In the final debate before New Hampshire voters go to the polls, Iowa leaders Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg fended off attacks from each other and the other top Democrats on the stage Friday night. Biden, who finished fourth in the Iowa caucuses, tried to lower expectations for New Hampshire, too, saying "I took a hit in Iowa, and I'll probably take a hit here." He implied Sanders, of Vermont, and Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, were more likely to have an advantage, saying "neighboring senators" would probably "do well" Tuesday.
New Hampshire voters will go to the polls on Tuesday, less than a week after the disarray in Iowa.
The debate took place two days after President Trump was acquitted in the Senate impeachment trial. While the trial was not a central topic of the debate, it did come up. The candidates praised GOP Senator Mitt Romney for voting with Democrats to remove Mr. Trump from office for obstruction of justice.
Biden went after Sanders, saying he would lead down-ballot Democrats to be labeled as socialists, and Buttigieg, whom he called a "cool newcomer."
The candidates debated whether the country would be best served by experience or youth. The former vice president and longtime senator ticked off a list of accomplishments — his work on the Violence Against Women Act, the massive recovery bill passed during the financial crisis, the nation's health care law — and he argued for the importance of having a president who both already knows "how to get things done" and can lead the free world at the same time.
Buttigieg briefly acknowledged that these were important achievements, "but now, we have to meet this moment, and this moment is different." The challenges facing the nation are different, he said, and could hardly have been conceived a few years ago in election security, cyber security, the transformations wrought by a gig economy. "We cannot solve the problems before us by looking back," Buttigieg said. "We have to be ready to turn the page and change our politics before it's too late."
Klobuchar referred to herself as "a fresh face" in the debate and quipped that "59, my age, is the new 38 up here." But she went on to say that the "cool newcomer" isn't what the country wants. There's a newcomer in the White House, Klobuchar noted, "and look where it got us."
Sanders defended his stance on "Medicare for All," guns and went after Buttigieg on top-dollar donors. Buttigieg, meanwhile, defended his record as South Bend mayor and tried to set himself apart from the other candidates.
As for local issues, the Democrats were asked to address the opioid epidemic, which has. Yang and Buttigieg both addressed the question, while Amy Klobuchar noted her commitment to addressing the opioid epidemic given her family's personal history with addiction.
"I will get this done, and it is personal for me," Klobuchar said.
The candidates also discussed a Democrat running who was not on stage: Michael Bloomberg. "I don't think anyone ought to be able to buy their way into the nomination or into being president of the United States," Elizabeth Warren said, to cheers.
Bloomberg has not yet qualified for a debate.
The next debate will be held in Las Vegas on February 19, ahead of the Nevada caucus on February 22.
In CBS News spin room interview, Buttigieg says he had a "terrific night"
Local issues that could make difference for Democrats in New Hampshire
Warren: "I have been winning unwinnable fights pretty much all my life"
After the Democratic debate in New Hampshire on Friday night, Elizabeth Warren said there are "a lot of people who are worried the fight against Donald Trump could be unwinnable," but she said she has been "winning unwinnable fights pretty much all my life." Warren joined CBS News' Ed O'Keefe and Caitlin Huey-Burns in the post-debate spin room.
Sanders, Biden speak most during the debate
Sanders and Biden got the most speaking time during the debate, clocking in at approximately 20 minutes each. Buttigieg and Klobuchar were close behind, speaking for about 17 minutes each.
They were followed by Warren and Steyer, who each got approximately 14 minutes. Yang came in last, speaking for approximately eight minutes.
The candidates' speaking time didn't necessarily correlate to the number of questions they were asked. Warren and Biden each fielded 16 questions, followed by Sanders, who got 15. Buttigieg had 13 questions, and Klobuchar got 11. At the bottom were Steyer and Yang, who got 10 and 5 questions, respectively.
Biden touts support for Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, but leaves out Clarence Thomas
Earlier in the debate, Biden was asked about his 2012 comments that there should be a "litmus test" on abortion for judicial nominations. He responded by discussing his support for the Supreme Court nominations of Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor and his blocking of conservative Robert Bork's nomination to the high court.
He did not mention Justice Clarence Thomas, nominated by President George H. W. Bush while Biden was the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversaw Thomas' confirmation hearing. During the Senate confirmation process, Thomas was accused of sexual harassment by Anita Hill, a lawyer he had supervised at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Hill testified before the panel, composed entirely of white men, who questioned her credibility, asked her if she felt as though she were a "scorned woman," had a "martyr complex" or a "militant attitude" in the course of the public hearings.
In 2017, Biden expressed regret for not doing enough to intervene with his GOP colleagues during the hearings. "I believed Anita Hill. I voted against Clarence Thomas. And I insisted the next election — I campaigned for two women senators on the condition that if they won, they would come on the Judiciary Committee, so there would never be again all men making a judgment on this."
Although Biden said in March 2019 that he regrets Anita Hill didn't get "the kind of hearing she deserved," Twitter users promptly noted his lack of acknowledgement of the case on the debate stage. Conversation on the subject quickly started to trend on the social media site.
Trump campaign blasts Democrats for failing "to denounce socialism"
The Trump campaign lost no time responding to the final debate before New Hampshire, insisting Democrats failed to blast socialism.
Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh described the Democrats on stage as "out of touch."
"Democrats were given multiple opportunities tonight to denounce socialism and none of them did. They also made clear that if they'd been in charge, they'd never have given the order to take out Qassem Soleimani, the notorious terrorist responsible for killing hundreds of Americansm," Murtaugh said in a statement. "As a major political party they are hopelessly out of touch with the majority of Americans. By contrast, President Trump has reinvigorated the American Dream, brought unemployment to generational lows, increased paychecks for low- and middle-income Americans, and lowered healthcare and prescription drug costs for people nationwide. President Trump will crush whichever Democrat is unlucky enough to face him in November."
Candidates address child poverty in final question
In the final question of the night, moderator George Stephanopoulos asked candidates about child poverty. Yang made the case for his universal basic income plan, which would involve giving every adult in America $1,000 per month.
"We're in the midst of the most extreme winner-take-all economy in the history of our country," Yang said. "If we want to alleviate child poverty we need to put money directly in the hands of families."
Steyer said that the country is in "perilous times."
Buttigieg said that the future of the economy was dependent on ensuring children are not living in poverty.
"A good economy is one where children are being lifted out of poverty," Buttigieg said.
Warren touted her plan to raise taxes on the wealthy to pay for universal child care and other programs, and her plan to raise salaries for teachers.
"The best investment that we can make in human beings is to invest in our children," Warren said.
Biden also emphasized the importance of investing in child care and education in order to create a better future for the country.
"These aren't someone else's children. They're all our children," Biden said.
Sanders struck a familiar chord about American priorities being set by the one percent, and emphasized that his campaign "is about the working class of this country."
"It is time to take on the big money interests. It is time to change our national priorities," Sanders said.
Klobuchar, becoming visibly emotional, also said that she would fight for ordinary working families.
"There is a complete lack of empathy in this guy in the White House right now. And I will bring that to you," Klobuchar said.
Senators defend their positions on USMCA
Sanders was asked to address his vote against the, which a number of Democratic senators voted to pass. The agreement is a reworking of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Sanders said those senators were wrong, pointing to how he says the deal outsources jobs and fails to address climate change.
"I don't apologize for that," Sanders said about his vote against USMCA.
Klobuchar, who voted for the USMCA, said the agreement provided stronger protections for workers.
Warren also voted in favor of the deal, saying the deal is somewhat better for American workers. Success, Warren suggested, needs to come in steps, and she said she'll wake up the next day to work on a better deal for the climate and for workers.
Candidates address opponent not on stage: Michael Bloomberg
With a little over an hour left in the debate, moderators asked candidates a question about someone who was not on stage: Billionaire, who has already spent hundreds of millions of dollars on his campaign.
"I don't think anyone ought to be able to buy their way into the nomination or into being president of the United States," Warren said, to cheers. The comment was also an implicit shot at Steyer, the billionaire who was on stage.
Klobuchar highlighted her heritage as the granddaughter of an iron ore miner, and touted her efforts to reform campaign finance in Congress.
"I can't stand the big money in politics," Klobuchar said.
Sanders took a swipe at Buttigieg, who has raised significant funds from wealthy donors.
"Unlike some of the people on this stage, Pete, I don't have 40 billionaires donating to my campaign," Sanders said.
Buttigieg defended himself, noting reports that said Mr. Trump's campaign had raised $25 million today. He said Democrats needed to be able to counteract that.
"We need to go into that fight with everything we've got," Buttigieg said.
Steyer confronts Biden over surrogate's racially insensitive comments
Steyer confronted Biden on stage, asking him to condemn comments made by his surrogate former state senator Dick Harpootlian. South Carolina's Legislative Black Caucus held a news conference earlier this week urging Biden to disavow a tweet in which Harpootlian questioned why "Mr. Money Bags" Steyer had paid an African-American state representative $50,000.
Black lawmakers in the state found the comment from Harpootlian offensive.
When Biden initially deflected, Steyer pushed him again for an answer.
Biden said he'd spoken with his surrogate, and "he, in fact was ... I believe, sorry for what he said."
The former vice president insisted that "systematic racism" is a pervasive problem that the country still hasn't tackled sufficiently. Biden said his administration would fight against state laws that make it harder to vote at the ballot box.
Steyer said he would begin a commission on race to address racism and cruelty, but also to acknowledge what the black community has done to build the country. Steyer has voiced his support for reparations.
"Let's talk about Jim Crow, let's talk about Martin Luther King, let's talk about Barbara Lee…" Steyer said.
Buttigieg defends his record on criminal justice as mayor
Buttigieg defended his record on criminal justice as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, saying that his city was "not immune" to systemic racism but that the rate of marijuana arrests was lower than the national average.
"I took a lot of heat for discussing systemic racism with my own police department," Buttigieg said. He said he tried to target drug possession that was specifically related to gang violence.
When asked if that was a substantial answer from Buttigieg, Warren simply said: "No."
"You have to own up to the facts," Warren said. "We need to have race-conscious laws."
"We cannot just say that criminal justice is the only time we want to talk about race specifically," Warren continued.
But Yang countered that "you can't legislate away racism."
Candidates address expanding the court
Buttigieg was asked about his past support for expanding the number of justices on the Supreme Court.
He responded that he had proposed a reform to the court that would not only increase the number of justices, but would also change the structure of the court so that some justices are not appointed through a partisan process.
The highest court in the land cannot become another "political battlefield," he said.
Biden said he agrees with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who has spoken out against expanding the court. Biden noted that a future president of another party could then also expand the court as he or she pleases.
Sanders noted he would only appoint judges who only back Roe v. Wade 100%.
"I'm the reason why this right wasn't taken away a long time ago," Biden says about abortion
Biden became defensive when moderator David Muir asked him about his comments in 2012 that there doesn't need to be a "litmus test" on abortion when nominating judges. Biden said that he unequivocally believed unenumerated rights in the Constitution, like abortion, should be protected.
Biden noted his role in the nominations of Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, and his blocking of the nomination of conservative judge Robert Bork to the court in the 1980s.
"I'm the reason why this right wasn't taken away a long time ago," Biden said.
Biden also briefly sparred with Buttigieg, who has suggested packing the court with additional justices. He suggested instead proposing amendments to the Constitution to counteract decisions by the court.
Candidates address opioid epidemic and drug crisis
Buttigieg was asked about his claim that he'd decriminalize all drugs. Buttigieg declined to repeat that line, but did say he doesn't think people should be imprisoned for drug possession.
Yang said drug overdoses aren't a money problem, they're a people problem. Government, he said, needs to be more sensitive. He expressed his support of safe-injection sites.
Klobuchar was asked if prosecution is the right way to address drug addiction, particularly given her father's struggles with alcoholism. The Minnesota senator put the pressure on opioid manufacturers and the pharmaceutical industry. She touted her tenure as the Hennepin county attorney and talked about the success of its drug courts. Success in this case, she said, meant the courts didn't want to see repeat-customers. And the only answer to that, she said, is treatment.
"I will get this done, and it is personal for me," Klobuchar said.
Buttigieg slams Trump's foreign policy in the Middle East
Moderator David Muir asked whether Buttigieg would have authorized the strike that. Mr. Trump ordered the strike on Soleimani at the end of December, and Iran then retaliated by striking military bases in Iraq where U.S. troops were located.
"In the situation that we saw, with President Trump's decision, there is no evidence that that made our country safer," Buttigieg said. Mr. Trump claimed, without evidence, that Soleimani was targeting U.S. embassies.
Buttigieg also said there was a lesson to be learned from the war in Iraq: "Taking out a bad guy is not a good idea if you don't know what you're doing."
When pressed by Muir if he would have ordered the strike, Buttigieg replied that "it depends on the circumstance."
Biden criticized Mr. Trump for authorizing the strike against Soleimani, saying that the president had further isolated the U.S. from its allies.
"His America first policy has made America alone," Biden said. "We are alone now. Alone in that region of the world. Without friends, without support, without allies."
Biden also criticized Mr. Trump for."
"This guy doesn't deserve to be commander-in-chief for one more day," Biden said.
Biden asks crowd to give a standing ovation to Alexander Vindman
Buttigieg was asked whether he was concerned about the possibility that Democrats might nominate someone whose family is under threat of investigations, after Republicans asked for Hunter Biden's records immediately after the Senate voted to acquit President Trump this week.
"No," Buttigieg said, insisting the Democrats cannot let Mr. Trump and his allies "change the subject."
"To be the kind of human being who would seek to turn someone against his own son, who would seek to weaponize a son against his own father, is an unbelievably dishonorable thing," Buttigieg said.
Biden, given a chance to give his input, said, "I thank my colleague for saying that. It is a diversion."
He then took the opportunity to praise, the National Security Council official who testified in the impeachment hearings and was fired by the president Friday afternoon.
"He should be pinning a medal on Vindman and not on Rush Limbaugh," Biden said.
"Stand up and clap for Vindman!" Biden urged the debate audience.
The crowd did.
Warren on investigating Trump: "No one is above the law"
Warren was asked about her previous comment that she would launch investigations into Mr. Trump's behavior if elected president. After Mr. Trump's acquittal and a polarizing election, Warren countered that it was important to hold political officials accountable.
"I think no one is above the law, and that includes the president of the United States," Warren said, criticizing the Republicans who "locked arms to protect him from impeachment."
"We need to reestablish the rule of law in this country," Warren said.
But Yang argued that the U.S. should not fall into a "pattern" of putting former presidents in prison.
"What's a more American tradition? We move the country forward, we don't focus on the mistakes of those leaving office," Yang said.
Sanders said that, after sitting through the impeachment trial with Klobuchar and Warren, he was concerned about "the precedent it set."
"The saddest aspect of this whole thing is that you had Republicans in the Senate who knew better," Sanders said, adding that most Republicans "didn't have the guts" to challenge Mr. Trump.
Steyer: This is about the economy, stupid
A visibly frustrated Tom Steyer said he's tired of hearing the same debate over and over again on health care. The real issue Democrats need to be debating is the economy, because that's what the president will continue to tout, he said.
"How are we going to beat Donald Trump? It's the economy, stupid," Steyer said, citing the famous expression from President Clinton's 1992 campaign.
Steyer said he's heard this same debate over health care "so many darn times."
"But we gotta win or we are in deep trouble, and we keep not talking about the facts," Steyer said.
Yang interjected, taking issue with the focus on Mr. Trump. The current occupant of the Oval Office is a symptom — not the source — of the country's problems, he said.
Klobuchar discusses impeachment, hits Buttigieg for his experience
Klobuchar, who along with the other two senators on the stage spent the past two weeks as jurors in Mr. Trump's impeachment trial, talked about the moral courage that could be found in Washington. She mentioned Democratic Senator Doug Jones of Alabama, and Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, who both voted to convict Mr. Trump for abuse of power.
"There was courage from Mitt Romney, who took a very, very difficult vote," Klobuchar said, becoming visibly emotional. She then turned to Buttigieg and criticized his persona as an "outsider" in politics.
"It is easy to go after Washington," Klobuchar said. "It is much harder to lead and much harder to take those difficult positions."
She also compared Buttigieg's experience to that of Mr. Trump.
"We have a newcomer in the White House, and look where it got us," Klobuchar said.
Biden hits Sanders on what "Medicare for All" would cost
Biden, who is trailing Sanders in New Hampshire polling, went after Sanders for not being able to say how much "Medicare for All" would cost taxpayers.
"It would cost more than the entire, the entire federal budget we spend now," Biden said.
Biden pointed out it took a lot of time and effort simply to get Obamacare passed.
"I busted my neck getting Obamacare passed," Biden said.
Given a chance to interject, Sanders said Biden is failing to mention the country will spend $50 trillion on health care.
"We are spending twice as much per capita on health care" as people in other countries are, Sanders said.
Senator Amy Klobuchar, a moderate in the race, also criticized the idea of "Medicare for All." The Minnesota senator said Sanders' vision is "not real" because not even most of the Democrats in the Senate would vote for it, and it would kick millions of Americans off their health care. She also quipped that the Affordable Care Act is more popular than the president of the United States.
Stephanopoulos: "Is anybody concerned about having a democratic socialist at the top of the ticket?"
Moderator George Stephanopoulos asked if any candidates other than Biden are concerned about having a democratic socialist — that is, Sanders — at the top of the ticket. Buttigieg said outright that he didn't believe it was a problem, but most other candidates demurred.
"Bernie and I work together all the time, but I think we are not going to be able to out-divide the divider in chief," Klobuchar said, making the case that she is the greatest uniter on the stage.
Steyer pivoted to discussing the need to turn out Democratic voters, and in particular black and Latino voters.
"I don't think there's any question, George, that after this week, there's a real threat that Donald Trump can get reelected," Steyer said, referring to Mr. Trump's acquittal by the Senate.
Warren also demurred, saying that while she and Sanders had been friends for a long time, her main focus was on tackling corruption.
Buttigieg said he was not concerned by the "labels" Republicans may place on the eventual Democratic nominee.
"I'm not interested in labels. I'm not interested in what Republicans are going to say," Buttigieg said.
Biden: "I took a hit in Iowa, and I'll probably take a hit here"
Biden was asked at the outset about his fourth-place finish in Iowa. Biden has said the Democratic Party would take a risk by choosing Buttigieg or Sanders.
"I took a hit in Iowa, and I'll probably take a hit here," Biden said, acknowledging his struggle in Iowa and in the polls in New Hampshire.
Biden noted that Sanders is a self-described Democratic socialist.
Sanders had a chance to respond, but didn't take a hit so directly at Biden.
"I believe that the way we beat Trump is by having the largest voter turnout in the history of this country," Sanders said.
The Vermont senator also said he was proud he won the "popular" vote in Iowa, and turned out lots of young voters.
"If that happens nationally, we're going to win and defeat Trump."
Buttigieg's team touts fundraising numbers ahead of debate
Pete Buttigieg's campaign touted fundraising numbers ahead of the debate, saying that the campaign has raised $4 million since the Iowa caucuses on Tuesday.
Buttigieg's team also said the campaign had 30,000 new donors since Wednesday. His campaign said it has raised $1 million in the last 24 hours and will be launching paid digital ad programs in Nevada and South Carolina Saturday.
One top donor told CBS News' Ed O'Keefe that Biden "needs to make changes and needs to make them quickly"
Poll: Sanders leads in New Hampshire, with Buttigieg close behind
A new NBC News/Marist poll released on Friday has Sanders with a narrow lead in the state, with Pete Buttigieg close behind.
Sanders has 25% support from likely Democratic voters, while Buttigieg has support from 21%. They're followed by Warren with 14% of support from likely Democratic voters, and Biden at 13%. Amy Klobuchar is at 8% support, and no other candidate gets more than 4% in the poll.
The poll is bad news for Biden, who had a poor showing in the Iowa caucuses last week, and it continues the momentum for Buttigieg and Sanders, who came out on top.
The poll surveyed 709 likely Democratic primary voters, with a margin error of plus or minus 4.7 percentage points.
Biden campaign looks to regroup after "we took our lumps" in Iowa
With 100% of Iowa precincts reporting results, had an advantage in the "popular vote" final choice and Pete Buttigieg has a slight advantage in state delegate equivalents.a longtime senior adviser to a higher position after the former vice president's in the Iowa caucuses, sources told CBS News on Friday.
According to three sources with knowledge of the shakeup, veteran Democratic strategist, who was a key campaign adviser during Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign and was acting communications director during the first year of this presidency, will now have top billing when it comes to decision-making going forward.
Dunn is expected to join the campaign full time, according to one source, after previously splitting her time at a Washington communications firm. She already is a fixture on the campaign trail, and one source said she is expected to travel more with Biden.
Her official title is not immediately clear, but she is expected to have equal input to current campaign manager Greg Schultz and senior adviser Steve Riccheti, the former chief of staff to Biden in the Vice President's office.
— Ed O'Keefe and Bo Erickson
Sanders slams Buttigieg and Bloomberg
As Bernie Sanders stood in a room adorned with the banners of corporate giants like Bank of America, Fidelity and Comcast, he asked his suit-and-tie-wearing audience why the country is working for the wealthy and not for the working class.
"I like Pete Buttigieg. Nice guy,". "But we are in a moment where billionaires control not only our economy but our political life."
"I'm reading some headlines from newspapers about Pete Buttigieg," he continued. "'Pete Buttigieg has most exclusive billionaire donors of any Democrat'....That was from Forbes. The Hill: 'Pete Buttigieg tops billionaire donor list.' Fortune: 'Pete Buttigieg takes lead as big business candidate in 2020 field.' Washington Post: 'Pete Buttigieg lures even closer look from Wall Street donors following strong Iowa caucus performance.' Forbes Magazine: 'Here are the billionaires backing Pete Buttigieg's presidential campaign.'"
The criticism of Buttigieg issued from Sanders' complaint about another "nice guy" in the primary race, multi-billionaire and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who, Sanders noted, is "spending millions to buy the election."
"How do we feel about living in so-called democracy when a billionaire multiple time over can do that? How do we feel when we have candidates in the Democratic party taking money from billionaires?" Sanders asked, in a slap at both Bloomberg and Buttigieg.
With 100% of precincts reporting, Buttigieg and Sanders top Democratic field
With 100% of the precinct results now in, according to the Iowa Democratic Party, Sanders maintained his edge in the "popular vote" final choice and Buttigieg his slight advantage in state delegate equivalents.
CBS News estimates that as of Thursday night, Sanders and Buttigieg have amassed the same number of national delegates – 10 each – along with 6 for Warren, pending further CBS News estimates of the remaining national delegates. Iowa has 41 total.
— Adam Brewster, Anthony Salvanto and Caroline Linton