Democrats prep for final debate before Iowa caucuses

DES MOINES, Iowa (NBC) – Six Democrats take the stage in Des Moines Tuesday night for the first debate of the New Year and the last one before the Iowa Caucuses next month.

There seems to be a bit of a squabble between two longtime friends, both trying to hold their place as a front-runner in the race.

Elizabeth Warren confirmed reports about a private meeting in 2018 with Bernie Sanders, writing in a statement overnight: “Among the topics that came up was what would happen if Democrats nominated a female candidate. I thought a woman could win; he disagreed.”

Warren contradicted Sanders, who hours earlier denied the accusation telling NBC News: “It is ludicrous to believe that at the same meeting where Elizabeth Warren told me she was going to run for president, I would tell her that a woman couldn’t win. Do I believe a woman can win in 2020? Of course!”

The two recently exchanged criticism after Politico reported the Sanders campaign instructed its volunteers to portray Warren as the candidate of elites in conversations with voters.

Senator Warren said, “I hope Bernie reconsiders and turns his campaign in a different direction.”

Sanders said, “I have never said a negative word about Elizabeth Warren, who is a friend of mine.”

The simmering tensions coming less than three weeks before the first presidential contest in Iowa.

In stark contrast to the first democratic debates, Tuesday night’s duel in Des Moines features just six candidates and new polls show just how close it is with the latest from Monmouth University showing Joe Biden out front, ahead of Sanders, Pete Buttigieg and Warren.

Perhaps, the most striking finding of that latest Iowa poll is that three in five likely Iowa caucus-goers say they could still change their mind before next month’s contest.

Tuesday night, much of the focus will be on Warren and Sanders even as Warren tried to downplay the drama, noting that they’ve been friends and allies for a long time and adding she’s confident they’ll continue to work together to defeat Donald Trump.

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