Five candidates, one stage: Dems vying for 2020 nomination take part in series at St. Anselm College
Editor’s Notes: CNN officials denied The Telegraph access to the New Hampshire Institute of Politics to cover the Monday town hall-style events at Saint Anselm College. The report below is based on the CNN broadcast. Because of The Telegraph’s print deadline, reports for U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., are included here. The reports for U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg will be available later today at www.nashuatelegraph.com, as well as in the Wednesday print edition.
U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., two of the five Democratic candidates for president who participated in Monday’s series of town halls at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College, fielded questions ranging from
burgeoning student debt and climate change to health insurance and the Mueller report, occasionally drawing applause from a live audience of young Democratic voters who filled the 500 seats for some five hours.
The young voters, Klobuchar said, are members of “the most diverse, least racist generation in the country’s history … so you deserve much more than being saddled with heavy college loan debt,” the Minnesota senator said in response to a question by college student Max Weinberg, a New York resident.
Weinberg had actually asked Klobuchar about her stance of not supporting free college or student loan forgiveness, prompting the senator to point out her plan to allow those with high debt to refinance their loans at a low interest rate, “and bring back President Obama’s plan for free community college for (students seeking) two-year degrees.”
Klobuchar, like the other four candidates, occasionally sat in one of two chairs on the stage, but mostly roamed back and forth in front of the array of CNN cameras broadcasting live from the institute.
The other chair belonged to CNN anchors Chris Cuomo, Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon, who alternated as moderators for each of the segments.
Cuomo appeared with Klobuchar and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., while Cooper moderated for Warren and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg segments and Don Lemon appeared with U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.
Klobuchar’s answers drew applause on several occasions, one of which came when she voiced her “strong opposition” to U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s nomination to the post and her attempts to “defund special education” and “get rid of funding for Special Olympics.”
On the Green New Deal, Klobuchar said in response to a question by Harvard University senior Madeleine Woods that the nation “needs the goals” included in the plan. Citing examples of climate change, she said if elected president, “on day one I would get us back into the International Climate Change Agreement … and bring back clean power rules from the Obama administration.”
According to the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics, which co-hosted the event, millennials and Generation Z voters will make up more than one-third of the electorate by the time the November 2020 general election takes place.
The fairly unusual, one-candidate-at-a-time format stems from the Democratic National Committee policy prohibiting candidates from appearing onstage together until after the official debates begin this summer.
Sanders, who was third up, wasted no time getting into his “Medicare for all” health care plan.
“This is an issue millions of Americans stay up at night worrying about. We have a dysfunctional health care system … 30 percent (of Americans) have no coverage at all,” Sanders said, pacing and gesturing as he spoke.
“Let me be as clear as I can be. The function of the current health care system is not to keep people well. The function of this health care system is to make billions (of dollars) in profits for the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies,” Sanders told the audience.
He drew applause for reiterating what he said “I’ve believed all my life: That health care is a right, not a privilege.
“And in my opinion, the best way to go forward is Medicare for all.”
Warren, similarly animated as she fielded questions and made her points, began with one of her signature campaign issues: Attacking student debt, in part by imposing debt forgiveness.
“I say what we need to do as a country is to roll back that college debt,” Warren began. “Part one, we roll it back for 95 percent of students. Part two is we make sure we are never in this situation again.”
Making college affordable “so everyone has the opportunity” to attend, Warren said, leads to the question of how to pay for it.
“Two cents on every dollar,” she said, referring to her plan to levy a 2 percent tax on wealthy people worth more than $50 million, and a 3 percent tax on fortunes in excess of $1 billion.
Warren emphasized her plan “isn’t about trying to be nasty … “ or penalizing Americans who “either went out there and did a great job (to become wealthy), or you inherited your wealth … whichever it is,” she said, drawing applause and a few laughs.
Meghan McCormick, a graduate student at both Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), asked Warren about another of her top campaign issues.
“How is breaking up big tech good for me?” McCormick asked, prompting Warren to point to the benefits of competition, which, the senator said, would level the playing field and give consumers options.
On the topic of marijuana legalization, Warren responded to Harvard student Seth Filo’s question regarding her “current stance” on the issue, telling him she voted in favor of legalizing marijuana in Massachusetts.
“And I believe we should legalize it nationally,” Warren said, adding that “it makes no sense” that marijuana is classified as a controlled substance.
Applause again found Warren when, prompted by St. Anselm criminal justice major Jackson Dwyer’s question about Warren being “a critic of law enforcement,” she called police officer safety “a very serious issue,” and suggested one way to protect officers “is to get serious about gun safety in this country.
“We need to take weapons of war off our streets … we need to be willing to push back against the NRA (National Rifle Association),” Warren added.
She also stood by her recent statements calling for impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.
In wrapping up, Warren appeared to delight in sharing a story prompted by a question asked by Harvard student Ellie Taylor: “What lessons do you think you learned from” her 2012 campaign.
Warren said she “jumped into the race” for Massachusetts senator after numerous people urged her to run against former then-U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass.
As she campaigned, Warren said, she made it a point to greet young girls she encountered.
Dropping to one knee, Warren said she told the girls “Hi, my name is Elizabeth, and I’m running for senator – because that’s what little girls do.”