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Military action against Iran gives Biden opportunity to highlight foreign policy experience, political scientists say

Northwestern experts available to comment on Tuesday’s debate

  • Created: January 10, 2020

Events this week related to the assassination of the top Iranian military commander will put foreign policy front and center in next Tuesday’s Democratic debate in Iowa and could play to the advantage of Joe Biden, who can draw on his experience as vice president, says Northwestern University political scientist Jaime Dominguez. 

In addition to Dominguez, political scientist Alvin Tillery is available to comment on Tuesday’s debate.

Alvin Tillery is an associate professor of political science and director of the Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy at Northwestern. His research and teaching interests are in the fields of American politics and political theory. His research in American politics focuses on American political development, racial and ethnic politics and media and politics. He can be reached at

Quote from Professor Tillery
“As the first debate in 2020, and just a few short weeks away from the Iowa Caucuses, this debate should attract more viewers than the six that were held in 2019. This means that there is ample opportunity for all of the candidates to grow their national support. Moreover, because the polls in Iowa have been so volatile of the last couple of weeks, a strong showing by one or two of the top four candidates could propel them to victory. Another thing to watch for is how much the candidates talk about foreign policy in the wake of President Trump’s decision to engage in a military action against the Iranians without notifying Congress. 

“You can expect Mr. Biden to really try to grab center stage in these moments in order to draw distinctions between himself and Trump. This is a great opportunity for him because he is the most experienced candidate on foreign affairs, and he remains the frontrunner in national polls. Another interesting dynamic to watch will be how Mr. Steyer performs on the smaller stage. His strategy of blanketing the airwaves in South Carolina and Nevada with self-funded ad buys is clearly working to boost his name recognition. A strong performance for him could keep him in the race for the long haul.”

Jaime Dominguez is an assistant professor of instruction in the department of political science in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern. His teaching and research focuses on race and ethnicity, immigration, urban politics, Latino politics and Chicago politics. He can be reached at

Quote from Professor Dominguez
“The events this week related to the assassination of the Iranian general will put foreign policy front and center in this debate, something we have yet to see. This could play to the advantage of Biden as he will draw on his experience as vice president and explain why the nuclear deal signed with Iran by Obama was important in keeping the peace. He can now make a case that he has the foreign policy experience to scale down the tension this crisis has brought. He knows how to work with leaders of foreign nations and can put together a coherent strategy to prevent future situations. This is an area that no other candidate can dispute.”