Politics

Seven Democratic presidential candidates face off in New Hampshire debate before primary

Key Points
  • Seven Democratic presidential candidates are set to face off Friday in the final debate before the crucial New Hampshire primary, even as the outcome from Monday's disastrous Iowa caucus remains unclear.
  • The eighth debate in the 2020 primary cycle will pit Vermont senator and self-described democratic socialist Bernie Sanders against former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg for the first time since both men declared victory in Iowa.
  • Friday night's debate, held at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. ET and end around 11 p.m.
Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidates (L-R) entrepreneur Andrew Yang, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), former Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and billionaire activist Tom Steyer pose before the eighth Democratic 2020 presidential debate at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S., February 7, 2020.
Bryan Snyder | Reuters

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Seven Democratic presidential candidates square off Friday in the final debate before the crucial New Hampshire primary, even as the outcome from Monday's disastrous Iowa caucus remains unclear.

The eighth debate in the 2020 primary cycle pits Vermont senator and self-described democratic socialist Bernie Sanders against former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg for the first time since both men declared victory in Iowa.

Technical issues delayed the results of the caucus for days, and a slew of potential errors in the data that eventually were released could call the accuracy of the first-in-the-nation contest into question.

The New Hampshire primary next Tuesday, meanwhile, could mark a turning point for several candidates — especially former Vice President Joe Biden, who is determined to bounce back after taking a "gut punch" in Iowa. Biden's campaign announced a shake-up in leadership just hours before the debate begins.

According to a new NBC News/Marist poll of New Hampshire voters released Friday afternoon, Sen. Bernie Sanders remains in first place in the state, with Buttigieg a close second. Both candidates saw gains from an NBC News/Marist poll released in January. Biden trails in fourth place behind Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Friday night's debate, which is being held at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, started at 8 p.m. ET. It is being hosted by ABC News and features five moderators from that network.

The participants, in alphabetical order, are:

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden
  • Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
  • Billionaire activist Tom Steyer
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
  • Entrepreneur Andrew Yang

The four other Democratic candidates remaining in the race were not invited to appear in New Hampshire. Three of them, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii did not meet the threshold for tonight's debate.

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is not competing in New Hampshire. He arrived late to the primary field and will not appear on any ballots until Super Tuesday. But he is rising in the polls after dumping hundreds of millions of dollars into his campaign.

The protracted Iowa caucus debacle has stoked an ongoing dispute about the results, giving way to increased hostilities among the front-runners.

Buttigieg's standing in New Hampshire rose after his better-than-expected showing in Iowa, a recent poll showed, making him likely to be a prime target in the debate.

Sanders got a head start in remarks earlier Friday about the corrosive influence of money in politics. At a campaign event in New Hampshire, Sanders cited multiple media reports saying the former mayor was a favorite of billionaire donors, framing the election as a choice between those who champion the working class and those who represent the wealthy.

"Which side are you on?" he asked at the Politics and Eggs event held by St. Anselm College's Institute of Politics.

Friday's debate caps off one of the most eventful weeks in politics since President Donald Trump took office.

On Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., sparked controversy when she ripped up a copy of Trump's State of the Union address on the House floor.

Wednesday marked the end of Trump's impeachment fight in Congress, with the GOP-led Senate voting nearly along party lines to acquit the president of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The two-week impeachment trial in the Senate took Warren, Sanders, Klobuchar and Bennet off the campaign trail in the days leading up to the Iowa caucus.

On Thursday, Trump basked in his acquittal while decrying Democrats' efforts to undermine him as "bullshit" and taking shots at Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, the only Republican to cross party lines and vote to convict the president on one article of impeachment.

And hours before the debate was set to kick off, the Labor Department released much-better-than-expected monthly payroll figures for January.

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How Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg donations measure up

— CNBC's Kevin Breuninger contributed reporting from Englewood Cliffs, N.J.