Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang warned his party Thursday it had become “obsessed” with impeachment and risked blowing the next election unless it starts to focus on the issues that helped President Trump get elected.
While the other six candidates on the slimmed-down debate stage in Los Angeles praised the impeachment effort as a critical clash, Mr. Yang said the path to victory in 2020 runs through the voters Mr. Trump reached by tapping into their frustrations.
“We have to stop being obsessed over impeachment, which unfortunately strikes many Americans like a ball game, we know what the score is going to be, and start actually digging in and solving the problems that got Donald Trump elected in the first place,” he said, a day after House Democrats voted to approve two articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump.
He stood alone among the field, with his opponents not only embracing impeachment but vowing to make the case to Americans that the president has to be ousted before the election.
“This is a global Watergate,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
With the first votes of the primary season looming little more than a month away in Iowa, the candidates sharpened their barbs on one another, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren challenging South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg over a recent fundraiser he held in a billionaire’s wine cellar in California.
“Billionaires in wine caves should not pick the next president of the United States,” Ms. Warren said.
Mr. Buttigieg retorted by pointing out he’s the only one of the seven candidates on the stage who isn’t “a millionaire or a billionaire.” And he said Ms. Warren, who recently acknowledged making nearly $2 million in side work as a bankruptcy lawyer for large corporations, fails her own purity test.
“Senator, your net worth is 100 times mine,” he said.
Ms. Klobuchar also mixed it up with Mr. Buttigieg by saying she’d be more than willing to stack up the years of Washington, D.C. experience onstage against his own record that includes a failed bid for chairman of the Democratic National Committee in 2017 and a blowout loss in his bid for Indiana State Treasurer in 2010.
“I think winning matters. I think a track record of getting things done matters,” she said.
“If you want to talk about the capacity to win, try putting together a coalition to bring you back to office with 80% of the vote as a gay dude in Mike Pence’s Indiana,” Mr. Buttigieg replied.
“If you had won in Indiana, that would be one thing. You tried and you lost by 20 points,” she said.
The debate, hosted by PBS and Politico, was more even than November’s debate, which skipped around on issues and candidates without getting deeply into any one topic.
By contrast, Thursday’s affair challenged the candidates and touched on a number of previously unexplored issues:
⦁ Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden revealed that he opposed President Obama’s decision to surge troops into Afghanistan, saying he was the loudest voice against the idea.
“I’m the guy from the beginning who argued that it was a big, big mistake to surge forces to Afghanistan,” Mr. Biden said, adding that he was only now able to reveal his vehement opposition because of public reporting by The Washington Post that the military misled the country over the potential winnability of the war. “I argued against it constantly.”
Sen. Bernard Sanders, though, countered that Mr. Biden got it wrong on the other big war question of the 21st Century: “You’re also the guy who helped lead us into the disastrous war in Iraq.”
The debate moderator challenged Mr. Sanders on his own 2001 vote in favor of the Afghanistan war.
“I was wrong,” he said.
⦁ On U.S.-Israeli relations, Mr. Sanders said the Trump administration bungled things by reversing a longstanding blanket opposition to Israel building Jewish settlements in Palestinian territory. Mr. Sanders said it was fine for the U.S. to be pro-Israel, but “we must be pro-Palestinian as well.”
⦁ Mr. Buttigieg said if he is president he would consider ordering a boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in China as part of a pressure campaign to isolate Beijing.
⦁ Mr. Buttigieg also said he would pay compensation to thousands of children separated from parents during Mr. Trump’s zero tolerance border policy last year — and said he’d also give them a speedy pathway to citizenship.
Mr. Biden, challenged on why he and Mr. Obama failed to keep their campaign promise to close the detention facility for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, said it wasn’t lack of commitment but lack of ability to convince Congress.
Yet Mr. Biden also said he’s the best candidate on stage to win cooperation from Republicans on Capitol Hill, saying there’s no other way to govern.
“I don’t accept the notion, as some on this stage do, that we can never, never get to a place where we have cooperation again. If that’s the case, we’re dead as a country,” he said.
“We need to be able to reach a consensus, and if anyone has reason to the be angry with the Republicans and not want to cooperate, it’s me — the way they’ve attacked me, my son, and my family,” he said to applause, referring to his son Hunter Biden, whose work for a Ukrainian company while his father was vice president has become a part of the impeachment debate on Capitol Hill.
The debate was in danger of being canceled after the Los Angeles site faced labor problems and the candidates threatened not to turn up in solidarity with the workers.
But a last-minute deal with the workers cleared the way.
Left off the stage but insisting they are still in contention were Sens. Cory A. Booker and Michael Bennet, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, former Obama Cabinet official Julian Castro, former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland, and author Marianne Williamson.
Also not appearing were two recent entrants — billionaire former New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.
Mr. Bloomberg has already jumped to as high as fifth place in some polling on the race. But he isn’t actively soliciting donations, meaning he won’t hit the fundraising requirements for the debates unless he or the Democratic National Committee alters course.
He said in an interview with MSNBC this week that none of his 2020 Democratic opponents have the right experience to be president.
“The presidency shouldn’t be a training job,” he said. “You get in there, you got to hit the ground running.”
Gone from the race is Sen. Kamala D. Harris of California, who ended her campaign after sliding in the polls.
With Ms. Harris and the other poor-performing candidates left out, the stage Thursday was far whiter and more male — a source of embarrassment for Democrats who insist they are the diverse party and the most representative of the electorate.
“It’s a bit of an honor and disappointment to be the only candidate of color on the stage,” Mr. Yang said.
Since last month’s debate, the liberal candidates have sharpened their attacks on Mr. Buttigieg, who has been leading in polls on Iowa though he struggles to muster support from black voters.
He led the way in an Iowa State University/Civiqs poll released Thursday with 24% support, and was followed by Mr. Sanders at 21%, Ms. Warren at 18%, and Mr. Biden at 15%.
Nationally, a CNN poll released Thursday showed Mr. Biden leading the way at 26% support, followed by Mr. Sanders at 20%, Ms. Warren at 16%, and Mr. Buttigieg at 8%.
Despite a string of campaign-trail gaffes and skepticism over his progressive bona fides, Mr. Biden has also retained solid support among nonwhite voters to help put him in front in Nevada and South Carolina, the third and fourth states respectively on the 2020 presidential calendar.
© Copyright (c) 2019 News World Communications, Inc.
This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.