The impeachment inquiry into allegations President Donald Trump sought to pressure Ukraine was the first topic on the agenda Wednesday night as Democrats competing to be the party’s nominee in the 2020 election squared off in their latest debate in Atlanta.
Senator Bernie Sanders called Trump perhaps the most corrupt president in modern U.S. history, but cautioned against making opposition to Trump the sole focus in the push to defeat the president at the polls. He pointed to economic challenges faced by those who lack health insurance or housing and the “existential crisis” of climate change as he said the government can take on both of those and investigating Trump.
Senator Elizabeth Warren cited the earlier probe by special counsel Robert Mueller, who looked into Russian meddling in the presidential election in 2016 and whether Trump sought to obstruct the probe once he was in office. Warren said a lack of congressional action on that matter emboldened Trump in the current scandal, in which he is facing allegations he sought to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.
To date, Biden, Warren and Sanders have consistently stood out as a leading group in national polls in the Democratic race.
Recent polls of likely voters in the states of Iowa and New Hampshire also include in that pack South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
New Iowa leader
Buttigieg recently surged into the lead in the early voting state of Iowa, with 25 percent support, according to the latest CNN/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll.
Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada are the first states where voters will actually make official picks in the race, starting with the Iowa caucuses February 3 and the New Hampshire primary February 11.
Candidates still have about 11 weeks before voting begins to sway voters and make the case that they should be the one to oppose Trump.
Senator Corey Booker, Representative Tulsi Gabbard, Senator Kamala Harris, Senator Amy Klobuchar, billionaire Tom Steyer and entrepreneur Andrew Yang rounded out Wednesday’s debate field.
Those who qualified had to amass 165,000 donors and achieve at least 3% support in four national polls or 5% in polls in two early voting states.
The requirements are getting stricter as the process goes on, and the candidate field trimmed from 12 in the last debate in October after former Representative Beto O’Rourke dropped out of the race and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro failed to reach the support thresholds.
Candidates will need 200,000 supporters and either 4% in national polls or 6% in early state polls to make it into the next debate in December.
While the Democrats have seen several onetime candidates leave the race because of a lack of support or funding, others remain interested in taking a shot at the nomination. Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick announced last week he was joining the race, and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is reportedly giving serious consideration to a presidential run.