Democratic presidential hopefuls took the stage in Des Moines Tuesday night for the first debate of 2020 and the last debate before the Iowa caucuses.
The night included the smallest number of participants yet, with just six qualifying candidates. They were Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
The first focus on the night was foreign policy. Moderators asked about the current crisis with Iran and whether U.S. troops should remain in the Middle East.
"The two great foreign policy disasters of our lifetimes were the war in Vietnam and the war in Iraq. Both of those wars were based on lies. And right now, what I fear very much is we have a president who is lying again and could drag us into a war that is even worse than the war in Iraq," Sanders said.
"We can continue to remain engaged without having an endless commitment of ground troops. But what's going on right now is the president's actually sending more," Buttigieg said.
"What we are hearing is 20 years of mistakes by the American government in the Middle East, of failure, of mistakes. .. . The money that we're spending there, we could spend in the other parts of the budget, and it's time for someone from the outside to have a strategic view about what we're trying to do and how to do it," Steyer said.
On the issue of trade, most of the candidates expressed support for the USMCA, which still needs approval from Congress.
"This new trade deal is a modest improvement. Senator Sanders himself has said so. It will give some relief to our farmers. It will give some relief to our workers. I believe we accept that relief, we try to help the people who need help, and we get up the next day and fight for a better trade deal," Warren said.
But Sanders does not support that trade deal because he says it doesn't go far enough.
"NAFTA, PNTR with China, other trade agreements were written for one reason alone. And that is to increase the profits of large multi-national corporations. ... If a corporation in America wants to shut down in Iowa or Vermont or any place else, and then they think they're going to get on line for our generous federal contract, they've got another thing going," Sanders said.
The debate on health care again put the candidates into two main camps — those supporting Medicare for All and those who want to build on Obamacare and add a public option. All them want to see universal coverage, but a key difference in their various plans is the cost.
"Under Medicare For All, one of the provisions we have to pay for it is a 4 percent tax on income, exempting the first $29,000. ... We save money, comprehensive health care, because we take on the greed and the profiteering and the administrative nightmare that currently exists in our dysfunctional system," Sanders said.
"I think we need to be candid with voters. I think we have to tell them what we're going to do and what it's going to cost. And a 4 percent tax on income over $24,000 doesn't even come close to paying for between $30 trillion, and some estimates as high as $40 trillion over 10 years," Biden said.
"The problem is that plans like the mayor's and like the vice president's is that they are an improvement. They are an improvement over where we are right now. But they're a small improvement. And that's why it is that they cost so much less," Warren said.
"It's just not true that the plan I'm proposing is small. ... This would be a game-changer. This would be the biggest thing we've done to American health care in a half-century," Buttigieg said.
The Iowa debate notably lacked diversity among the candidates on stage. But they did discuss the issue of gender and the possibility of the first female president.
"So, can a woman beat Donald Trump? Look at the men on this stage. Collectively, they have lost 10 elections. The only people on this stage who have won every single election that they've been in are the women, me and Amy," Warren said.
"And finally, every single person that I have beaten, my Republican opponents, have gotten out of politics for good. And I think — I think that sounds pretty good. I think that sounds pretty good with the guy we have in the White House right now," Klobuchar said.
The next debate is scheduled for February 7 in New Hampshire, the state with the first-in-the-nation primary.
Contains footage from CNN.