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Ten candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination faced off Wednesday night in the campaign’s first debate. With the crowded stage, participants battled for speaking time on issues like the economy, health care, immigration, foreign policy and gun control. They agreed on many principles but clashed on policy solutions. Lisa Desjardins reports on the debate and how voters reacted.
The numbers are in. More than 15 million people tuned in to the first Democratic primary presidential debate last night in Miami.
Lisa Desjardins reports on which of the 10 hopefuls stood out on that crowded stage, with 10 more ready to debate tonight.
From the first 10 candidates to debate, familiar Democratic Party themes, like how much to change the health care system.
Who here would abolish their private health insurance in favor of a government-run plan? Just a show of hands to start out with.
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren was just one of two to raise her hand, along with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.:
I understand there are a lot of politicians who say, oh, it's just not possible. We just can't do it. It's — have a lot of political reasons for this. 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.
That got strong pushback from the more moderate contenders, like former Maryland Congressman John Delaney.
Rep. John Delaney, D-M.D.:
I think we should be the party that keeps what's working and fixes what's broken.
There were areas of agreement, like stopping gun violence, something New Jersey Senator and former Newark Mayor Cory Booker said hit close to home.
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.:
I hear gunshots in my neighborhood. I think I'm the only one — I hope I'm the only one on this panel here that had seven people shot in their neighborhood just last week.
And like abortion access, supported by every candidate. But when Washington State Governor Jay Inslee tried to indicate he's done more on that issue than the others, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar took exception.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.:
I just want to say there's three women up here that have fought pretty hard for a woman's right to choose, so I will start with that.
There were many more heated moments.
Representatives Tim Ryan of Ohio and Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii debated whether the U.S. should remain in Afghanistan.
Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio:
But the reality of it is, if the United States isn't engaged, the Taliban will grow. They were. And they were…
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii:
We cannot keep U.S. troops deployed to Afghanistan, thinking that we're going to somehow squash this Taliban that has been there, and every other country that's tried has failed.
I didn't say squash them. I didn't say squash them. When we weren't in there, they started flying planes into our buildings.
So, I'm just saying right now, we have an…
The Taliban didn't attack us on 9/11. Al-Qaida did.
One of the most contentious exchanges came from the two men from Texas, former Congressman Beto O'Rourke and former Housing Secretary Julian Castro, over Castro's proposal to make it so crossing the border for undocumented people wouldn't be a criminal act.
As a member of Congress, I help to introduce legislation that would ensure that we don't criminalize those who are seeking asylum and refuge in this country.
I'm not talking asylum.
If you are fleeing desperation, then I want to make sure — I want to make sure that you are treated with respect.
I am still talking about everybody else.
But you are looking at just one small part of this. I am talking about a comprehensive rewrite of our immigration laws.
That's not true.
All of the candidates focused on their challengers on stage, and not on the current poll leader, former Vice President Joe Biden.
On January 20, 2021, we will say adios to Donald Trump.
A common target? President Trump's policies. One of the biggest applause lines of the night came from Inslee.
Gov. Jay Inslee, D-Wash.:
The biggest threat to the security of the United States is Donald Trump.
But did anyone win over new voters? We asked at a debate watch party in nearby Miami Beach.
I'm happy to have 20-some-odd candidates. It gives us a lot of debate. Tonight has been really lively.
You notice, like, while Julian Castro and Beto were going after each other, and while Tulsi Gabbard and Tim Ryan were going after each other, Elizabeth Warren was going after nobody, because she doesn't need to.
But voters say that will change when a nominee is chosen.
I think everybody's just going to work hard for each candidate, and then, once we have a nominee chosen, we will all coalesce around a nominee, with the goal of changing the resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. That's the main thing, beat Trump.
President Trump, traveling to the G20 summit in Japan, tweeted his one word response to the debate: "Boring."
It was a sentiment shared by a few Democrats too. Many people at the watch party for Democrats left before the debate was over. But some said tonight could be more interesting.
Because then you have got Biden vs. Sanders, which I think is the real battle for the soul of the Democratic Party.
After such a focus on immigration last night, Democrats continued a string of visits to a migrant shelter in nearby Homestead, Florida, including Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who will be on the debate stage tonight.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.:
They are not criminals. They are not our enemies. They must be treated with respect and compassion.
Sanders will be one of four candidates leading in the polls on the stage tonight, along with Biden, Senator Kamala Harris of California, and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
The debate will also feature two members of Congress trying to galvanize progressive voters with nearly single-issue focus. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York is campaigning largely on health care access for women. And Congressman Eric Swalwell of California talks extensively about preventing gun violence.
There will also be a pair of Coloradans, Senator Michael Bennet and former Governor John Hickenlooper. Rounding out the stage of 10, two political outsiders, entrepreneur Andrew Yang and author Marianne Williamson.
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