Democratic debate in Iowa

By Veronica Rocha, Meg Wagner, Dan Merica, Eric Bradner, Gregory Krieg and Kate Sullivan, CNN

Updated 1:16 AM ET, Wed January 15, 2020
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7:30 p.m. ET, January 14, 2020

Klobuchar picks up endorsement from top Iowa Democrat who had previously backed Booker

From CNN's Dan Merica

Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Sen. Amy Klobuchar picked up the endorsement of Iowa State Representative Charlie McConkey on Tuesday ahead of the CNN/Des Moines Register debate. McConkey had previously supported Sen. Cory Booker, who ended his campaign on Monday.

Iowa Democrats are closely watching where Booker’s long list of endorsements in the Hawkeye State gravitate now that he has ended his campaign. Though Booker did not register much support in polls, he did have a long list of Iowa endorsements and numerous campaigns and candidates worked the phones on Monday and Tuesday looking to pick up some of those supporters.

"Like Sen. Booker, Sen. Klobuchar has run a campaign with a positive, unifying message that will bring this country together -- not divide us," McConkey said. "Sen. Klobuchar is committed to championing economic policies that give all Iowans and Americans an opportunity to succeed.”

He added: “Amy is someone who tells the truth, doesn’t make promises she can’t keep, and has people’s backs -- which is why I am proud to support her to be our next President.”

McConkey, who is in his third term in the Iowa House, represents Western Iowa, namely Council Bluffs and Carter Lake.

Outreach from campaigns to the people associated with the Booker campaign did not extend just to endorsers like McConkey.

Booker staffers here in Iowa began getting calls from other campaigns shortly after the news broke, including inquiries about coming to work for Andrew Yang, Pete Buttigieg, Michael Bloomberg and a host of other campaigns, said a former Booker aide. 

And nearly all the leading campaigns have told CNN that they had their organizers begin to go through their voter lists to find people who said they were committed to Booker but would consider supporting another candidate.

7:13 p.m. ET, January 14, 2020

Foreign policy will most likely come up a lot tonight

From CNN's Eric Bradner and Dan Merica

President Trump's decision to order the strike that killed a senior Iranian military commander gave rise to a new crisis in the Middle East — and is forcing Democratic presidential contenders for the first time to seriously detail their own views of foreign policy and the United States' role in the world.

Joe Biden's campaign is convinced this new reality helps the former vice president the most: He has decades of foreign policy experience and worked alongside former President Barack Obama to craft international deals like the Iran nuclear agreement, which Trump scrapped.

He has long argued he's the candidate best prepared to work effectively on the world stage immediately after taking office, and — in an effort to draw contrast with Trump — is emphasizing the stability he would offer in television ads, statements and campaign appearances.

But Bernie Sanders sees an opening, too: He's lambasted Biden for voting in 2002 to give then-President George W. Bush authority to use military force in Iraq. It's the issue that helped propel Obama past Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primary, and could retain some of its potency 12 years later.

Meanwhile, Pete Buttigieg — a US Navy Reserves veteran who served one tour in Afghanistan in 2014 — is emphasizing his own military credentials. He introduces himself "as a veteran" in a new Iowa TV spot.

6:56 p.m. ET, January 14, 2020

Here's the order the 6 candidates will stand in

From CNN's Kate Sullivan

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont will stand at center stage in tonight's CNN/Des Moines Register Democratic presidential debate.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts will be to the left of Biden, and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg will be to the right of Sanders. Businessman Tom Steyer will stand next to Warren, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota will be next to Buttigieg.

The podium order was based on an average of qualifying polls released in January. Candidates with the highest averages were placed in the center of the stage.

6:56 p.m. ET, January 14, 2020

Tonight is the last debate before the first vote

From CNN's Eric Bradner and Dan Merica

The final debate before the Iowa caucuses brings new challenges for the Democratic presidential field.

In the Middle East, a crisis is rising, with President Trump increasingly at odds with Iran. In Washington, the looming Senate's impeachment trial could soon command the national spotlight.

And in Iowa, the race is wide open.

Polls show a tightly bunched top tier ahead of the Feb. 3 caucuses, with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden all with real shots at victory.

That makes tonight's debate, which will have the smallest number of candidates onstage to date, a high-risk, high-reward affair — with each candidate forced to weigh whether they want or need the sorts of direct confrontations a smaller six-person stage could bring.