LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Democratic Party’s leading presidential contenders argued on Thursday in favor of President Donald Trump’s impeachment as a shrinking field of White House contenders took the debate stage for a sixth and final time in 2019.
The debate was set in the heart of the holiday season just a day after the House’s historic vote to impeach Trump, raising the prospect that it may draw the smallest audience yet. But the stakes were not small in the broader tug-of-war between passionate progressives and pragmatic moderates who are battling over the party’s positions on core issues like health care, immigration, education and trade.
Several candidates called for Trump’s impeachment in the opening moments of Thursday’s debate.
“The president is not king in America,” Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar said.
Former Vice President Joe Biden knocked Trump’s argument that less than half of Americans support his removal from office.
“He’s dumbing down the presidency beyond what I even thought he would do,” Biden charged. “We need to restore the integrity of the presidency.”
Seven candidates shared the stage, but Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg enter the night at the center of the high-stakes clash.
Warren, a 70-year-old Massachusetts senator, has fought for transformative policies to limit corporate influence on the nation’s political and economic systems for more than a decade. Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has emerged as a strong, if surprising, face of the party’s more centrist wing as he navigates his connections to corporate America, both in his work history and as a presidential fundraiser.
While Warren and Buttigieg will be among Thursday’s stars, the diversity — or lack thereof — onstage will also play prominently. The Democratic field is marked by wide differences in age, geography and wealth, but Thursday’s group won’t feature a black or Latino candidate for the first time this year. Entrepreneur Andrew Yang, who is Asian American, will be on stage.
The state of play on the ground in California has largely mirrored national trends, with former Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Warren clustered at the top of the field, followed by Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Yang and billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer.a
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