Written by Staff Writer


(CNN) — Bernie Sanders is at the heart of a crowded Democratic presidential field, but on Friday he stood at the center of an unusual gathering.

The Vermont senator, joined by Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and South Dakota Sen. John Thune, as well as potential presidential candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at CNN’s Young Guns town hall at the Washington Convention Center, was on stage as the Democratic hopefuls closed out a busy week of campaigning ahead of Saturday’s Iowa caucuses.

All of the Democrats addressed specific concerns in their pitches to Iowa voters, and perhaps no one stressed the stakes more than Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who remains in a strong position to still win the Iowa caucuses come Saturday night.

Telling the attendees that the stakes on the Democratic side are “much higher” this year than in past election cycles, Sanders said that “when you vote on Saturday night you are making history. This is our big moment.”

“You are facing a choice between success and failure and very, very frankly, that is a very serious choice and I intend to support the candidate that will defeat Donald Trump,” Sanders said.

Sanders did, however, address the various debates that have broken out within the Democratic field over what kind of message to send to voters. While some of the candidates have publicly criticized each other and hinted at disagreements within the party, Sanders used the CNN debate Thursday night to instead put the onus on Republicans to define themselves.

“The choices that they make will have real consequences. They will have a huge impact on the country,” Sanders said of Republicans on Friday. “There has been a tremendous amount of obstruction and in many ways I don’t think Donald Trump understands the gravity of the problems he has inherited.”