If you’re a Democrat running for President, the stakes tonight are high. Tonight’s Democratic presidential primary debate will be the last one before the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3, where voters start to weigh in on the race. Recent polling suggests there isn’t a clear front runner in Iowa yet, and many prospective caucus-goers could be watching. CNN and The Des Moines Register will co-host the debate at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. It will air live from 9 to 11 p.m. on CNN, as well as stream live on CNN’s homepage and DesMoinesRegister.com without requiring a cable login. Viewers can also watch the debate on CNN’s apps for iOS and Android as well as Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire, Chromecast and Android TV.
The stage will be the smallest — and whitest — so far. Only six candidates qualified this time and none of them are people of color: former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, billionaire executive Tom Steyer and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
The DNC raised the debate qualifications since last month’s debate: candidates had until 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 10 to get at least 5% in four DNC-approved polls or at least 7% in two early-state polls (Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and/or Nevada). They also needed at least 225,000 unique donors with a minimum of 1,000 unique donors in at least 20 states, U.S. territories or Washington D.C.New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and entrepreneur Andrew Yang — both people of color — each met the donor requirements but didn’t quite hit the polling threshold. Booker dropped out of the race on Monday. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg met the polling requirements but lacked the donor numbers; he’s pledged to self-fund his campaign and thus won’t qualify for any of the debates. The only Latino candidate in the field, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, dropped out of the race on Jan. 2 and endorsed Warren on Jan. 6.The candidates will stand on stage based on polling averages released in January, with the highest polling candidates — Biden and Sanders — standing in the middle. They’ll stand in the following order from left to right: Steyer, Warren, Biden, Sanders, Buttigieg and Klobuchar.
It’s with a full heart that I share this news—I’m suspending my campaign for president.
To my team, supporters, and everyone who gave me a shot—thank you. I am so proud of what we built, and I feel nothing but faith in what we can accomplish together. pic.twitter.com/Fxvc549vlJ
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) January 13, 2020
Given recent developments — articles of impeachment are likely headed to the Senate, the state of U.S.-Iran relations, Australia’s raging bushfires, and tensions within the Democratic field — they’ll be plenty to talk about.
“We’re down to the end here. That means there’s pressure on everybody to try to show off, to be smart, to point out their opponents’ weaknesses,” Stuart Rothenberg, a political analyst and senior editor of Inside Elections with Nathan Gonzales, tells TIME. “But you don’t want to go too nasty right at the end here. You don’t want to look mean spirited. That’s not Midwestern nice.”Here are live updates from the January Democratic Debate in Iowa. How will tomorrow’s impeachment vote affect the debate?
On Wednesday, the House of Representatives will vote on sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate, setting in motion a Senate trial on whether or not to convict President Donald Trump and remove him from office. The House will also vote on which representatives will serve as House managers, the effective prosecutors in the trial who lay out the case for the President’s conviction.
There were concerns earlier in the week that the Senate trial might conflict with the debate. When the trial begins every senator must return to Washington D.C. to act as jurors, including the three set to appear on stage. Two-thirds of the Senate must vote to convict the President for him to be removed, which has never happened in the history of the U.S.
DNC chairman Tom Perez spoke about the possibility of the debate conflicting with the trial on Jan. 7. “Democrats and our senators can walk and chew gum,” Perez told MSNBC. “Obviously, if there’s a trial on the 14th, then we’ll move the debate. If there’s not, then we’re going to have the debate. At the moment, all systems are go, and so we’re going to move forward.”
The candidates on stage will likely address the upcoming impeachment vote, especially the three senators who may have to return to D.C. during the last crucial weeks before the Iowa caucuses while the other candidates continue to campaign. But all six support the impeachment proceedings and likely won’t linger on the topic.
As Rachel Paine Caufield, a professor of political science at Drake University, tells TIME, “I have not heard a lot of talk about impeachment. It’s not top of mind for a lot of Iowa voters.” Caufield leads the political visitor team on campus and is helping organize the debate.Will Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders clash onstage?
The two political allies — and reported friends — have largely avoided fighting thus far in the primary; but tonight’s debate might change that. Sanders and Warren have recently clashed in the press, a phenomenon that may continue as they both vie for the party’s left-wing. As Rothenberg tells TIME, when it comes to expanding their appeal he thinks “Sanders’ problem is Warren and Warren’s problem is Sanders.”
On Saturday, Politico reported that the Sanders’ campaign gave volunteers talking points that said Warren brings “no new bases into the Democratic Party” and “people who support her are highly-educated, more affluent people who are going to show up and vote Democratic no matter what.” The Sanders campaign did not give a comment to Politico but also did not deny the script existed. On Tuesday, Politico reported that three campaign officials confirmed the scripts were used in at least two early voting states.
On Sunday, Warren reportedly told NBC News, “I was disappointed to hear that Bernie is sending his volunteers out to trash me.. Bernie knows me and has known me for a long time. He knows who I am, where I come from, what I have worked on and fought for and the coalition and grassroots movement we are trying to build. Democrats want to win in 2020 we all saw the impact of the factionalism in 2016 and we can’t have a repeat of that.”
When asked about the script, Sanders reportedly said, “I got to tell you, I think this is a little bit of a media blowup, that kind of wants conflict.” He added that “Elizabeth Warren is a very good friend of mine… No one is going to trash Elizabeth Warren.” When asked again, he reportedly said, “We have hundreds of employees. Elizabeth Warren has hundreds of employees. And people sometimes say things that they shouldn’t.”
Media reports about the two continued into the week. On Monday, Warren said that Sanders told her in 2018 that a woman couldn’t win the presidency, confirming reports that had come out that day. Earlier on Monday Sanders had denied he said this.
“Among the topics that came up was what would happen if Democrats nominated a female candidate,” Warren said in a statement. “I thought a woman could win; he disagreed. I have no interest in discussing this private meeting any further because Bernie and I have far more in common than our differences on punditry.”
In response to a great deal of questions we’ve had today, below is a statement from Elizabeth Warren: pic.twitter.com/PdBCHJQCJE
— Kristen Orthman (@KristenOrthman) January 14, 2020