Frayed alliances. Accusations of sexism. The smallest — and whitest — field yet. The issues, pressure and plotlines surrounding tonight’s Democratic presidential debate in Des Moines are like none of the six faceoffs before it, with just three weeks until voting begins.
The number of candidates — six — ensures more interaction for those who could feel the need to draw sharp contrasts ahead of the Feb. 3 caucuses. For the first time, no one onstage is black, Hispanic or Asian.
And for the first time, the debate stage has a real measure of the unexpected: a rift in the once-close alliance between the party’s progressive standard-bearers, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — a fissure that began with Sanders’ camp circulating unflattering talking points about Warren, followed by news reports of a private conversation she had with Sanders that led many Democrats to accuse him of sexism.
For his part, Sanders all week has telegraphed his criticisms of Joe Biden for authorizing the Iraq war and once calling for Social Security cuts. And Pete Buttigieg, who’s essentially running in a four-way tie with the aforementioned candidates, is expecting more incoming from Amy Klobuchar, who savaged him in the last debate.