Ten Democratic presidential hopefuls have clashed in a televised debate that laid bare the way the party is battling over how best to win in 2020.
Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, the most liberal candidates in the crowded field, were under attack from their more moderate colleagues.
The group of candidates battled over healthcare policies, immigration, and how to defeat President Donald Trump.
Ten more Democrats, including Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, will spar tomorrow.
The winner of the Democratic presidential nomination will be crowned next July at the party convention. The presidential election will take place months later, in November.
Several candidates began their opening statements by criticising progressive policies as being impossible and not the way for the party to defeat President Trump.
John Delaney, a former Maryland congressman, said: “We cannot go down the road that Senator Sanders and Senator Warren want to take us with bad policies like Medicare for All, free everything and impossible promises that will turn off independent voters.”
During her opening statement, Ms Warren said “anyone on this stage tonight or tomorrow night would be a far better president” and promised to work to “beat Donald Trump and elect a Democratic Congress” regardless of who wins the nomination.
But she added, “small ideas and spinelessness” would not solve America’s problems.
Mr Sanders focused much of his opening statement on his big issue of healthcare, saying “healthcare is a human right, not a privilege, and I will fight for that”.
Who’s on stage?
The line-up for both debates was chosen at random by CNN.
Here’s Tuesday’s line-up:
- Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren
- Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders
- South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg
- Former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke
- Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar
- Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan
- Former Maryland Congressman John Delaney
- Montana Governor Steve Bullock
- Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper
- Author Marianne Williamson
On Wednesday night, Former Vice-President Joe Biden, California Senator Kamala Harris, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, Former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Colorado Senator Michael Bennet, Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, Washington Governor Jay Inslee and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Former tech executive Andrew Yang will have their chance.
How did they clash over healthcare?
The first question posed to the candidates was: Do you believe Medicare for All, Mr Sanders’ plan for a single-payer health system, is “political suicide”?
Mr Delaney said many Americans are happy with their private insurance through employers and should be allowed to keep that coverage, saying that giving people the choice is “the American way”.
Mr Sanders responded by saying millions are uninsured and underinsured while the industry makes billions in profits.
Ms Warren sought to refocus the matter slightly, saying that no Democrat is “trying to take away healthcare from anyone”.
“That’s what the Republicans are trying to do. And we should stop using Republican talking points in order to talk with each other.”
The candidates sparred over Medicare for All versus expanding on President Barack Obama’s signature policy, the Affordable Care Act, which extended health insurance coverage.
Mr Ryan and Mr Delaney were among those who attacked Mr Sanders’ plan, saying it would negatively impact working-class Americans by taking away their employer-sponsored benefits.
And what did they say about immigration?
The candidates were then asked for their views on decriminalising illegal border crossings.
Mr Buttigieg said these crossings would still be illegal if he won the presidency, but that most cases would be handled under civil law.
Mr O’Rourke, who is from the Texas border region, said he would waive citizenship fees, fix deportation laws, and assist countries in Central America so that no family has to trek to the US border, but that when people do arrive, they should follow US laws.
Ms Warren and Mr Sanders both emphasised that families arriving at the border should not be criminalised.
“I’ve seen the mothers, I’ve seen the cages of babies,” Ms Warren said. “We must be a country that every day lives our values and that means we cannot make it a crime when someone comes in.”
Mr Ryan said Mr Sanders’ proposals would only incentivise people to enter the country illegally.
What about the gun violence debate?
Many of the candidates emphasised taking on the pro-gun lobby group, the National Rifle Association (NRA).
Mr Buttigieg, the youngest of the 2020 candidates, said it was a debate that has been going on for generations.
But there was a wider need for reform, he said, like de-politicising the Supreme Court.
Ms Klobuchar and Mr Bullock – who is a gun-owner and hunter – both blamed the NRA. Ms Klobuchar said she watched Mr Trump discuss universal background checks for purchasing guns after the Parkland school shooting, only to “fold” after meeting with NRA lobbyists.
The candidates all agreed getting corporate money out of politics was key to addressing gun violence.
Ms Williamson then called for public funding for federal campaigns and a constitutional amendment to address big money interests in politics.
What did they say about the party being ‘too radical’?
After a back-and-forth with Mr Delaney, Ms Warren drew big applause for saying candidates should not focus on all the things they cannot do.
But Ms Klobuchar later said Democrats had to be “straightforward with the American people” and that policies like a single-payer system or free college for all would not succeed.
“What I don’t like about this argument now is we are more worried about winning an argument than winning an election,” she said.
Who will take on Trump in 2020?
Twenty Democrats are debating once more to win the chance to take on Donald Trump. But who else has a shot at becoming the next president?