Foreign policy: In light of escalating tensions between the United States and Iran, the debate launched headfirst into foreign policy. For more than half an hour, candidates fielded questions about why they were best prepared to be commander-in-chief, whether they would bring combat troops home, how to prevent the spread of Islamic State terrorism and international trade agreements.
Almost right away, Sanders called Biden out for his support of the Iraq War in 2002, saying both of them listened to arguments Republicans like then-President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld were making for entering the Iraq War.
“I thought they were lying. I didn’t believe them for a moment,” Sanders said. “Joe saw it differently."
Gender and electability: Forty-five minutes in, moderators finally poked at a dispute that had been brewing between Sanders and Warren regarding a 2018 private meeting in which Sanders reportedly said a woman could not become president. On stage, Sanders flatly denied he had made such remarks.
"How could anybody in a million years not believe that a woman could not be president of the United States?" Sanders said Tuesday.
Warren, who insisted she was “not here to try to fight with Bernie,” said she disagreed with Sanders — suggesting that he had in fact made those remarks — and wanted to address head-on the question of a woman’s electability.
“Look at the men on this stage. Collectively they have lost 10 elections,” Warren said Tuesday. “The only people on this stage who have won every single election that they’ve been in are the women, Amy and me!”
On the other end of the debate stage, Klobuchar nodded and raised her hand while the crowd laughed.
Health care: As it had in nearly every one of the previous Democratic debates, health care featured prominently. Sanders argued that Medicare-for-all would not “bankrupt the country” — which prompted Klobuchar to call Sanders out for not explaining how he would cover the costs.
“I think you should show how you’re going to pay for things, Bernie,” Klobuchar said.
Meanwhile, both Buttigieg and Klobuchar pushed back on Warren’s proposal to transition to Medicare-for-all over a three-year period in which Americans could join a government-run health plan. Warren had released the transition plan in November, after Buttigieg attacked her for not specifying how she would achieve Medicare-for-all. The proposal, however, put Warren in a position where she has drawn more attacks from both moderates and liberals.
On Tuesday, Warren in turn criticized Buttigieg’s so-called “Medicare for all who want it” plan as one that was insufficient to relieve the health-care costs of the average American family.
“The mayor’s numbers just don’t add up,” she said.