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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 
be impeached.

   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 
as children.

   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 
jail."

   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 
economy.

   California Sen. Kamala Harris and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg 
were also set to face voters Monday night. 


(CZ)

 
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