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2020 Democrats release a flurry of policy proposals ahead of next debate

Ten candidates will launch the next round of 2020 Democratic presidential debates in Detroit Tuesday. In the leadup, contenders have released a flurry of policy proposals, on issues from health care and education to climate change and criminal justice. For lesser-known candidates, the debate may offer the last chance to make an impression on voters before the field narrows. Judy Woodruff reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    When President Trump won Michigan by fewer than 11,000 votes in 2016, it marked the first win in three decades by a Republican presidential candidate.

    The state is among Democrats' top targets in 2020 and the Democratic National Committee's choice for this next round of candidate debates.

    They have come to Detroit this week on a mission, 10 candidates tonight, and 10 more tomorrow night, all wanting a boost out of this second set of Democratic presidential debates.

    Two progressive stalwarts are standing center stage tonight, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. On either side of them are two of the field's youngest candidates, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, and former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke.

    Farther out on the wings are many of the field's more moderate candidates, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan, plus former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and former Maryland Congressman John Delaney, and at each end, author Marianne Williamson and Montana Governor Steve Bullock, another moderate who missed out on the previous debates.

    While those 10 hopefuls are on stage, some of the other candidates are looking to catch attention on other fronts. A super PAC backing Washington Governor Jay Inslee, who is debating Wednesday, bought airtime for a TV ad criticizing the five candidates topping national opinion polls.

  • Narrator:

    Democrats aren't making climate change the number one issue.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Meanwhile, a political group founded by billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer, who didn't qualify for the debate stage, is out with an ad whose focus is special counsel Robert Mueller, President Trump and impeachment.

  • Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo.:

    You believe that you could charge the president of the United States with obstruction of justice after he left office?

  • Robert Mueller:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    That ad is part of a push by candidates to highlight specific issues ahead of this week's debates.

    California Senator Kamala Harris was in Detroit yesterday defending the health care plan she rolled out ahead of her Wednesday debate.

  • Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.:

    My Medicare for all plan will allow private insurers to be a part of our plan if they play by the rules. But let's be clear about the rules. The rules are that they're not going to get to do business as usual.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But some of her rivals pounced immediately. Senator Bernie Sanders, who's in tonight's debate, told CNN this in a phone interview:

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.:

    I like Kamala. She's a friend of mine. But her plan is not Medicare for all.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    A campaign spokeswoman for former Vice President Joe Biden also criticized the Harris approach, saying it pushes the extremely challenging implementation of this plan 10 years into the future.

    Biden and Harris will meet again at Wednesday's debate. He has made his own contribution to the current rush of policy rollouts, a criminal justice plan he announced last week.

  • Joseph Biden:

    I think we need to shift the whole focus from what we're doing in terms of incarceration to rehabilitation.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But Biden's announcement drew criticism from another rival he will debate on Wednesday, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, who's targeted Biden's history on these issues.

  • Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.:

    I'm disappointed that it's taken Joe Biden years and years, until he was running for president, to actually say that he made a mistake.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The new trade proposals from Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren are among the other policy ideas unveiled by the 2020 candidates over the past week-and-a-half.

    Of the other debaters tonight, Klobuchar and O'Rourke rolled out plans on housing and K-12 education, respectively. Delaney wants to build a program around a mandatory year of service for young Americans. And Williamson proposes a Cabinet-level agency to focus on policies affecting children.

    New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who debates tomorrow, has released her own sweeping plan to combat climate change. For many of these Democrats, this week's debates may truly be make-or-break. They have to reach a higher threshold in public polling and donations to qualify for the debates this fall.

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