(CNN) – Weeks before the Iowa caucuses open, foreign policy is now on the front burner, injecting a new air of uncertainty to an unsettled race.
“We need to provide a steady, stable, experienced leadership. With all due respect, I think I’m the best prepared of anybody running for president right now,” Democratic candidate for president Joe Biden said.
Biden is touting his experience on the world stage, saying the rising tensions in the Middle East call for it now more than ever.
Bernie Sanders spent the weekend condemning President Trump’s decision to order a strike that killed Iran’s top military commander, Qasem Soleimani, but Sanders also renewed his criticism of Biden’s 2002 vote for the Iraq War.
“When I voted against the war in Iraq in 2002, I feared that it would result in greater destabilization in that country and in the entire region,” Sanders said.
Pete Buttigieg is raising similar questions, telling CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday that his national security judgment would be shaped by his own military service in Afghanistan.
“My judgments are also informed by belonging to that generation that has lived through conflicts that we were told would be over in days or weeks and are continuing to this day,” said Buttigieg.
As a confrontation with Iran boils, all Democratic candidates are facing a commander-in-chief test.
“I can tell you I’m someone who has a heart. You have to really decide before you send soldiers into battle, you better know exactly what you’re doing,” said Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar.
“People are reasonably asking about the timing and why it is that the administration seems to have all different kinds of answers,” said Elizabeth Warren, another Democratic candidate for president.
A yearlong campaign focused largely on domestic issues is suddenly taking a global turn as candidates ask voters to weigh experience versus judgment.
After seeing Sanders at a campaign stop in Muscatine, Iowa Lawrence Clausen said he is leaning toward Biden, in part because of foreign policy.
“Biden is my first choice because I think he is highly experienced, and I think he has good relationships internationally,” he said.
Marilyn and Tom Kettmann have never taken part in the Iowa caucuses, but they intend to this time – to help select a strong contender to take on trump.
“The world right now is a scary place. I just think we need someone like Joe [Biden] to get us out of this mess,” Marilyn Kettman said.
At the center of it all is finding the strongest candidate to defeat Trump in November.