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Several Democratic Presidential Candidates Head Back To Iowa After Debate


After last night's Democratic presidential debate, many of the candidates headed right back out to talk to voters on the campaign trail. We wanted to see how some of the new dynamics in the primary race look the day after. So NPR political correspondent Scott Detrow is in Ames, Iowa. That's where South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg is campaigning today.

Hey there, Scott.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Hey. Good afternoon.

CORNISH: So Buttigieg claimed a pretty big role in the debate. I mean, he took the lead in challenging Senator Elizabeth Warren on health care, for example, and taxes. He was also outspoken on foreign policy and gun policy. So what's he doing to essentially take advantage of that attention?

DETROW: He's continuing to do what he's been doing for a while now, and that's really focus his attention on Iowa having a ton of events here. We got a sense last night when the campaign fundraising reports came out just how many - how much resources Buttigieg has to spend here in Iowa - about $34 million in the bank. And he's using that to air ads on television, on radio, online, to hire a lot of staff and have a lot of volunteers swarming the state here to try and get his message out.

Buttigieg is one of several candidates looking to Iowa to validate him as a top-tier candidate - Kamala Harris, Cory Booker in that camp as well - feeling like if he can do well here, finish in the top three or so, he can - he could suddenly be on the level of Warren or Biden or Sanders.

CORNISH: Speaking of Biden, he was also back out on the campaign trail. He was overshadowed by the other candidate you mentioned, Elizabeth Warren, last night. So how is Biden responding to that today?

DETROW: Biden is coming back to Iowa as well. And he was kind of off to the side of the debate stage last night in a way that he hadn't been the first few times. He spoke to reporters today in Ohio about that experience seeing Elizabeth Warren being the one taking all the criticism. Here's what he said about that.


JOE BIDEN: Well, it's kind of about time other people get questioned. And you know, I don't think there - I haven't seen any polling showing that nationally, on average, that anybody else is a front-runner. You guys keep talking about that. I think Elizabeth Warren's done very well. She's moved and she's - but now that she has moved and is taken more seriously, people are going to ask her about, you know, a little candor here, you know? Tell us how you're going to do what you say you're going to do.

DETROW: A bit of a fact-check there - Warren actually is ahead of Biden in several national polls and polls in key states like Iowa. Biden's got a little bit of a challenge, though. We were talking about that money that Buttigieg has in the bank. When we saw Biden's reports, it was surprising. He spent way more money than he raised last quarter, and he only has about $9 million in the bank right now. That's going to make it hard for him to air the ads he needs to air when other candidates start focusing their message more and maybe critiquing him more on the airwaves.

CORNISH: I also want to talk about Bernie Sanders because he reemerged last night two weeks after having a heart attack, and he had some news to announce, right? He came out talking about some key endorsements. Can you talk about these endorsements? And what do you make of the news?

DETROW: Yeah. First of all, Bernie Sanders, I think, by showing up and being himself on the debate stage really proved that at least right now, he's showing no signs of wear from suffering a heart attack earlier in the month.

The biggest thing that happened (inaudible) debate stage wasn't on the debate itself. It was the news that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and also Ilhan Omar, her colleague in the House, are both endorsing him. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is probably the most high-profile Democrat not running for president. She's a huge validator in the progressive lane. And this is good timing for Sanders as Warren gets more and more momentum. You had seen Sanders poll numbers start to drop just a little bit. I think this is a good argument that he can make that, look; he is a progressive candidate as well, and his supporters should stick with him.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Scott Detrow on the campaign trail in Ames, Iowa.

Scott, thanks so much.

DETROW: Sure thing.

(SOUNDBITE OF BEACH HOUSE SONG, "BLACK CAR") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.