WESTERVILLE, O.H. — The fourth debate of the Democratic presidential primary is underway with the largest field yet on stage together at a pivotal time in the campaign.
Many Democrats seeking their party’s presidential nomination stress a need to improve the nation’s jobs picture, but they disagree on how to do that.
Sen. Bernie Sanders defended his federal jobs guarantee, saying equalizing the economy will create the need for more teachers and doctors.
Businessman Andrew Yang, who backs a universal basic income, said people “do not want to work for the federal government.” Promoting her own plan to boost social security, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said her proposal would cover retirement for even those in nontraditional positions, like stay-at-home caregivers.
Several, including former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, advocated strengthening unions to keep businesses like GM from moving production to other countries.
Candidates took the most crowded debate stage in the history of US presidential primaries Tuesday as their race approaches a turning point just three-and-a-half months before voters begin to weigh in.
Biden heads into the showdown, hosted by CNN and The New York Times, fighting a two-front battle against his rising foe Warren and a President who is seeking to knock out the former vice president before he has a chance to win the Democratic nomination.
Biden is under pressure to deliver a crisp and aggressive performance after initially struggling to fend off Trump’s claims that his son Hunter’s business activity in Ukraine while he was vice president is a symptom of family corruption. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by Biden or his son in Ukraine.
The Delaware Democrat tried to turn the issue against Trump in an aggressive new pre-debate strategy, by unveiling an anti-corruption plan that he said would ensure that “no future president can ever again abuse the office for personal gain.”
This is the first Democratic debate since the party launched a bid to impeach the President over claims that he abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate Biden. The evening will allow Democrats to make their broadest case yet against Trump’s suitability for a second term, given the uproar over his decision to desert America’s Kurdish allies in Syria and withdraw US troops, triggering a humanitarian crisis.
The debate is also crucial for 78-year-old Sanders to show that he is fit for the long haul and potentially to be president after a heart attack raised questions about his age.
Time is running out for candidates like Sen. Kamala Harris of California, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Booker to prove they are a threat for the nomination. Lower-polling candidates like Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro need to make a splash to keep voters — and donors — interested as they struggle to qualify for November’s debate.
Businessman Tom Steyer will make the debate stage for the first time. And the showdown will give new oxygen to entrepreneur Andrew Yang, whose unorthodox campaign has turned in impressive fundraising and is outpacing several full-time politicians.
Warren took fire from her Democratic opponents early for refusing to answer whether her “Medicare for All” plan would raise taxes for the middle class.
Warren has refused to directly answer when asked how she’d pay for her proposal, and during Tuesday night’s presidential debate, she once again dodged, insisting only that “costs will go down” for the middle class. Buttigieg knocked Warren for the non-answer, saying her failure to offer a direct answer is “why people are so frustrated with politicians” and arguing that Medicare for All would “unnecessarily divide this country.”
Sanders, who wrote the Medicare for All legislation that Warren has embraced, said it was “appropriate to acknowledge taxes will go up.” Klobuchar also piled on, saying, “At least Bernie’s being honest” and arguing in favor of a public option instead.
Booker spent much of the first hour of Tuesday’s crowded Democratic presidential debate playing the role of diplomat.
In the primary, Booker has run as a happy warrior, pitching a strategy of love over hate to defeat Trump. As other candidates sparred over health care, income inequality and impeachment on Tuesday, Booker used his time to step between his opponents, calling for unity, agreeing with their points and shifting the focus back to their common enemy.
Booker cautioned against “tearing each other down because we have different plans” in response to several candidates’ criticism of Warren’s plans on a wealth tax and health care. He also called Biden a “statesman” in defending him after the former vice president was asked about his son’s business dealings in Ukraine.
Castro said that “police violence is also gun violence” and that he would not give officers “another reason to go door to door” by supporting mandatory surrender of assault weapons.
Castro was the first candidate on Tuesday’s 2020 Democratic primary debate stage to raise last weekend’s shooting death of Atatiana Jefferson, killed in Castro’s home state of Texas after a neighbor called 911 requesting a welfare check on her Fort Worth home because the front door was ajar. Jefferson was playing video games early Saturday with her 8-year-old nephew when Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean fatally shot her within seconds of arriving at her house.
Castro’s remarks were met with applause by the audience.
Many of the Democrats seeking the White House say they would lead administrations that would go after drug companies that manufacture addictive opioid medications.
The three oldest candidates in the Democratic presidential field faced questions over their age during Tuesday night’s debate.
Sanders is the oldest candidate at 78 and just returned to the campaign trail after suffering a heart attack. He declined to answer when asked how he would reassure Americans of his good health, saying only that he would run a “vigorous campaign all over this country.”
76-year-old Biden argued that his experience and wisdom are assets because “I know what has to be done” as president. He also promised to release his medical records before the first nominating contest in Iowa in February.
And Warren, who’s 70 years old, promised to outwork, out-organize and outlast anyone, including the Republicans.