SAN FRANCISCO - Six Democratic primary candidates will take the stage in Iowa Tuesday, the final side-by-side showdown before the Iowa caucuses on February 3rd and the start of California's vote-by-mail primary election.
Former Vice-President Joe Biden, former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer, and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren all met the criteria for number of donors and poll numbers in early primary states.
Senator Cory Booker withdrew his candidacy Monday saying he would continue working, "for whoever is the eventual nominee and for candidates up and down the ballot."
"He didn't have a real base or real traction to his message," said James Taylor, Professor of Politics at the University of San Francisco.
Taylor says although the loss of Booker, Senator Kamala Harris, and Julian Castro has left the field less racially diverse, the field still represents diverse constituencies.
"I think it's become differently diverse. You still have a gay man, you still have three women, you still have elderly people who are of themselves a minority category we ignore," said Taylor.
Professor Taylor also says the Democratic field still is diverse politically. Moderates such as Biden, Buttigieg and Klobuchar are battling to pull the party to the center, as the progressive wing with Sanders and Warren attempt to lead the Democratic party farther left.
A survey released Monday by the Public Policy Institute of California shows Sanders taking a lead among California primary voters. Sanders rose to 27% support... followed by Biden at 24%, Warren at 23%, Buttigieg with 6%, and Klobuchar at 4%. Andrew Yang had 3% and there were 7% of respondents who were undecided. The margin of error was +/-6.5%.
A Sanders California campaign spokeswoman Anna Bahr says the poll results show their work the past nine months is paying off.
"We have more than 80 paid staffers plus our incredible network of grassroots volunteers, more than 14 offices ope n up and down the state. We're really going all-in to win California," said Bahr, "He has fought for women, people of color, immigrants his entire career and people trust he will continue to fight for them and that he will win."
Warren put out a statement on Monday, however, saying that Sanders told her during a 2018 meeting that he did not think a woman could win the presidential election. Warren wrote, "I thought a woman could win; he disagreed." She also noted in the statement that she and Sanders were allies and would work together to win back the White House for Democrats in 2020.
As the field narrows, Tuesday's debate takes on added importance in a race that has seen Warren, Sanders, Biden and Buttigieg take the lead at various times.
Professor Taylor says the remaining candidates will likely use the debate as a chance to gain support of those still undecided voters and supporters of candidates who've exited the race.
"This debate is about trying to persuade the voters of the candidates who all fallen by the wayside, who represent 1-2% of the Democratic constituencies here or there and to bring them into the umbrella of their campaigns," said Taylor.
Booker's departure leaves just twelve Democrats still in the race. The six candidates who did not qualify for the January 14th debate include Colorado Senator Michael Bennet, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Congressman John Delaney, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, and businessman Andrew Yang.