Iowa: U.S. Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders criticized rival Joe Biden's 2002 vote to authorize war in Iraq during a debate in Iowa on Tuesday, and Biden acknowledged he made "a mistake" in backing the invasion.
At the first debate since a U.S. air strike killed an Iranian military commander, elevating foreign policy concerns, Sanders said he and Biden listened to the same arguments by President George W. Bush and top officials in his administration at the time "and I thought they were lying" and voted against the authorization.
Biden, a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who touts his security credentials, voted in favour of the authorization.
"It was a mistake to trust that they weren't going to go to war," Biden said. "They said they were just going to get inspectors in. The world, in fact, voted to send inspectors in and they still went to war."
But Biden said that as President Barack Obama's vice president, he worked to bring troops back home. "It was a mistaken vote, but I think my record overall on everything we have done, I’m prepared to compare it to anybody’s on this stage,” he said.
The debate was the seventh in the race to find a November election challenger to President Donald Trump, and the last before Iowa's caucuses on Feb. 3, giving the contenders a final high-stakes chance to make their case to voters.
It comes as opinion polls in recent days show an extremely tight race among four candidates - Biden, Sanders, fellow U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana.
Joining the four in the debate were U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar and billionaire activist Tom Steyer.
With surveys showing a virtual tie in Iowa and a largely undecided electorate, all the candidates face mounting pressure to make an impression.
The debate stage was the least crowded since the debates began in June, with the Democratic National Committee's toughened polling and fundraising requirements to qualify eliminating other candidates.
The Iowa debate will be the first of four to be held in slightly more than a month as the first four states kick off the voting in February. The next debate will be Feb. 7 in New Hampshire, followed by debates on Feb. 19 in Nevada and Feb. 25 in South Carolina.