverse city. One of the questions dogging Buttigieg is whether he can increase his support among African Americans, a crucial voting block for Democrats.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar picked up the endorsement of Iowa state Rep. Charlie McConkey. He had previously supported New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who ended his campaign Monday.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced the endorsement of Rep. Joaquin Castro, the Texas Democrat who heads the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. He’s also the brother of former Housing and Urban Development secretary Julian Castro, who backed Warren after giving up his own quest for the nomination.
Former Vice President Joe Biden racked up the support of 13 more state representatives in New Hampshire as well as the endorsement of U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski of New Jersey. Malinowski is the fifth House member representing a district that Democrats view as the most competitive to back Biden.
Although businessman Andrew Yang failed to qualify for tonight’s debate, comedian Dave Chappelle announced he will perform two shows in South Carolina at the end of the month to benefit the campaign.
“I’m Yang Gang!” Chappelle said.
– Maureen Groppe
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President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are rallying the base in Milwaukee tonight.
A screen was set up outside the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena to accommodate any overflow crowd in a state that will be hotly contested.
“Wisconsin made a huge difference last time,” Pence said during a stop at a local restaurant on his way to the arena.
Before the Democrats’ debate, the Trump campaign planned to fly a banner over Des Moines reading: “TRUMP FIGHTS FOR IOWA FARMERS!”
Trump plans to visit the state on Jan. 30, when he’ll hold a rally in Des Moines just four days before the Iowa caucuses.
Challenging Trump for the GOP nomination are former Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill., and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld.
But in the latest Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa Poll, seven out of ten Iowa Republicans who do not plan to caucus for Democrats said they would definitely vote to re-elect Trump.
– Maureen Groppe
I was busy anyway
Candidates who failed to meet the donation and polling thresholds set by the Democratic National Committee for the debate are finding other ways of getting attention.
Former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland stopped to help clear ice from a sidewalk while door knocking in Osceola Tuesday as part of a 40-town tour of rural Iowa.
During the debate, Delaney will air a statewide ad telling voters he’s the only candidate “with a real plan to bring jobs and entrepreneurship to small towns.”
Businessman Andrew Yang, the only candidate who was in December’s debate and failed to qualify for tonight’s stage, held a town hall in Ames Tuesday morning.
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s campaign promised to tweet “Fun stuff. The best stuff” during the debate. Afterwards, Bloomberg is appearing on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
“You’re one of the only people I’d stay up this late for,” Bloomberg tweeted at Colbert.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick tweeted a lament that no candidates of color will be on stage. (Patrick and Yang didn’t qualify; former Housing and Urban Development secretary Julian Castro and Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris have dropped out of the race.)
“Democrats cannot win in November without voters of color,” Patrick tweeted, “and more importantly, neither can America.”
– Maureen Groppe
Sanders: ‘Of course’ I think a woman could beat Trump
Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s claim that Sen. Bernie Sanders once told her he didn’t think a woman could beat President Donald Trump in 2020 has raised a larger question about the electability of a female candidate to the White House.
A USA TODAY/Ipsos poll conducted in August found that half of likely Democratic voters said a woman would have a harder time than a man running against Trump.
And while nearly nine in 10 of those voters said they would be comfortable with a female president, a smaller number, only 44% of voters likely to cast ballots in Democratic primaries thought their neighbors would be comfortable with a female commander-in-chief, according to the online survey.
Among all voters, that number dropped to 37%.
The survey was based on responses from 2,012 adults, including 923 Democrats and independents who say they “are probably or certainly” going to participate in the 2020 Democratic primaries.
In response to media reports, Warren Monday issued a statement that Sanders “disagreed” a woman could beat Trump while they were discussing the upcoming election. Both senators are vying for the Democratic presidential nomination and will be on the debate stage in Des Moines tonight.
Sanders called Warren’s claim “ludicrous” in a lengthy statement Monday.
“It’s sad that, three weeks before the Iowa caucus and a year after that private conversation, staff who weren’t in the room are lying about what happened,” Sanders said. “Do I believe a woman can win in 2020? Of course! After all Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 3 million votes in 2016.”
In an interview last fall, Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University in New Jersey, said the difficulty of envisioning a woman in the White House is based on the simple fact that it hasn’t happened yet.
“We will cross this ultimate electability hurdle when a woman is elected and then we won’t have to question all the time whether a woman can be elected,” she said.
– Ledyard King
Things are getting real
Polls show that the Iowa caucus is a toss-up, as is the New Hampshire primary a week later.
The four locked in a close competition to claim the first ticket out of Iowa are former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar is still hoping to break into the top tier in Iowa, where she’s heavily focused.
Those who didn’t meet the Democratic National Committee’s participation rules for the debate but are still competing include former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, businessman Andrew Yang, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and former U.S. Rep. John Delaney.
In the last debate in December, Buttigieg took the most incoming fire. But with polls indicating his momentum may have stalled, the three other top candidates may focus the most on each other.
Hours before the debate, Sanders released a video accusing Biden of having led the Senate fight to go to war with Iraq, voting for “disastrous” trade deals, repeatedly calling for cuts to Social Security and pushing for a bill that made it harder for people to declare bankruptcy.
And in stark contrast with their previous non-aggression pact despite competing for the party’s most liberal wing, Sanders and Warren have been going after each other in recent days. Some Sanders’ volunteers have been telling voters that Warren can’t expand the party’s appeal beyond highly-educated, affluent Democrats. Warren said that Sanders told her in 2018 that he didn’t think a woman could win the presidency – a charge he vehemently denied.
“Watching this Elizabeth – Bernie dynamic is upsetting,” Yang tweeted Tuesday. “We have big problems to solve and both want to solve them. I’m sure that’s where they would want our attention focused too.”