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Live Updates Ahead of Tonight’s Democratic Debate Live Updates Ahead of Tonight’s Democratic Debate
(32 minutes later)
How to watch: You can watch live analysis on nytimes.com. The debate is co-hosted by The Des Moines Register and CNN.How to watch: You can watch live analysis on nytimes.com. The debate is co-hosted by The Des Moines Register and CNN.
Moderators: Wolf Blitzer and Abby Phillip of CNN and Brianne Pfannenstiel of The Register.Moderators: Wolf Blitzer and Abby Phillip of CNN and Brianne Pfannenstiel of The Register.
Candidates: Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, the billionaire Tom Steyer. Among the Democrats who did not qualify for the debate are former Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City and the entrepreneur Andrew Yang.Candidates: Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, the billionaire Tom Steyer. Among the Democrats who did not qualify for the debate are former Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City and the entrepreneur Andrew Yang.
With less than three weeks before Iowa’s caucuses, tensions are rising among the top-tier candidates. The de facto truce between Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has evaporated in recent days, Mr. Sanders has attacked former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., remains the object of scorn from his top rivals.With less than three weeks before Iowa’s caucuses, tensions are rising among the top-tier candidates. The de facto truce between Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has evaporated in recent days, Mr. Sanders has attacked former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., remains the object of scorn from his top rivals.
For the first time in the 2020 campaign, there’s a real chance of a four-way battle royale live on the debate stage.For the first time in the 2020 campaign, there’s a real chance of a four-way battle royale live on the debate stage.
The strategy comes with significant risks. Iowans tend to dislike it when candidates go negative, and progressives are already blanching at the prospect of a prolonged Sanders-Warren conflict, given that many of them believe either candidate would be preferable to the more moderate Mr. Biden and Mr. Buttigieg.The strategy comes with significant risks. Iowans tend to dislike it when candidates go negative, and progressives are already blanching at the prospect of a prolonged Sanders-Warren conflict, given that many of them believe either candidate would be preferable to the more moderate Mr. Biden and Mr. Buttigieg.
Yet candidates and their supporters remain on edge. The Sanders team has been caught off guard by a report, which Ms. Warren confirmed on Monday night but Mr. Sanders has denied, that Mr. Sanders told her in a private 2018 meeting that a woman could not win the presidency.Yet candidates and their supporters remain on edge. The Sanders team has been caught off guard by a report, which Ms. Warren confirmed on Monday night but Mr. Sanders has denied, that Mr. Sanders told her in a private 2018 meeting that a woman could not win the presidency.
The conflict makes for good television — and CNN in past debates has sought out tensions between the candidates — but it doesn’t always lead to more affection from voters. The trick for candidates Tuesday night will be navigating attacks and counterpunches without undermining Democratic unity and catering to voters’ all-encompassing desire to defeat President Trump.The conflict makes for good television — and CNN in past debates has sought out tensions between the candidates — but it doesn’t always lead to more affection from voters. The trick for candidates Tuesday night will be navigating attacks and counterpunches without undermining Democratic unity and catering to voters’ all-encompassing desire to defeat President Trump.
Mr. Biden often claims he’s not engaging in “hyperbole” — but as Democratic candidates work to appeal to voters of color, that’s exactly what he did as he highlighted his standing with those constituencies in an interview published Tuesday, hours before a debate for which only white candidates qualified.Mr. Biden often claims he’s not engaging in “hyperbole” — but as Democratic candidates work to appeal to voters of color, that’s exactly what he did as he highlighted his standing with those constituencies in an interview published Tuesday, hours before a debate for which only white candidates qualified.
“I get more support from black and brown constituents than anybody in this race. That’s where I come from. I come from the African-American community,” Mr. Biden, who is white, told The Sacramento Bee. “That’s my base. We’re the eighth largest black population (as a percentage) in the United States in my state. That’s how I got started.”“I get more support from black and brown constituents than anybody in this race. That’s where I come from. I come from the African-American community,” Mr. Biden, who is white, told The Sacramento Bee. “That’s my base. We’re the eighth largest black population (as a percentage) in the United States in my state. That’s how I got started.”
Those remarks came in response to a question about the all-white debate stage, a disappointment to many Democratic voters and activists who were energized by the diversity of the field at the outset of the campaign.Those remarks came in response to a question about the all-white debate stage, a disappointment to many Democratic voters and activists who were energized by the diversity of the field at the outset of the campaign.
“I think there’s some really qualified people, but it’s the way, you know, the way the polls are running, the way things are moving,” Mr. Biden said. “I’m not sure this whole debate setup has made any sense anyway to begin with. But it is what it is. But I tell you what: If I’m elected president, I promise you my administration is going to look like America.”“I think there’s some really qualified people, but it’s the way, you know, the way the polls are running, the way things are moving,” Mr. Biden said. “I’m not sure this whole debate setup has made any sense anyway to begin with. But it is what it is. But I tell you what: If I’m elected president, I promise you my administration is going to look like America.”
The debate comes a day after Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, dropped out of the race, leaving just one black person — Deval Patrick, the former governor of Massachusetts — in the Democratic contest.The debate comes a day after Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, dropped out of the race, leaving just one black person — Deval Patrick, the former governor of Massachusetts — in the Democratic contest.
Polls do show Mr. Biden with a commanding lead among African-American voters over all, though the contest for younger black voters, as well as for Latino voters, is far more competitive, and Mr. Sanders in particular has shown strength with those constituencies.Polls do show Mr. Biden with a commanding lead among African-American voters over all, though the contest for younger black voters, as well as for Latino voters, is far more competitive, and Mr. Sanders in particular has shown strength with those constituencies.
Ms. Warren’s top aides and her new surrogate Julián Castro have been telegraphing a message of unity, promoting Ms. Warren as the candidate who can bridge the party’s progressive and moderate wings.Ms. Warren’s top aides and her new surrogate Julián Castro have been telegraphing a message of unity, promoting Ms. Warren as the candidate who can bridge the party’s progressive and moderate wings.
That’ll be hard if she’s stoking a war with Mr. Sanders.That’ll be hard if she’s stoking a war with Mr. Sanders.
Ms. Warren is going to try anyway, having already adopted most of Mr. Sanders’s platform without some of his harder edges. She’s sure to be asked about reports in recent days that Sanders volunteers disparaged her election chances in calls to Iowa Democrats and the report, followed by her confirmation, that Mr. Sanders told her a woman could not be elected president.Ms. Warren is going to try anyway, having already adopted most of Mr. Sanders’s platform without some of his harder edges. She’s sure to be asked about reports in recent days that Sanders volunteers disparaged her election chances in calls to Iowa Democrats and the report, followed by her confirmation, that Mr. Sanders told her a woman could not be elected president.
There’s little evidence that Sanders supporters can be moved away from the Vermont senator, but it is incumbent upon Ms. Warren to demonstrate to moderate and undecided Iowans that she can appeal to all elements of the party and, as she often says in her remarks, win Republican votes for proposals like her wealth tax.There’s little evidence that Sanders supporters can be moved away from the Vermont senator, but it is incumbent upon Ms. Warren to demonstrate to moderate and undecided Iowans that she can appeal to all elements of the party and, as she often says in her remarks, win Republican votes for proposals like her wealth tax.
As the House moves to send impeachment charges against Mr. Trump to the Senate for a trial, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren will soon be spending far more time in Washington than in Iowa.As the House moves to send impeachment charges against Mr. Trump to the Senate for a trial, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren will soon be spending far more time in Washington than in Iowa.
The debate offers one of their best, last chances to make a big, televised impression from Iowa before the caucuses. Can they effectively take advantage of that opening?The debate offers one of their best, last chances to make a big, televised impression from Iowa before the caucuses. Can they effectively take advantage of that opening?
Ms. Warren, who has a renowned campaign organization on the ground, and Mr. Sanders, who has a loyal fan base in Iowa, have some more cushioning — but both of them are locked in a tight race among a crowded top-four tier. They’ll both be looking for a defining performance that will stay with undecided voters in Iowa while they are off the trail.Ms. Warren, who has a renowned campaign organization on the ground, and Mr. Sanders, who has a loyal fan base in Iowa, have some more cushioning — but both of them are locked in a tight race among a crowded top-four tier. They’ll both be looking for a defining performance that will stay with undecided voters in Iowa while they are off the trail.
Mr. Biden and Mr. Buttigieg, the other two leading candidates in Iowa, who are competing with each other and Ms. Klobuchar for more centrist voters, will be free to campaign while their rivals are in Washington, and their supporters are eager to take advantage.Mr. Biden and Mr. Buttigieg, the other two leading candidates in Iowa, who are competing with each other and Ms. Klobuchar for more centrist voters, will be free to campaign while their rivals are in Washington, and their supporters are eager to take advantage.
Hours before Tuesday’s debate, Ms. Warren released a plan to cancel student debt by executive action.Hours before Tuesday’s debate, Ms. Warren released a plan to cancel student debt by executive action.
She argues that existing laws give the Education Department the authority to cancel federal loans as well as to issue them, and that as a result, she can direct the department to do so without congressional approval.She argues that existing laws give the Education Department the authority to cancel federal loans as well as to issue them, and that as a result, she can direct the department to do so without congressional approval.
Essentially, she is proposing a more aggressive way of carrying out the student debt plan she released months ago, which would cancel up to $50,000 in debt for about 95 percent of borrowers.Essentially, she is proposing a more aggressive way of carrying out the student debt plan she released months ago, which would cancel up to $50,000 in debt for about 95 percent of borrowers.
She said she would instruct her education secretary to begin canceling debt on her first day in office, and “to amend any regulations or policy positions necessary to get there.” She said she had consulted with experts on the legality of her proposal, and attached a letter from lawyers at Harvard Law School’s Legal Services Center that bolstered her case.She said she would instruct her education secretary to begin canceling debt on her first day in office, and “to amend any regulations or policy positions necessary to get there.” She said she had consulted with experts on the legality of her proposal, and attached a letter from lawyers at Harvard Law School’s Legal Services Center that bolstered her case.
The proposal “will require clearing a lot of red tape,” Ms. Warren wrote. “But let’s be clear: Our government has cleared far bigger hurdles to meet the needs of big businesses when they came looking for bailouts, tax giveaways and other concessions.”The proposal “will require clearing a lot of red tape,” Ms. Warren wrote. “But let’s be clear: Our government has cleared far bigger hurdles to meet the needs of big businesses when they came looking for bailouts, tax giveaways and other concessions.”
Coming off two strong debate performances and her strongest fund-raising quarter to date, Ms. Klobuchar expected an Iowa surge in the closing weeks before the Feb. 3 caucuses.Coming off two strong debate performances and her strongest fund-raising quarter to date, Ms. Klobuchar expected an Iowa surge in the closing weeks before the Feb. 3 caucuses.
That hasn’t happened yet, and polls show she remains well below the viability threshold to capture delegates from Iowa.That hasn’t happened yet, and polls show she remains well below the viability threshold to capture delegates from Iowa.
One clear sign she’s not a factor: Nobody is attacking her. Other campaigns, which aren’t struggling for attention as Ms. Klobuchar often does, aren’t worried about her and are openly plotting at how to recruit her supporters on caucus night should she fail to reach the viability threshold.One clear sign she’s not a factor: Nobody is attacking her. Other campaigns, which aren’t struggling for attention as Ms. Klobuchar often does, aren’t worried about her and are openly plotting at how to recruit her supporters on caucus night should she fail to reach the viability threshold.
Yet Iowa has a long history of late-charging surprise candidates. Just ask John Kerry in 2004 and Rick Santorum in 2012, who both rocketed from single-digit polling to win the state. For Ms. Klobuchar, time is running short, and Tuesday may be her last shot to make a case for herself.Yet Iowa has a long history of late-charging surprise candidates. Just ask John Kerry in 2004 and Rick Santorum in 2012, who both rocketed from single-digit polling to win the state. For Ms. Klobuchar, time is running short, and Tuesday may be her last shot to make a case for herself.
Mr. Patrick, the only black candidate remaining in the presidential race, is not be participating in Tuesday’s debate, and he is not taking his exclusion quietly.Mr. Patrick, the only black candidate remaining in the presidential race, is not be participating in Tuesday’s debate, and he is not taking his exclusion quietly.
“Tonight, six candidates will take the debate stage, all remarkable public servants,” Mr. Patrick, a former governor of Massachusetts, said in a statement. “Yet tonight America will not see herself in full.”“Tonight, six candidates will take the debate stage, all remarkable public servants,” Mr. Patrick, a former governor of Massachusetts, said in a statement. “Yet tonight America will not see herself in full.”
He was referring to the all-white debate line-up. As the Democratic field has been winnowed, the candidates on the stage no longer reflect a racial or ethnic cross-section of America.He was referring to the all-white debate line-up. As the Democratic field has been winnowed, the candidates on the stage no longer reflect a racial or ethnic cross-section of America.
Since December, three candidates of color have withdrawn — Senator Kamala Harris of California, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey and Julián Castro of Texas, the former housing secretary.Since December, three candidates of color have withdrawn — Senator Kamala Harris of California, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey and Julián Castro of Texas, the former housing secretary.
Two other nonwhite candidates, the tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang and Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, remain in the race but did not qualify to participate tonight under debate rules.Two other nonwhite candidates, the tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang and Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, remain in the race but did not qualify to participate tonight under debate rules.
Alongside CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and Abby Phillip, tonight’s debate moderators include Brianne Pfannenstiel, the newest chief politics reporter for The Des Moines Register. This is a unique job in journalism: Ms. Pfannenstiel covers a local contest with national implications (the Iowa caucuses), giving her unparalleled power for a reporter at a regional newspaper.
As a New York Times profile of her described, she and the paper are regularly sought out by campaigns to get their messages across to the only voters who matter right now.
She said she has a “dream job,” one where she feels she has a tangible impact. “I’m not just sending something out into the abyss,” she said. “People here in Iowa are actually going to caucus, and so what you write informs how they think about the candidates and the policies and issues, and it’s all real for them.”
She added, “It’s easy in political journalism to get caught up in the idea that it’s a game show or it’s all strategy, but getting to be the politics reporter for The Des Moines Register means that it’s all real.”
Between impeachment hearings, football playoffs and the holidays, TV audiences for that other national story line — the Democratic presidential primary — have been dwindling.Between impeachment hearings, football playoffs and the holidays, TV audiences for that other national story line — the Democratic presidential primary — have been dwindling.
Candidates and cable television producers are hoping that tonight’s matchup in Iowa can reverse the trend.Candidates and cable television producers are hoping that tonight’s matchup in Iowa can reverse the trend.
Last month, 6.17 million people watched the Democratic debate on PBS — a 66 percent decline from the 18.1 million Americans who tuned in for the second night of primary debates in June. The December event was easily the smallest live audience for a presidential debate in 2019.Last month, 6.17 million people watched the Democratic debate on PBS — a 66 percent decline from the 18.1 million Americans who tuned in for the second night of primary debates in June. The December event was easily the smallest live audience for a presidential debate in 2019.
But Tuesday’s event, sponsored by CNN and The Des Moines Register, is shaping up as must-see-TV.But Tuesday’s event, sponsored by CNN and The Des Moines Register, is shaping up as must-see-TV.
Only six candidates will appear, the fewest this election cycle, which is good news for Democratic voters who have complained about unwieldy debates featuring up to a dozen candidates.Only six candidates will appear, the fewest this election cycle, which is good news for Democratic voters who have complained about unwieldy debates featuring up to a dozen candidates.
The Democratic Party is promising a two-hour-long debate on Tuesday, including opening statements, a tighter schedule than past debates.The Democratic Party is promising a two-hour-long debate on Tuesday, including opening statements, a tighter schedule than past debates.
To prepare, an army of CNN producers has spent 10 days transforming Sheslow Auditorium, an intimate opera house on the campus of Drake University, into a futuristic soundstage.To prepare, an army of CNN producers has spent 10 days transforming Sheslow Auditorium, an intimate opera house on the campus of Drake University, into a futuristic soundstage.
The building’s stained-glass windows will be integrated into the broadcast. Seventeen cameras, and about 5,000 feet of lighting and power cable, were required for the production.The building’s stained-glass windows will be integrated into the broadcast. Seventeen cameras, and about 5,000 feet of lighting and power cable, were required for the production.
“It’ll be interesting to see if the candidates feel closer to the audience and if that makes them open up a little more,” Mark Preston, CNN’s vice president of political events, told The Register. “Perhaps it will.”“It’ll be interesting to see if the candidates feel closer to the audience and if that makes them open up a little more,” Mark Preston, CNN’s vice president of political events, told The Register. “Perhaps it will.”
To close out the debate last month, Mr. Yang struck a self-aware note: “I know what you’re thinking, America,” he remarked. “How am I still on this stage with them?”To close out the debate last month, Mr. Yang struck a self-aware note: “I know what you’re thinking, America,” he remarked. “How am I still on this stage with them?”
As it turns out, Mr. Yang will not be on the debate stage in Iowa on Tuesday night. After earning a spot in the first six Democratic debates, Mr. Yang failed to qualify for this one because he did not receive 5 percent support in enough qualifying polls.As it turns out, Mr. Yang will not be on the debate stage in Iowa on Tuesday night. After earning a spot in the first six Democratic debates, Mr. Yang failed to qualify for this one because he did not receive 5 percent support in enough qualifying polls.
Mr. Yang has urged the Democratic National Committee to commission more polls. And his campaign, emboldened by a high-profile poll of Iowa caucusgoers that was released on Friday, has sharpened its criticism of the D.N.C., arguing that if it had done its “due diligence,” Mr. Yang “would certainly be on the debate stage.”Mr. Yang has urged the Democratic National Committee to commission more polls. And his campaign, emboldened by a high-profile poll of Iowa caucusgoers that was released on Friday, has sharpened its criticism of the D.N.C., arguing that if it had done its “due diligence,” Mr. Yang “would certainly be on the debate stage.”
Mr. Yang himself weighed in on Twitter on Monday: “I want us to be on that stage,” he wrote. “I think we earned it.”Mr. Yang himself weighed in on Twitter on Monday: “I want us to be on that stage,” he wrote. “I think we earned it.”
The airwaves in Iowa’s four main media markets are growing increasingly crowded. Over the past week, 42 different political ads have aired in the state, $2.5 million worth of political advertising time.
Most of the ads reflect candidates’ central arguments. Senator Elizabeth Warren has spent more than $190,000 reminding voters that she doesn’t take money from big donors, and therefore wouldn’t sell administration jobs like “cushy ambassadorships.”
But in the past 24 hours, candidates have begun using more creative messages, trying to break through a very fluid field in Iowa and going beyond staid biographical ads.
On Monday, Mr. Sanders began airing an ad that featured a clip of John F. Kennedy describing the motivation behind going to the moon, then quickly transitioned to the voice of Mr. Sanders pitching his liberal platform as equally ambitious and achievable as landing on the moon.
And Tom Steyer, the self-funding billionaire who tops the Iowa spending charts with $12.5 million in the state, took aim at Mr. Trump’s wealth in a new 60-second ad that began airing on Tuesday. In the ad, which was surely designed to try to elicit a rebuke from the president, Mr. Steyer says he’s an “actual billionaire” while Mr. Trump is a “fake billionaire.”
Though Michael R. Bloomberg is airing ads nationally on CNN, there will be no political ads tonight during the commercial breaks airing nationally, as the cable network has refused to air a political ad during the debate, though a campaign could still buy in a local cable market that is out of CNN’s control.
Reporting was contributed by Nick Corasaniti, Michael M. Grynbaum, Stephanie Saul, Matt Stevens and Marc Tracy.Reporting was contributed by Nick Corasaniti, Michael M. Grynbaum, Stephanie Saul, Matt Stevens and Marc Tracy.