The last Democratic debate before the Iowa caucuses hosted a much smaller — and less diverse — stage with former vice president Joe Biden; former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg; Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.); Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.); businessman Tom Steyer; and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). For the six candidates, who were for the most part cordial and friendly, there appeared to be no major stumbles.
The most memorable and standout moments belonged to the women onstage.
When asked about the recent account that Sanders told Warren a woman could not win the election, Warren prefaced her response by stating that Sanders “is my friend and I am not here to fight with Bernie” and went on to address head on, whether a woman beat President Trump in the general election. “Look at the men on this stage, collectively they have lost 10 elections, and the only people on this stage who have won every single election that they’ve been in are the women, Amy and me.”
Sanders denies ever saying that a woman could not win.
The candidates discussed issues of foreign policy, withdrawing troops from Iraq, trade, health care, the cost of prescription drugs and free college tuition.
When a question was posed about child care, Warren took the opportunity to reveal a personal moment and talked about juggling two children with a teaching job.
“It was child care that nearly brought me down,” she said. “I think about how many women of my generation just got knocked off the track and never got back on. How many of my daughter’s generation get knocked off the track and don’t get back on.”
While many of the topics that surfaced during Tuesday night’s debate ― like the high cost of child care — were refreshing, there seemed to be several missed opportunities.
Given that three of the candidates will be jurors at the impending impeachment trial, there was little outrage about Trump. There were brief mentions of Trump as liar — Klobuchar mentioned that the President has “a rap sheet of divisive rhetoric,” but there was little discussion of Trump’s obstruction.
There was no mention of news that broke just before the debate — that a Ukraine prosecutor offered intelligence on Biden in exchange for ouster of Ukraine ambassador. Text messages and documents provided to Congress by former Rudolph W. Giuliani associate Lev Parnas show that before the ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, was removed from her post, a Parnas associate sent text messages suggesting that he had Yovanovitch under surveillance in Ukraine. A lawyer for Yovanovitch said Tuesday that the episode should be investigated.
When it came to health care, the candidates failed to mention Trump’s claim he will keep preexisting conditions — despite the fact that the administration is in court to do away with the protection.
While foreign policy took up a good portion of the first hour of the debate, there was additional room for clarity. As noted by The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake, “It seemed like a moment in which the Democratic Party could define itself on this issue, but there wasn’t much of that on Tuesday night. Instead, it was a lot of Goldilocks-ing of troop numbers — each one assuring that he or she would keep just the right number in the Middle East.”
As part of her closing statement, Warren read a list she put together during the break of what was not talked about during the debate: the struggles of those with disabilities, gun violence, kids in poverty, trans women, black infant mortality, student loans, the struggles of farmers and those with mental illness.
Indeed, there are ample chances for moderators to surface these topics — there are upcoming debates on Feb. 7, Feb. 19 and Feb. 25.