Iowa Democratic frontrunners receive scrutiny in Wednesday debate


Screenshot from YouTube

Sen. Cory Booker and former Vice President Joe Biden debate the legalization of marijuana and their support from communities of color in the Democratic presidential debate on Wednesday.

Jake Webster

Wednesday’s Democratic presidential debate was the first time the leading presidential candidates were in the same place following Pete Buttigieg taking the mantle of frontrunner in Iowa.

Buttigieg now leads in the RealClearPolitics polling average of likely Democratic caucusgoers in the state, with 22.7 percent support. He is followed by Joe Biden with 18.7 percent, Elizabeth Warren with 17.3, Bernie Sanders with 16.7 percent and Amy Klobuchar with 5.3 percent. All other candidates have less than five percent support.

With Buttigieg and Biden now leading in the influential early-voting state, they were on the receiving end of pointed questions from moderators and their fellow candidates. 

A moderator asked Buttigieg about his electoral experience, noting he lost his only statewide race by 25 percent. All of the other candidates polling at higher than five percent in Iowa have served as a U.S. senator, or in Biden’s case, as senator and vice president.

Buttigieg said in response he believes he has the right experience to beat Trump, having run a city in the Midwest.

Klobuchar had previously said in an interview with CNN she and other women seeking the presidency would not be on the debate stage if they had the same level of electoral experience as Buttigieg.

Klobuchar was asked about that statement during the debate.

The Minnesota senator said she thinks Buttigieg is qualified to be on the stage and is “proud” to stand next to him. She said she believes women are held to a higher standard while making the case for a woman to be the Democratic nominee.

“If you think a woman can’t beat Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi does it every single day,” Klobuchar said.

Biden, polling second in Iowa and first nationally, was criticized by Cory Booker for his stance on marijuana legalization.

On Sunday at an event in Las Vegas, Biden said he was opposed to national marijuana legalization and would leave the decision up to individual states, adding he supports the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes. A Pew Research Center poll released Tuesday found 78 percent of Democrats support the legalization of marijuana.

“I thought you might have been high when you said it,” Booker said of Biden’s Sunday remarks.

The New Jersey senator added the war on drugs is a “war on black and brown people” and marijuana is already legal for “privileged people.”

Biden responded he is part of the “Obama coalition.”

“I come out of the black community in terms of my support,” Biden said. “If you notice, I have more people supporting me in the black community, that have announced for me, because they know me, they know who I am.”

Biden said he was endorsed by the “only” African American woman elected to the U.S. Senate, seemingly referring to former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois, who was the first African American woman elected to the Senate, and has endorsed Biden.

Kamala Harris stood several feet away from Biden on the stage, and laughed.

“That’s not true,” Harris said. “The other one is here.”