June 27, 2019

Debate Exposes Split Among 2020 Democrats on Direction for Party
(Bloomberg) -- The first Democratic president debate exposed ideological fissures within the party over how to remake the economy, fix immigration and confront big companies -- and whether the path to defeating President Donald Trump veers toward liberal solutions or hews to the middle.The 10 candidates on stage for the first of two nights of debates generally agreed on the need for universal health care but the discussion resulted in some of the sharpest exchanges. They disagreed on whether private insurance should be abolished, with Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts insisting that private plans be replaced by Medicare for All.“There are a lot of politicians who say, oh, it’s just not possible, we just can’t do it,” Warren said. “What they’re really telling you is they just won’t fight for it. Well, health care is a basic human right, and I will fight for basic human rights.”The candidates also sparred over foreign policy and whether the party is focused on appealing to the right voters. Yet even with the disagreements, the candidates stayed away from direct attacks.Warren, who is vying for leadership of the party’s progressive wing with Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, was the highest-polling candidate on stage Wednesday night and was able to stay above the fray despite some clear differences with competitors such as Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and former John Delaney, a former Maryland congressman.The divisions will be on display again Thursday night when former Vice President Joe Biden, who is trying to steer the party on a centrist course, will be going head-to-head with Sanders and eight other candidates, including including California Senator Kamala Harris and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana.The clearest divide on Wednesday among the 10 candidates was on health care. Only Warren and Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York raised their hands when all were asked who would abolish private insurance plans in favor of a government-run system.Warren, who supports Sanders’s plan to use the government’s Medicare program to provide health coverage, said insurance companies have a profit motive to raise as much as they can in premiums while not making payments and “Medicare for All solves that problem.”De Blasio, who’s been struggling to gain a following in the crowded Democratic contest, interjected when former Texas Representative Beto O’Rourke said he didn’t support abolishing private insurance. “Hey, wait, wait, Congressman O’Rourke, Congressman O’Rourke, private insurance is not working for tens of millions of Americans,” he said.Warren and Klobuchar represent two ideological ends of the Democratic field. While Warren is calling for “structural change’’ in the economy to make it fairer, Klobuchar has dismissed ideas such as free college and Medicare for All as impractical.On health care, Klobuchar said she was “simply concerned about kicking half of Americans off their health insurance in just four years’’ and preferred a more cautious approach to realizing the goal of universal health care coverage.The health care debate also provided the first chance for lower-polling candidates such as de Blasio and Delaney to get the attention of a national audience.Delaney was applauded when he questioned the wisdom of upending the American health care industry. “One hundred million say they like their private health insurance, by the way,” he said. “I think we should be the party that keeps what’s working and fixes what’s broken.”Warren started the debate with a robust defense of her sweeping economic proposals.“When you’ve got a government, when you’ve got an economy, that does great for those with money and isn’t doing great for everyone else, that is corruption pure and simple,” Warren said. “We need to call it out, we need to attack it head-on and we need to make structural change in our government, in our economy and in our country.”The economy, taxes, income inequality and the question of breaking up big companies dominated the opening rounds of the debate. The candidates also addressed gun control, immigration, climate change and, briefly, whether charges should be pursued against Trump.Trump, who is traveling to Osaka, Japan, for a summit of the Group of 20 nations delivered his verdict in a tweet sent during a stopover in Alaska: “BORING!”After the debate, his campaign issued a statement that said the “the far-left, socialist policies Democrats embraced tonight were akin to a mutual political suicide pact.” The forum, it said, “was the best argument” for Trump’s re-election and “should really be counted as an in-kind contribution to the president’s campaign.”Twenty candidates qualified for the party’s first nationally televised debates and were split into groups of 10 on each night.The party is also divided about whether to pursue impeachment proceedings against Trump, with Special Counsel Robert Mueller set to testify before Congress on July 17. While many in the field have called for impeachment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has resisted without an “ironclad” case and out of concern of bolstering Trump’s re-election prospects.O’Rourke said the U.S. cannot set the precedent of not challenging allegations of misconduct by Trump because “it’s the only way to save this country.” Delaney said he trusts Pelosi to make the right call on impeachment and the voters are more interested in kitchen-table issues.De Blasio called the primary a “fight for the heart and soul of our party” that he said should be won by someone who favors “putting working people first.”Senator Cory Booker said he aspired to make the election not only “a referendum on” Trump “and getting rid of him” but also “a referendum on us -- who we are and who we must be to each other.”Warren shared the stage with O’Rourke and Booker, who are polling behind the top five, as well as seven candidates who are generating less that 3% in most polls: Klobuchar; Joaquin Castro, a former secretary of Housing and Urban Development; Representatives Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii; and Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio; de Blasio; Washington Governor Jay Inslee; and Delaney.To contact the reporters on this story: Mark Niquette in Miami at mniquette@bloomberg.net;Jennifer Epstein in Miami at jepstein32@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Sara Forden at sforden@bloomberg.net, Joe Sobczyk, John HarneyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.



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