Warren leads US Democrats in spirited first 2020 debate

MIAMI (AFP) – Ten Democrats clashed on Wednesday in the first debate of the 2020 United States (US) presidential race, with Elizabeth Warren cementing her status as a top-tier candidate and several underdogs using the issue of immigration to clamour for the limelight.

The biggest American political debate since the 2016 presidential campaign is occurring over two nights in Miami, climaxing yesterday with former vice president Joe Biden squaring off against number two candidate Bernie Sanders and eight others.

Wednesday’s first take was a spirited encounter among ex-congressman Beto O’Rourke, Senator Cory Booker, former San Antonio mayor Julian Castro and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio on everything from health care and economic inequality to climate action, gun violence, Iran and immigration.

They hit out at President Donald Trump’s economic and immigration policies, but diverged on how zealously the next president should shift the country onto a more liberal course.

Despite heavy campaigning in early voting states, millions of Americans were tuning in to the 2020 race for the first time.

What they heard from the start was the progressive ideology of Warren, the night’s only candidate polling in double digits, and her knocking a rigged system.

“When you’ve got a government, when you have an economy that does great for those with money and is not doing great for everyone else, that is corruption, pure and simple,” she said. “We need to call it out.”

On such a crowded stage the hopefuls had limited time to impress, and of the low-polling candidates, Castro, De Blasio and Amy Klobuchar seemed to make the most of the opportunity.

Former Vice President Joe Biden greets supporters during the South Carolina Democratic Convention in Columbia. – AFP