2020 Presidential Contenders Clash 04/23 06:02
The fight for the Democratic Party's soul played out Monday as some of the
leading presidential contenders clashed in a series of prime-time town halls
over free college, free health care and whether President Donald Trump should
2020 Democrats talk health care, free college, impeachment
MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) -- The fight for the Democratic Party's soul played
out Monday as some of the leading presidential contenders clashed in a series
of prime-time town halls over free college, free health care and whether
President Donald Trump should be impeached.
Five 2020 hopefuls representing different wings of the party were set to
address young voters in first-in-the-nation primary state New Hampshire by
night's end. While they took turns on stage, the forum marked the first time
this young presidential primary season in which multiple candidates appeared on
national television for the same prime-time event.
The first three, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth
Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, offered sharply different approaches to
some of the policy challenges expected to define their party's push to defeat
Trump next year.
Sanders, a front-runner in the crowded Democratic field who has pushed much
of his party to the left in recent years, was asked to defend his decision to
embrace democratic socialism.
"It's a radical idea. Maybe not everyone agrees. But I happen to believe we
ought to have a government that represents working families and not just the 1
percent," he said.
With primary voting roughly nine months away, the Democratic Party is just
beginning the high-stakes process of deciding what kind of Democrat is best
positioned to defeat Trump next year. The first formal debate, however, isn't
for another two months. Republicans, led by Trump, have spent much of the last
year warning voters that Democrats would take the country toward socialism
should they win in 2020.
Klobuchar, who has cast herself as a Midwestern pragmatist well positioned
to appeal to the middle of the country, refused to embrace "Medicare for All,"
free college or Trump's impeachment.
"I wish I could staple a free college diploma to every one of your chairs,"
Klobuchar told the audience of college students. "I have to be straight with
you and tell you the truth."
Warren, a champion for her party's more liberal wing, called for an
"ultra-millionaires' tax" on income over $50 million to help pay for free
college, free child care for all children 5 and younger, free universal
prekindergarten and student-debt forgiveness.
"We say good for you that you have now gotten this great fortune," she said
of the nation's wealthiest taxpayers. "But you gotta pay something back so
everybody else gets a chance."
There was virtually no discussion of immigration, an issue that has largely
defined Trump's presidency, but Republican National Committee Chair Ronna
McDaniel attacked Warren on social media for supporting "amnesty." Most of the
Democrats seeking the presidency support a pathway to legal status for
immigrants in the country illegally, particularly those brought to the country
Just five of the roughly 20 Democratic presidential candidates participated
in Monday's forum. Former Vice President Joe Biden, expected to announce his
candidacy later in the week, was among the missing.
CNN did not explain how it chose the participants. The cable network has
held prime-time town halls for many of the candidates, including four of the
five who appeared Monday.
On impeachment, an issue that has exposed deep divisions within the
Democratic Party in recent days, only Warren openly called for elected
officials to begin proceedings to remove the president from office. Democratic
leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have urged a more cautious
approach because impeachment would be nearly impossible politically without
significant Republican support.
"There is no political inconvenience exception to the United States
Constitution," Warren said. "If any other human being in this country had done
what's documented in the Mueller report, they would be arrested and put in
Klobuchar, like Sanders, sidestepped direct questions about impeachment.
Sanders warned that pushing too hard to remove the president before the next
election might distract from Democrats' priorities on health care and the
California Sen. Kamala Harris and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg
were also set to face voters Monday night.