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Here's what you need to know about Tuesday's 2020 Democratic primary debate

CNBC logo CNBC 1/14/2020 Jacob Pramuk
  • Six 2020 Democratic presidential candidates will take the stage in Tuesday's primary debate in Des Moines, Iowa. 
  • The participants are Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer and Elizabeth Warren. 
  • The candidates have started to clash more in recent days as four candidates have a realistic chance of winning the most delegates in the first-in-the-nation caucuses.
Bernie Sanders wearing a suit and tie talking on a cell phone: Democratic presidential hopeful former Vice President Joe Biden (L) and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders participate of the sixth Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by PBS NewsHour & Politico at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California on December 19, 2019. © Provided by CNBC Democratic presidential hopeful former Vice President Joe Biden (L) and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders participate of the sixth Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by PBS NewsHour & Politico at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California on December 19, 2019.

The 2020 Democratic presidential contenders will take the stage together Tuesday for the final time before nominating contests start.

A largely cordial primary race has turned more adversarial in recent days with less than three weeks to go until the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses, the first time a state will award delegates in 2020.

Tuesday's Democratic debate, hosted by the Des Moines Register and CNN, will start at 9 p.m. ET. It will take place at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

As debate qualifying standards get tougher and more candidates drop out of the race, the number of participants has dwindled. Only six Democratic candidates will take the stage together Tuesday in a field that has skewed older and whiter as it narrows.

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

Tensions among the top candidates escalated in the days before the debate. Warren said Monday that Sanders told her during a 2018 meeting that a woman could not win the presidential election — a charge Sanders denied. It followed reports that Sanders' campaign volunteer talking points cast Warren as a candidate who draws support from more wealthy, educated Democrats.

Sanders has also taken aim at Biden over his vote to authorize military force against Iraq in 2002, among other issues. Both leading candidates have tried to leverage their foreign policy experience to gain support after the U.S. killing of Iran's top general raised tensions in the Middle East this month.

Recent Iowa polls have found four Democrats have a realistic shot at winning the most delegates in the first-in-the-nation caucuses. Biden has 20.7% of support, about even with Sanders at 20.3%, according to a RealClearPolitics polling average.

Buttigieg and Warren follow at 18.7% and 16%, respectively.

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