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Ten candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination met on stage Wednesday night for their fifth debate of the campaign. But in Atlanta, nearly a thousand miles from the impeachment inquiry on Capitol Hill, that was still the first topic discussed. Meanwhile, Pete Buttigieg faced questions about his experience, and former Vice President Joe Biden about his record. Amna Nawaz reports.
Ten Democratic candidates aiming to replace President Trump in the Oval Office met on stage last night for their fifth debate of the 2020 campaign.
Amna Nawaz reports on how the candidates tried to stand out.
Nearly 1,000 miles from Washington, D.C…
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.:
We have a criminal living in the White House.
… the impeachment inquiry was still the first topic at the Democratic debate in Atlanta, where five of the candidates on stage would have a vote in the Senate on removing President Trump from office, if it got to that point.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.:
We have to establish the principle no one is above the law. We have a constitutional responsibility, and we need to meet it.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.:
… this impeachment proceeding about is really our democracy at stake.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.:
Sadly, we have a president who is not only a pathological liar; he is likely the most corrupt president in the modern history of America.
Former Vice President Biden, who, along with his son Hunter, is central in the Republican pushback on impeachment, weighed in on the week's hearings.
I learned, number one, that Donald Trump doesn't want me to be the nominee.
For Pete Buttigieg, gaining ground in some early state polls, Wednesday night was the first time the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, faced direct questions about his experience to be president.
There is more than 100 years of Washington experience on this stage, and where are we right now as a country?
It's experience Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar said she respects, but also took issue with.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar:
Women are held to a higher standard. Otherwise, we could play a game called name your favorite woman president.
The sharpest critique on Buttigieg came from fellow military veteran Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii:
I think the most recent example of your inexperience in national security and foreign policy came from your recent careless statement about how you, as president, would be willing to send our troops to Mexico to fight the cartels.
I know that it is par for the course in Washington to take remarks out of context, but that is outlandish, even by the standards of todays politics.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard:
Are you saying that you didn't say that?
I was talking about U.S.-Mexico cooperation.
In Atlanta, a city that is more than 50 percent black, the candidates also tried to state their case on who would best serve Democrats' most reliable demographic.
Sen. Kamala Harris:
They show up when it's, you know, close to election time, show up in a black church, and want to get the vote, but just haven't been there before.
I welcome the challenge of connecting with black voters in America who don't yet know me.
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.:
I have a lifetime of experience with black voters. I have been one since I was 18.
I have more people supporting me in the black community that have announced for me because they know me, the only African-American woman that's ever been elected to the United States Senate, a whole range of people.
No, that's not true.
Sen. Cory Booker:
That's not true.
New Jersey Senator Cory Booker also questioned Biden's criminal justice stance, one that disproportionately affects African-Americans.
This week, I hear him literally say that, I don't think we should legalize marijuana.
I thought you might have been high when you said it.
I think we should decriminalize marijuana, period.
The candidates debated kitchen table issues like taxes.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren:
Doing a wealth tax is not about punishing anyone.
The wealth tax, I'm sorry, it's cumbersome. It's been tried by other nations. It's hard to evaluate.
And how much paid family leave should be required.
I'm not going to go for things just because they sound good on a bumper sticker and then throw in a free car.
I would pass paid family leave as one of the first things we do.
With less than three months before the first votes are cast, the candidates are running short on time to introduce themselves to voters.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Amna Nawaz in Atlanta.
The Democrats will share the stage again one month from now in Los Angeles, as the "PBS NewsHour" partners with Politico to host the final debate of this year.
That's on Thursday, December the 19th. You can mark your calendars now.
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Amna Nawaz joined PBS NewsHour in April 2018 and serves as the program's chief correspondent and primary substitute anchor.
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