US Democrats have wrapped up a three-hour debate on a bloated stage. Candidates for the party's 2020 presidential nomination took wild potshots at Elizabeth Warren, seeming to indicate a new front-runner in the race.
The top three Democrats had different experiences in Ohio Tuesday. Former Vice President Joe Biden fended off questions about his son and Ukraine, Bernie Sanders was treated gently after a heart attack, and Elizabeth Warren, long celebrated for her persistence, battled cheap shots from the center and the fringes.
Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar said "the difference between a plan and a pipe dream is something you can actually get done" about Warren's plan to extend health coverage to all Americans. Representative Tulsi Gabbard demanded that Warren critique the Iraq War initiated by Republican President George Bush in 2003, when Warren was not yet in the Senate — or even in politics.
Twelve candidates shared the stage for three hours in a third debate hosted by the US broadcaster CNN and newspaper The New York Times. To qualify, candidates had to have received at least 2% support in four polls approved by the Democratic National Committee and donations from at least 130,000 individuals, including 400 from at least 20 states. Previous debates had featured 10 candidates per night over two evenings.
'Stand for them'
Returning after a heart attack two weeks ago, Sanders benefited from the attention on Warren, whose views most align with his, as well as a warm welcome to the stage. The senator from Vermont engaged in banter with the moderators and his fellow candidates, but he was dead serious when he said his campaign for public health and public education and to bring an end to economic exclusion in the United States would be what ultimately took President Trump down.
"Here's the radical reason why: It's what the people want," Sanders said. "The way you win an election at this time in history is not the same old, same old," he added.
On Tuesday night, Sanders' campaign spokesperson said congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will back the candidate's bid for the White House.
"Bernie is leading a working class movement to defeat Donald Trump that transcends generation, ethnicity and geography," said Omar, who has been a frequent target of Trump, in a statement.
Biden, the vice president under Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama, continued to advocate a middle-of-the-road stance, even as his numbers have slipped against both Warren and Sanders. But his stances were overshadowed by attention placed on his son Hunter, whom Trump has attempted to implicate in financial misdeeds in Ukraine, the grounds for the current impeachment investigation into the president. Later, Trump called mockingly for China to investigate the Bidens, as well.
"Look, my son did nothing wrong," Biden said on Tuesday. "I did nothing wrong. I carried out the policy of the United States government in rooting out corruption in Ukraine, and that's what we should be focused on. What I think is important is we focus on why it's so important to remove this man from office."
With the three favored candidates all older than 70 — as Trump himself is — much attention was paid to individual health. New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, a spry 50 years old, noted that "as the vegan on [the] stage," he thought it important to remember that "the most unhealthy person running for the presidency in 2020 is Donald Trump."
The other candidates were California Senator Kamala Harris, former Texas Representative Beto O'Rourke, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former US Housing Secretary Julian Castro, tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang and California billionaire Tom Steyer.
mkg/se (Reuters, AP)
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