2020 Democrats spar over socialism ahead of first debate

2020 Democrats spar over socialism ahead of first debate
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MIAMI — Democratic presidential candidates on Wednesday battled over socialism ahead of the first presidential debate, the latest sign that contenders are grappling over the future direction of the party and the message they believe is best suited to defeat President TrumpDonald John TrumpPompeo changes staff for Russia meeting after concerns raised about top negotiator's ties: report House unravels with rise of 'Les Enfants Terrible' Ben Carson: Trump is not a racist and his comments were not racist MORE in the general election.

Former Colorado Gov. John HickenlooperJohn Wright HickenlooperThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump digs in ahead of House vote to condemn tweet Fundraising numbers highlight growing divide in 2020 race 2020 Democrats call Trump's tweets about female Democrats racist MORE (D) walked through the spin room at the Ziff Ballet Opera House, telling reporters that embracing socialism is a surefire general election loser for Democrats.

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“That’s a tough hill to climb in Ohio, in Michigan, in North Carolina, in Pennsylvania, in Wisconsin,” Hickenlooper said. “These are states where they care about jobs and are very cautious about this thing called socialism. They get anxious about that.”

Hickenlooper was asked directly if socialism is a winning strategy for the party.

“No,” he responded. “The word socialism by itself has a lot of baggage in this country and especially in swing states ... it’s not a winning solution and I continue to say you don’t need massive government expansion to change this country.”

 

As Hickenlooper addressed reporters from the floor of the elegant opera house in downtown Miami, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders to call on 2020 Democrats to reject money from drug, health insurance industries The hidden connection between immigration and health care: Our long-term care crisis Harris tops Biden in California 2020 poll MORE (I-Vt.), a self-described democratic socialist, was in the adjacent room giving an interview to MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt.

Sanders gave an impassioned defense of democratic socialism, telling Hunt that he’ll explain to voters why it shouldn’t be viewed as outside the mainstream. 

“I’ll take care of the label, first by telling the American people what I believe,” Sanders said.

“To me, what democratic socialism is about, is saying health care is a human right. If you work 40 hours a week you should earn a living wage. Education is a human right, and by the way, we’re going to have a tax system that is fair ... we are going to ask the wealthiest and large corporations to pay their fair share and start paying taxes.” 

Sanders this week unveiled a plan to pay off $1.6 trillion in student loan debt.

Progressives have also embraced “Medicare for All” and the Green New Deal, which critics such as Hickenlooper have described as “massive government expansions.”

Hickenlooper and Sanders will share the debate stage on Thursday night, the second night of debates. 

Hickenlooper and two other low-polling candidates, Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump digs in ahead of House vote to condemn tweet The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Fundraising numbers highlight growing divide in 2020 race MORE (Colo.) and former Rep. John DelaneyJohn Kevin DelaneyBiden proposes tax increases for wealthy as part of health care plan The Young Turks' Cenk Uygur: Here's how to choose a president 2020 Democrats push tax hike on wealthy investors MORE (Md.), have warned the party against embracing Medicare for All and other so-called socialist policies.