Bernie Sanders’ campaign said Wednesday that the Democratic presidential candidate had a heart procedure for a blocked artery and was canceling events and appearances “until further notice.”
The 78-year-old Sanders experienced chest discomfort during an event Tuesday and sought medical evaluation, according to a campaign statement. It said two stents were “successfully inserted” and that Sanders “is conversing and in good spirits.”
Sanders’ wife, Jane O’Meara Sanders, was en route to Las Vegas on Wednesday and said in an email to The Associated Press that her husband was “doing really well.”
The Democratic field’s oldest candidate, Sanders sometimes jokingly refers to his age at town halls and other events, especially when interacting with younger participants. His aides have tried to project him as a candidate with energy levels that surpassed his 2016 presidential campaign.
He is one of three candidates over age 70 in the Democratic primary, which has spurred debate over whether the party should rally behind a new generation of political leaders, and President Donald Trump is 73. Sanders’ health issue is certain to revive that discussion in the weeks before the next presidential debate this month.
Sanders’ campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, was on a telephone call with supporters Tuesday night but didn’t mention any health concerns about the candidate. Shakir said the “state of the campaign is strong” and he played up Sanders’ strong fundraising total for the third quarter. The Vermont Senator’s campaign raised $25 million, the highest among the candidates who have reported so far, and scheduled its first television ads in Iowa. On Wednesday, it suspended those spots, too.
Sanders had been among 10 Democratic candidates scheduled to appear later Wednesday at a forum on gun control in Las Vegas. He recently canceled some appearances in South Carolina because he lost his voice. The campaign said at the time he felt fine.
During the first debate in June, Sanders heatedly defended his 76-year-old rival, Joe Biden, after California Rep. Eric Swalwell, 38, said it was time to step aside for a new generation. Sanders told reporters later the question smacked of “ageism.”
“The issue is, who has the guts to take on Wall Street, to take on the fossil fuel industry, to take on the big money interests who have unbelievable influence over the economic and political life of this country?” Sanders said on the stage that night.
The hospitalization also comes as Sanders’ campaign has been trying to turn a corner after a summer that saw him eclipsed as the premier liberal in the field by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 70. Sander has dropped well behind Warren and Biden in most polls and recently reshuffled his staffing in early states to become more competitive.
“Given his recent stalls in the polls, the timing is pretty bad here,” Democratic strategist Jim Manley said of Sanders’ heart procedure.
Sanders’ rivals were quick to wish him well. “We want to send our best wishes for a quick recovery to @BernieSanders today,” tweeted Julian Castro, an Obama administration housing chief. Added Sen. Kamala Harris of California: “If there’s one thing I know about him, he’s a fighter and I look forward to seeing him on the campaign trail soon.”
Sanders’ 2016 campaign nearly overtook Hillary Clinton for the party’s nomination. He is a top contender in the 2020 primary, and announced Tuesday that he raised more than $25 million over the past three months. But he is facing stiff competition from former Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who have overtaken him in many polls.
Sanders is not the first candidate to face health issues in recent years while seeking the presidency. Clinton had to take time off from campaigning in 2016 after being treated for pneumonia.
In 2000, former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley, the leading Democratic challenger to then-Vice President Al Gore, had to cut short a campaign swing for treatment of an atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat that is treatable but potentially serious. Bradley later resumed his campaign.
In Sanders’ case, when doctors insert a stent, they first thread a tiny balloon inside a blocked artery to widen it. The stent is a small wire mesh tube that then is propped inside to keep the artery open. The number of stents needed depends on the size of the clog.
The treatment can immediately improve symptoms such as chest pain or shortness of breath. The stents are threaded into place through blood vessels in the groin or wrist, requiring only a tiny incision. Most are coated with medication to prevent the targeted artery from reclosing. That is still a risk, requiring monitoring, and patients also often are prescribed blood thinners to prevent clots from forming in the stents.
A letter released by Sanders’ physician in 2016 cited a history of mildly elevated cholesterol but no heart disease.
Zeke Miller and Will Weissert in Washington, DC and Wilson Ring in Burlington, Vermont contributed to this report.
Kamala Harris will “exponentially” increase the time she’s spending in Iowa. Bernie Sanders is shaking up his operations there and in New Hampshire. And Beto O’Rourke is going broader, turning up at such places as a San Quentin prison and an Arkansas gun show.
With just over four months until the Iowa caucuses usher in the battle for the Democratic nomination, candidates are shifting their approaches to the state. Some are betting the changes will pay off closer to the caucuses. Others are lowering expectations by looking beyond Iowa.
All are confronting the reality that the heady early days of their campaigns will soon collide with actual voting that could quickly force them out of the race.
“This is the place where you would see larger-scale course corrections,” said Democratic strategist Karen Finney. “Over the summer, there’s tinkering here or there, but with voting starting in four months, you have to be thinking about where you want to be by that point.”
Harris was the latest candidate to pivot after a challenging summer in which she’s struggled to catch up to early front-runner Joe Biden or capture the same energy as Elizabeth Warren. Juan Rodriguez, Harris’ campaign manager, told reporters Thursday that the California senator is going big in Iowa, dedicating 60 paid staffers to the state.
“We want to make sure we have a strong, top-three finish,” Rodriguez said, arguing that the Feb. 3 caucuses could “slingshot” Harris into the contests that quickly follow in New Hampshire, South Carolina and the Super Tuesday states, including California.
As Harris and virtually every other Democratic contender descend on Iowa this weekend for the annual steak fry fundraiser, they’re well aware of what’s on the line. Iowa has repeatedly proved decisive in winnowing the presidential field — or providing a path to victory.
John Kerry, once the 2004 campaign’s early front-runner, was lagging behind upstart Howard Dean in the fall of 2003, only to shake up his campaign in October, reinvest heavily in Iowa and race to victory in the closing weeks. Likewise, Barack Obama’s late 2007 surge past better-known names including Hillary Clinton capped a once-unlikely win in Iowa that set him on the road to the nomination and presidency.
Joe Trippi, who ran Dean’s campaign, said no one should be counted out despite polls that show a largely static top tier of candidates including Biden, Sanders and Warren.
“Iowa moves frickin’ fast and hard at the end, and it’s not necessarily who you’d expect that comes out on top,” he said. “You can go the whole way thinking Howard Dean has it locked up, and you find out the hard way that’s not how it works.”
With that in mind, many candidates are building sizable operations in Iowa. Biden will soon have 110 staffers in the state, including more than 80 in the field. Sanders has 72 staffers on the ground, and Warren has more than 65 staffers in the state.
Harris’ decision to add roughly 60 staffers in Iowa and spend more time on the ground there is a significant shift from the campaign she ran this summer. Until she arrived on Thursday, she was absent from Iowa for more than a month. Her campaign says she’ll be there every week starting in October.
Speaking to reporters after a campaign stop in Coralville, Harris said she’d be spending as much time in Iowa as possible in the coming months and joked that she “got very little sleep last night trying to figure out where my sweaters and my boots are.” But she called the decision to refocus her time on Iowa a “tradeoff” that was “frustrating” for her to make.
“The realities of the campaign, I cannot only be in Iowa because South Carolina is also a state that is very important, that I care about,” Harris said.
Matt Paul, who ran Clinton’s Iowa campaign in 2016, said Harris’ team caught the issue early enough.
“Give her credit,” he said. “She had a problem here, she hadn’t been here in a while, she listened, she corrected it, and she’s coming here.”
But Harris’ vulnerabilities aren’t limited to Iowa. With much of her summer spent on fundraising, she had a similarly light footprint in other early voting states.
She campaigned in New Hampshire once in the last two months. She also hasn’t been in South Carolina, where she’s counting on a strong showing among black voters, in two months but plans to double her organizing staff.
Other candidates are also planning a fall surge in Iowa. Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has rapidly expanded his paid staffers in the state, bringing his total to 100, one of the field’s most expansive Iowa footprints.
His campaign is convening more than two dozen donors in Iowa this weekend to discuss strategy, according to an aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the plans.
Buttigieg plans to crisscross the state by bus this weekend, with visits to smaller cities in central and northern Iowa. He’s inviting the media to join him on the bus to engage more casually than he has in the past.
Sanders, meanwhile, recently severed ties with his Iowa political director, one of a series of staff shake-ups in key early voting states. The campaign also replaced Sanders’ New Hampshire state director.
Amy Klobuchar, who has focused heavily on Iowa since joining the race, is zeroing in this week on a “blue wall” tour of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, states that supported Democrats for decades before flipping to President Donald Trump in 2016.
The Minnesota senator is stressing the similarities between her home state and the blue wall states, and her ability to win over voters in areas that backed Trump — an argument, she says, for why she would be the best Democratic nominee.
O’Rourke is also taking a wider view of the map. Since suspending his campaign for nearly two weeks to remain in his hometown of El Paso, Texas, after a mass shooting there that killed 22 people, he’s vowed to take the quest to deny Trump a second term directly to the president.
He’s still visiting early voting states but is traveling to unusual places like the Mississippi towns where recent immigration raids led to nearly 700 people arrested and an Arkansas gun show.
The idea is to distinguish O’Rourke in a crowded field. But Trippi said the strategy could prove fatal.
“It’s Iowa or nothing,” he said. “Touring every state but the early states is a big mistake.”
Summers reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Tom Beaumont in Des Moines, Iowa, Sara Burnett in Chicago and Will Weissert in Boston contributed to this report.
Joe Biden parried attack after attack from liberal rivals Thursday night on everything from health care to immigration in a debate that showcased profound ideological divides between the Democratic Party’s moderate and progressive wings.
The prime-time debate also elevated several struggling candidates, giving them a chance to introduce themselves to millions of Americans who are just beginning to follow the race.
Biden dominated significant parts of the evening, responding strongly when the liberal senators who are his closet rivals — Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — assailed him and his policies.
Unlike prior debates, where Biden struggled for words and seemed surprised by criticism from fellow Democrats, he largely delivered crisp, aggressive responses. He called Sanders “a socialist,” a label that could remind voters of the senator’s embrace of democratic socialism. And Biden slapped at Elizabeth Warren’s proposed wealth tax.
A two-term vice president under Barack Obama, Biden unequivocally defended his former boss, who came under criticism from some candidates for deporting immigrants and not going far enough on health care reform.
“I stand with Barack Obama all eight years, good bad and indifferent,” Biden declared.
His vulnerabilities surfaced, however, in the final minutes of the debate, when he was pressed on a decades-old statement regarding school integration. Biden rambled in talking about his support of teachers, the lack of resources for educators and at one point seemed to encourage parents to play records for their children to expand their vocabulary before segueing into talk of Latin America.
“That’s quite a lot,” quipped Julian Castro, the former Housing secretary who was Biden’s frequent foe during the debate.
The candidates debated with polls showing a strong majority of voters believe the country is headed in the wrong direction under the first-term Republican president’s leadership. But nine months into their nomination fight, divided Democrats have yet to answer fundamental questions about who or what the party stands for beyond simply opposing President Donald Trump.
The party’s 2020 class, once featuring two dozen candidates, has essentially been cut in half by party rules requiring higher polling and fundraising standards. Just 10 candidates qualified for Thursday’s affair, though more than that have qualified for next month’s round.
Those in the second tier, after Biden, Warren and Sanders, are under increasing pressure to break out of the pack. They all assailed Trump.
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker called Trump a racist. Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke called him a white supremacist. And Kamala Harris, a California senator, said Trump’s hateful social media messages provided “the ammunition” for recent mass shootings.
“President Trump, you have spent the last two-and-a-half years full time trying to sow hate and vision among us, and that’s why we’ve gotten nothing done,” Harris charged.
In addition to Trump, Biden’s rivals also turned against Obama’s legacy at times as they sought to undermine the former vice president’s experience.
Sanders insisted that Biden bears responsibility for millions of Americans going bankrupt under the “Obamacare” health care system. Castro raised questions about the Obama-Biden record on immigration, particularly the number of deportations that took place.
Castro, a 44-year-old Texan, appeared to touch on concerns about Biden’s age when he accused the former vice president of forgetting a detail about his own health care plan. At 76, Biden would be the oldest president ever elected to a first term.
“Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?” an incredulous Castro asked, challenging Biden on health care. “I can’t believe that you said two minutes ago that you have to buy in and now you’re forgetting that.”
He added: “I’m fulfilling the legacy of Barack Obama and you’re not.”
The ABC News debate was the first limited to one night after several candidates dropped out and others failed to meet new qualification standards. A handful more candidates qualified for next month’s debate, which will again be divided over two nights.
As well as policy differences, the Democratic debates have been shaped by broader questions about diversity.
In a nod to the diverse coalition they need to defeat Trump, the Democrats held this debate on the campus of historically black Texas Southern University. It unfolded in a rapidly changing state that Democrats hope to eventually bring into their column.
The party cheered when America elected the most diverse congressional class in history in last fall’s midterm voting. But some Democrats still fear that anyone other than a white man may struggle in a head-to-head matchup against Trump.
Biden was one of four white men onstage.
Along with health care, gun violence emerged as a flashpoint Thursday night in a state shaken by a mass shooting last month that left 22 people dead and two dozen more wounded.
O’Rourke noted that there weren’t enough ambulances at times to take all the wounded to the hospital.
“Hell yes, we’re gonna take your AR-15, your AK-47,” he said as the crowd cheered.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar noted that all the candidates on stage favor a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. She favors a voluntary buy-back program on assault weapons, however.
The national economy got surprisingly little attention, though several of the candidates criticized Trump on foreign trade and his trade war with China.
South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg said Trump had said scornfully of his candidacy “he’d like to see me making a deal with Xi Jinping,” the Chinese president.
“I’d like to see HIM making a deal with Xi Jinping.”
Trump was silent on social media during the event. But Kayleigh McEnany, his campaign’s national press secretary, said in a statement: “Thank you to ABC and the Democrat Party for another infomercial for President Trump!”
Earlier in the day, Trump said he’d likely have to watch a re-run because of travel conflict. He predicted the Democratic nominee would ultimately be Biden, Warren or Sanders.
Peoples reported from Washington. AP writer Colleen Long contributed to this report.
Science says age is only a number, not a proxy for physical and mental fitness. But with three Democrats in their 70s vying to challenge the oldest first-term president in American history, age’s importance will be tested as never before.
Only a few years separate President Donald Trump, 73, from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, 77, and former Vice President Joe Biden, 76. But as Trump mocks Biden for verbal missteps, suggesting age has slowed his Democratic rival, both Sanders and Biden have conspicuously showcased their physical activity during the campaign.
Cameras have captured a third top Democratic contender, 70-year-old Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, taking high-energy jogs around rallies where she stays hours afterward to snap photos with supporters.
While the risks of disease and death rise substantially in the 70s and beyond, many specialists caution that the age on your driver’s license means far less than how healthy you are and how well you function — what’s sometimes called your “biologic age.”
“I’m not going to sugarcoat aging,” said well-known aging researcher S. Jay Olshansky of the University of Illinois at Chicago. But, he added, “how many times they’ve traveled around the sun should not be a litmus test for the presidency.”
Still, it’s not straightforward to figure out just how fit these septuagenarians — or any candidates — really are. No law requires them to disclose their medical records. A doctor’s note or some test results may reveal snippets. Those shed little light on one of the biggest questions about aging leaders: How likely is their memory or overall mental acuity to decline?
After all, many neuroscientists question if President Ronald Reagan, 73 when re-elected, showed signs of cognitive trouble during his second term. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s years after leaving office.
Checkups do offer a clue.
“A healthier heart, for example, is going to translate to a healthier brain,” said Dr. Anne Newman, who directs the University of Pittsburgh Center for Aging and Population Health.
Likewise some habits are critical: a good diet, exercise and enough sleep. Trump, a fast-food fan and late-night tweeter who doesn’t exercise regularly, has scoffed at that advice. Still, his doctor earlier this year said he’s overall in good health despite needing to lose weight and stick with cholesterol-lowering medicine.
But there’s no easy predictor.
“You can have a group of people who at age 80 are still going to work every day, doing all the stuff they need to do,” Newman said. “We’re not very good at understanding who’s going to be able to tolerate the stress in emergency situations,” like the 3 a.m. crises presidents so often must navigate.
Some experts have called for independent health exams for presidents and candidates of all ages, much like the fit-for-flight physicals that pilots undergo. To Newman, the grueling endurance contest that is a U.S. presidential campaign is a pretty good substitute.
“For most people who go through that kind of a rigorous schedule, chances are they’re going to be healthy for at least five if not 10 years,” she said.
That hasn’t stopped age, and a call for generational change, from affecting past elections.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., faced questions about his fitness when seeking the presidency in 2008 at age 71 against then-Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., nearly 25 years his junior. During his 1984 re-election bid, Reagan famously promised not to take advantage of 56-year-old Democratic foe Walter Mondale’s “youth and inexperience.”
Today’s candidates likewise don’t think they’re too old.
Sanders told The Associated Press that voters “must and will judge candidates in terms of the totality of their being,” including their experience and records as well as their ages.
“I am very happy — well, I am lucky, I suppose — to tell you that I am in good health and have a great deal of endurance, and I would not have run for this job as president of the United States unless I thought I was absolutely, 100% physically able to do it,” he said in an interview during a recent campaign swing through South Carolina.
Two days later, Sanders was in Iowa tossing some pitches in a campaign-sponsored softball game and taking his turn at bat. Warren spent the week hopscotching from South Carolina to Iowa to Minnesota to California, an itinerary that might weary someone half her age, while Biden went from Massachusetts to Iowa.
Biden had a brush with death in 1988, requiring surgery to repair two brain aneurysms — weak bulges in arteries, one of them leaking. Medical records released in 2008 during Biden’s vice presidential campaign showed he’d made a full recovery with no trouble since.
Dr. Kevin O’Connor, who has treated Biden since he served as vice president, said in a statement provided by the campaign that Biden is “in excellent physical condition” and “more than capable of handling the rigors of the campaign.”
The stress of the Oval Office doesn’t shorten presidents’ lives, Olshansky reported in a 2011 study . Curious at the attention paid to Obama’s graying hair, Olshansky found that 23 of 34 presidents who had died of natural causes lived beyond the average life expectancy of men the same age when they were inaugurated.
What about the 2020 candidates? Olshansky used life insurance statistics to calculate average life expectancies of U.S. citizens of the same gender and age at inauguration as each candidate.
Not surprisingly, 37-year-old Pete Buttigieg, the youngest of the candidate crop, should have the most years ahead of him.
But by Olshansky’s calculations, the 70-somethings also would have great odds of surviving in office. Based on the average for their age, that’s a 76.8% chance for Sanders; 79.2% for Biden; 84.8% for Trump and, reflecting that women tend to outlive men, a 91.8% chance for Warren.
And the candidates’ survival odds likely are even higher, Olshansky said, because people who are wealthy, well-educated and have good health care tend to live longer than average. (In addition to the campaign’s four higher-polling senior citizens, the president’s longshot GOP primary challenger Bill Weld is 74.)
Of course, that’s assuming no candidate has a worrisome illness that hasn’t come to light. Presidents of all ages have proved pretty adept at hiding frailty. Woodrow Wilson had a secret stroke. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s doctors concealed his heart disease and shockingly high blood pressure. Only years after his assassination did the public learn how the seemingly vibrant John F. Kennedy struggled with chronic pain and a list of health problems.
When it comes to brain health, even normal aging can bring a slowing of certain functions such as retrieving memories. Trump has targeted Biden’s career-long penchant for verbal gaffes, such as when Biden recently compared “poor kids” with “white kids.” Trump later questioned whether Biden is “mentally fit to be president,” an ironic dig given the president’s own slips and lack of verbal finesse.
Stumbling in speeches, especially given how politicians’ every word is scrutinized, isn’t surprising, Olshansky said: “Mistakes happen whether you’re 35 or 75.”
It’s true that advancing age is a risk for Alzheimer’s, which affects about 3% of people ages 65 to 74 and 17% of those 75 to 84. But Olshansky is watching for a president’s ability to think and reason clearly and focus on the big picture, something that can improve with age-infused experience.
Trump did request a memory test at his first White House physical, and his doctor said he aced it. But Newman cautioned that “anybody running for president is not going to do badly” on that simple test. It takes specialists hours to perform the more complex testing required to detect subtle problems, tests that must be repeated to spot any decline.
It’s not clear how much health information candidates of any age will release this time around.
But doctor reports and medical records are a snapshot, not a crystal ball.
McCain released more than a thousand pages in 2008, seeking to ease concern about previous bouts of melanoma. He died a year ago of a brain tumor those records couldn’t predict, although Olshansky notes that McCain would have survived two terms had he been elected. Back in 1992, Paul Tsongas unsuccessfully campaigned for the Democratic nomination as a cancer survivor, with some doctors vouching that he was cured, only to have his lymphoma return shortly after the election.
And Bill Clinton appeared fairly robust as president yet needed open-heart surgery at age 58 after leaving office, admitting he’d quit taking his cholesterol medication.
A June poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research suggests age is a factor for some voters. About one-third of Democratic voters said they would be more excited to vote for a candidate if that person is younger, and about one-quarter would be less excited to vote for one who is older.
One of those voters, retiree Ken Carpenter, bikes 10 miles most days to maintain his health. But the 77-year-old Carpenter said in a recent interview that he’s ruled out his contemporaries in the Democratic primary, deeming Biden and Sanders simply too old to handle the demands of the presidency.
“I know that eventually the aging process, something kicks in and you start losing it,” Carpenter said on the sidelines of the Iowa State Fair. “That could happen to Joe in six months. Or to Bernie.”
Biden himself gave a one-word response in Iowa when asked by a reporter if he would consider making a pledge to serve just one term if it alleviated concerns about his age: “No.”
Associated Press writers Meg Kinnard in Columbia, South Carolina, Steven Sloan in Des Moines, Iowa, Julie Pace in Prole, Iowa, and AP Polling Editor Emily Swanson in Washington contributed to this report.
Democratic presidential candidates sought to lay blame Sunday on President Donald Trump following a pair of mass shootings in Ohio and Texas, saying his language against minorities promotes racial division and violence.
At public events and on television, several candidates pointed to a need for more gun restrictions, such as universal background checks. But they directed much of their criticism at Trump, seeking to draw a link between the shootings in Dayton and El Paso that have left more than two dozen dead and months of presidential rhetoric against immigrants and people of color.
“There is complicity in the president’s hatred that undermines the goodness and the decency of Americans regardless of what party,” New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker said. “To say nothing in a time of rising hatred, it’s not enough to say that ‘I’m not a hate monger myself.’ If you are not actively working against hate, calling it out, you are complicit in what is going on.”
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg said confronting white nationalist terrorism would be embarrassing for a president who “helped stoke many of these feelings in this country to begin with.”
“At best, he’s condoning and encouraging white nationalism,” Buttigieg said.
Sen. Kamala Harris of California also found blame in Trump’s use of language, which she said has “incredible consequence.”
“We have a president of the United States who has chosen to use his words in a way that have been about selling hate and division among us,” she told reporters before attending services at a black church in Las Vegas.
Sen. Bernie Sanders opened a town hall meeting with a moment of silence and by calling for universal background checks for firearms purchases and more restrictions on assault weapons.
“Assault weapons are designed for one reason. They are military weapons. And I don’t have to explain that to the people in Las Vegas who experienced the worst gun tragedy in the history of this country,” Sanders said. He urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to call senators back to Washington, saying the Senate should “have a special session to address gun violence in America and let us finally have the courage to take on the NRA.”
He also called out the president.
“I say to President Trump, please stop the racist anti-immigrant rhetoric,” he said. “Stop the hatred in this country which is creating the kind of violence that we see.”
The call for McConnell to bring senators back to deal with gun violence was echoed by other candidates, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
“We should vote within 48 hours on the two background check bills that have already passed the House,” Warren said. “It’s not everything we need to do on gun safety, but we could take important steps, and we could demonstrate to the American people that the gun manufacturers are not the ones who are calling the shots in Washington.”
The candidates and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer calling for the Senate to come back may not get their wish. McConnell fell and fractured his shoulder Sunday at home in Kentucky.
On Sunday, Trump tweeted praise of law enforcement and said that “information is rapidly being accumulated in Dayton” and that “much has already be learned in El Paso.”
“Hate has no place in our country, and we’re going to take care of it,” Trump declared before boarding Air Force One for the flight back to Washington from New Jersey, where he spent the weekend. While connecting “hate” and mental illness to the shootings, Trump made no direct mention of gun laws, a factor brought up by Democratic officials and those seeking their party’s nomination to challenge Trump’s reelection next year.
He tried to assure Americans he was dealing with the problem and defended his administration in light of criticism following the latest in a string of mass shootings. “We have done much more than most administrations,” he said, without elaboration. “We have done actually a lot. But perhaps more needs to be done.”
In El Paso, authorities were investigating whether the attack was a hate crime after the emergence of a racist, anti-immigrant screed that was posted online shortly beforehand. Detectives sought to determine if it was written by the man who was arrested. The border city has figured prominently in the immigration debate and is home to 680,000 people, most of them Latino.
In Dayton, the suspected shooter was shot to death by responding officers. Authorities said the shooter was carrying a .223-caliber rifle and had additional high-capacity magazines. No motive has been given for the attacks.
Former Texas congressman and El Paso native Beto O’Rourke said that Trump is a white nationalist. O’Rourke said El Paso “will overcome this,” as he called for universal background checks, ending the sale of weapons of war into communities and red flag laws.
“We’ve got to acknowledge the hatred, the open racism that we’re seeing,” O’Rourke said. “There’s an environment of it in the United States. We see it on Fox News, we see it on the internet. But we also see it from our commander in chief and he is encouraging this. He doesn’t just tolerate it, he encourages it.”
Julian Castro, who previously served as San Antonio mayor and U.S. housing secretary, described “a very toxic brew of white nationalism,” and called on Trump to “to try and unite Americans instead of fanning the flames of bigotry.” He pointed as well to the high rates of gun ownership in Texas, saying “the answer is not more people with guns.”
O’Rourke and Buttigieg appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union,” and Booker and Castro were on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Warren spoke on MSNBC.
The signature domestic proposal by the leading progressive candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination came under withering attack from moderates in a debate that laid bare the struggle between a call for revolutionary policies and a desperate desire to defeat President Donald Trump.
Standing side by side at center stage on Tuesday, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren slapped back against their more cautious rivals who ridiculed “Medicare for All” and warned that “wish-list economics” would jeopardize Democrats’ chances for taking the White House in 2020.
“I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for,” said Warren, a Massachusetts senator, decrying Democratic “spinelessness.”
Sanders, a Vermont senator, agreed: “I get a little bit tired of Democrats afraid of big ideas.”
A full six months before the first votes are cast, the tug-of-war over the future of the party pits pragmatism against ideological purity as voters navigate a crowded Democratic field divided by age, race, sex and ideology. The fight with the political left was the dominant subplot on the first night of the second round of Democratic debates, which was notable as much for its tension as its substance.
Twenty candidates are spread evenly over two nights of debates Tuesday and Wednesday. The second night features early front-runner Joe Biden, the former vice president, as well as Kamala Harris, a California senator.
While much of the debate was dominated by attacks on the preferred liberal health care policy, the issue of race emerged in the second hour. The candidates, all of whom are white, were unified in turning their anger toward Trump for using race as a central theme in his reelection campaign. Sanders called Trump a racist, while others said the president’s rhetoric revived memories of the worst in the country’s history, including slavery.
“The legacy of slavery and segregation and Jim Crow and suppression is alive and well in every aspect of the economy and the country today,” said former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, adding that he supported the creation of a panel to examine reparations for the descendants of slaves.
The marathon presidential primary season won’t formally end for another year, but there was an increasing sense of urgency for many candidates who are fighting for survival. More than a dozen could be blocked from the next round of debates — and effectively pushed out of the race — if they fail to reach new polling and fundraising thresholds implemented by the Democratic National Committee.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who is working to keep her campaign alive, aligned herself with the pragmatic wing: “We are more worried about winning an argument than winning an election.”
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, in his first debate appearance, took a swipe at Sanders: Working people “can’t wait for a revolution,” he charged. “Their problems are here and now.”
While he avoided any direct confrontations with his more liberal rivals, Pete Buttigieg tried several times to present himself as the more sober alternative in the race. He rejected extreme positions, quoted scripture and abstained from calling out his opponents.
The 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, also subtly emphasized the generational difference between himself and Sanders, the candidate 40 years his senior standing to his side.
Perhaps no issue illustrates the evolving divide within the Democratic Party more than health care.
Sanders’ plan to provide free universal health care, known as Medicare for All, has become a litmus test for liberal candidates, who have embraced the plan to transform the current system despite the political and practical risks. Medicare for All would abandon the private insurance market in favor of a taxpayer-funded system that would cover all Americans.
In targeting Medicare for All, the more moderate candidates consistently sought to undermine Sanders and Warren. The moderates variously derided Medicare for All as too costly, ineffective and a near-certain way to give Republicans the evidence they needed that Democrats supported socialism.
“They’re running on telling half the country that their health care is illegal,” said former Maryland Rep. John Delaney.
“We have a choice: We can go down the road that Sen. Sanders and Sen. Warren want to take us, which is with bad policies like Medicare for All, free everything and impossible promises,” he continued. “It will turn off independent voters and get Trump reelected.”
Yet Sanders and Warren did not back down. While they are competing for the same set of liberal voters, there seemed to be no daylight between them.
“Health care is a human right, not a privilege. I believe that. I will fight for that,” Sanders said.
Buttigieg called on his party to stop the infighting.
“It is time to stop worrying about what the Republicans will say,” Buttigieg declared. “It’s true that if we embrace a far-left agenda, they’re going to say we’re a bunch of crazy socialists. If we embrace a conservative agenda, you know what they’re going to do? They’re going to say we’re a bunch of crazy socialists. So let’s just stand up for the right policy, go out there and defend it.”
A new set of candidates, none with more to lose than Biden, will face off on Wednesday.
There, Biden will fight to prove that his underwhelming performance during last month’s opening debate was little more than an aberration.
It won’t be easy.
The 76-year-old Democrat is expected to face new questions regarding his past policies and statements about women and minorities — both key constituencies he needs to claim the Democratic Party’s nomination and ultimately defeat Trump.
Meanwhile, Trump said earlier in the day that he would watch Tuesday’s prime-time affair from the White House. But his Twitter feed was uncharacteristically silent throughout the debate.
Peoples reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Colleen Long in Washington contributed to this report.
Democratic divisions over race, age and ideology burst into public view in Thursday night’s presidential debate, punctuated by a heated exchange between former Vice President Joe Biden and California Sen. Kamala Harris.
It was one of several moments that left the 76-year-old Biden, who entered the night as his party’s early front-runner , on the defensive as he works to convince voters he’s still in touch with the modern Democratic Party and best-positioned to deny President Donald Trump a second term.
“I do not believe you are a racist,” Harris said to Biden before criticizing his record of working with Democratic segregationist senators on non-race issues as “hurtful.”
Biden called Harris’ criticism “a complete mischaracterization of my record.” He declared, “I ran because of civil rights” and later accused the Trump administration of embracing racism.
The night marked an abrupt turning point in a Democratic primary in which candidates have largely tiptoed around each other, focusing instead on their shared desire to beat Trump. With millions of Americans peeking inside the Democrats’ unruly 2020 season for the first time, the showdown revealed deep rifts eight months before primary voting begins.
The showdown featured four of the five strongest candidates — according to early polls, at least. Those are Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, and Harris. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who debated Wednesday night, is the fifth.
There are so many candidates lining up to take on Trump that they do not all fit on one debate stage — or even two. Twenty Democrats debated on national television this week in two waves of 10, while a handful more were left out altogether.
Trump, who was attending the Group of 20 summit in Japan, still found time to weigh in on the debate and jab his rivals, claiming it didn’t go well for Biden or Sanders. Trump tweeted Friday that he heard it was “not a good day” for them.
The level of diversity on display on the debate stage was unprecedented for a major political party in the United States. The field features six women, two African Americans, one Asian American and two men under 40, one of them gay.
Harris is the only African American woman to qualify for the presidential debate stage and showed she could land a forceful attack on rivals.
Any of the three women featured Thursday night would be the first ever elected president. Yet in the early days of the campaign, two white septuagenarians are leading the polls: Biden and Sanders.
Buttigieg, a 37-year-old gay former military officer, is four decades younger than Sanders and Biden and has framed his candidacy as a call for generational change in his party.
He displayed a fluency on a range of policy issues and hit hard on efforts by Republican Trump to stifle the flow of illegal immigration at the Mexican border.
“For a party that associates itself with Christianity to say it is OK to suggest that God would smile on the division of families at the hands of federal agents, that God would condone putting children in cages,” that party “has lost all claim to ever use religious language,” he said.
The party’s broader fight over ideology took a back seat at times to its racial and generational divisions, which also flared when the discussion turned to health care.
Sanders, the self-described democratic socialist , slapped at his party’s centrist candidates, vowing to fight for “real change.” He raised his hand to indicate he would give up his private insurance coverage in favor of a government-financed plan.
Most of the candidates on stage, including Biden, didn’t join him.
While many candidates, including Biden, embrace at least some version of Sanders’ “Medicare for All” proposal , the former vice president also defended the role of private insurance, praising its role in the aftermath of the car accident that killed his wife and daughter and left his sons injured decades ago.
Along with Medicare, Buttigieg defended private insurance, too, but he also said, “We can’t just be relying on the tender mercies of the corporate system.”
Buttigieg’s night was defined in part by trouble back home that has represented the most significant leadership test in his young political career. The fresh-faced mayor faced tough questions about a recent police shooting in his city in which a white officer shot and killed a black man. He said an investigation was underway, and acknowledged the underlying racial tensions in his city and others.
“It’s a mess,” he said plainly, noting that such issues have plagued communities across America. “We’re hurting.”
He sidestepped pointed calls to fire his police chief, calling instead for a time when white and black people would react the same way when confronted by police.
Little-known California Rep. Eric Swalwell, who is just 38 years old, was among Buttigieg’s chief critics. He also took a swipe at Biden’s advanced age.
Either Biden or Sanders would be the oldest president ever elected.
“Joe Biden was right when he said it was time to pass the torch to a new generation of Americans 32 years ago,” Swalwell jabbed.
Biden responded: “I’m still holding onto that torch.”
Others on the stage Thursday night included Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who tried to elbow her way into the packed debate at times, Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, New York businessman Andrew Yang and author and social activist Marianne Williamson.
The showdown played out in Florida, a general election battleground that could well determine whether Trump wins a second term next year.
Biden sought to sidestep the intraparty divisions altogether, training his venom on Trump.
“Donald Trump thinks Wall Street built America. Ordinary middle-class Americans built America,” he said, adding, “Donald Trump has put us in a horrible situation. We do have enormous income inequality.”
Biden downplayed his establishment leanings at times. Along with the other candidates on stage, he raised his hand to say his health care plan would provide coverage for immigrants in the country illegally.
Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper predicted that an aggressive lurch to the left on key policies would ultimately hurt Democrats’ quest to defeat Trump.
“If we don’t clearly define we are not socialists, the Republicans are going to come at us every way they can and call us socialists,” he warned.
Their first round of debates is finished, but the real struggle is just beginning for most of the candidates.
All will work aggressively to leverage their debate performance and the related media attention to their advantage in the coming days. There is a real sense of urgency for more than a dozen who fear they may not reach donor and polling thresholds to qualify for later debates.
Should they fail to qualify, and many will fail, this week’s debates may have marked the high point for their personal presidential ambitions.
Days before the first Democratic presidential debates, Sen. Bernie Sanders and House progressives are unveiling legislation cancelling all student debt, going further than a signature proposal by Sen. Elizabeth Warren as the two jockey for support from the party’s liberal base.
By canceling all student loans, Sanders says the proposal addresses an economic burden for 45 million Americans. The key difference is that Warren’s plan considers the income of the borrowers, canceling $50,000 in debt for those earning less than $100,000 per year and affecting an estimated 42 million people in the U.S.
Questions face both candidates about how to pay for all of that plus their proposals for free tuition at public colleges and universities. But the battling ideas highlight the rivalry between senators who have made fighting economic inequality the cornerstones of their presidential campaigns.
“In a generation hard hit by the Wall Street crash of 2008, it forgives all student debt and ends the absurdity of sentencing an entire generation to a lifetime of debt for the ‘crime’ of getting a college education,” Sanders said in remarks prepared for delivery at a news conference Monday with the proposal’s House sponsors, Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota, and Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington.
His bill and Warren’s plan — proposed in a Medium article earlier this year — are part of their broader appeal to liberal voters with a series of progressive policy ideas on issues such as health care, technology and education. The dynamic seems certain to play out this week during the first Democratic debates. Twenty candidates are set for the showdown, with Warren part of the lineup on Tuesday and Sanders appearing a day later. The events come as there are signs that Warren is cutting into Sanders’ support from the left.
Sanders’ effort at one-upsmanship on student loans, named the College For All Act, would cancel $1.6 trillion of debt and save the average borrower about $3,000 a year, according to materials obtained by The Associated Press. The result would be a stimulus that allows millennials in particular to invest in homes and cars that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford. It would cost $2.2 billion and be paid for — and then some — by a series of taxes on such things as stock trades, bonds and derivatives, according to the proposal.
The universal debt relief is designed partly around the idea that it would mostly benefit Americans who can’t afford college tuition without loans, according to a senior Democratic aide who spoke on condition of anonymity because the legislation wasn’t yet public.
Warren’s plan, which she has suggested in published reports will be introduced as legislation, would be paid for by imposing a 2% fee on fortunes greater than $50 million, a wealth tax designed to target the nation’s top 0.1% of households. Warren projects the levy would raise $2.75 trillion over 10 years, enough to pay for a universal child-care plan, free tuition at public colleges and universities, and student loan debt forgiveness for an estimated 42 million Americans — with revenue left over.
Critics say top earners would find ways around such penalties. But if the free college and student debt relief advocates don’t hit their revenue goals, they could simply add to the deficit — as President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans have by passing more than $1 trillion in tax cuts without paying for them.
Follow Kellman and Schor on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/APLaurieKellman and http://www.twitter.com/ESchor
California Sen. Kamala Harris joined the call for President Donald Trump’s impeachment on Monday as five leading Democratic presidential contenders clashed in a series of prime-time town hall meetings that exposed deep divisions in a party desperate to end the Trump presidency.
Harris’ unexpected support for impeachment follows Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s push for Congress to begin the process to remove the Republican president following the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s redacted report — a plan all but certain to fail without significant Republican support.
“There is no political inconvenience exception to the United States Constitution,” Warren said. “If any other human being in this country had done what’s documented in the Mueller report, they would be arrested and put in jail.”
The impeachment debate, which is raging among Democrats nationwide, played out on national television Monday as five 2020 hopefuls representing different wings of the party addressed young voters in first-in-the-nation primary state New Hampshire. While they took turns on stage, the forum — hosted by CNN — marked the first time this young presidential primary season in which multiple candidates appeared on national television for the same event.
The five-hour marathon marked a preview of sorts for the party’s first formal presidential debate, set for late June. On Monday, they clashed from afar while taking questions from college students about free college, free health care, gun control and impeachment.
A central question underscored many of the questions posed to the candidates, who were in many cases forced to address their greatest political liabilities: Who is best positioned to deny Trump a second term?
Bernie Sanders, a front-runner in the crowded Democratic field who has pushed much of his party to the left in recent years, was asked to defend his decision to embrace democratic socialism.
“It’s a radical idea. Maybe not everyone agrees. But I happen to believe we ought to have a government that represents working families and not just the 1 percent,” he said.
Republicans, led by Trump, have spent much of the last year warning voters that Democrats would take the country toward socialism should they win in 2020.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who has cast herself as a Midwestern pragmatist well positioned to appeal to the middle of the country, refused to embrace “Medicare for All,” free college or Trump’s impeachment.
“I wish I could staple a free college diploma to every one of your chairs,” Klobuchar told the audience of college students. “I have to be straight with you and tell you the truth.”
Warren, a champion for her party’s more liberal wing, called for an “ultra-millionaires’ tax” on income over $50 million to help pay for free college, free child care for all children 5 and younger, free universal prekindergarten and student-debt forgiveness.
“We say good for you that you have now gotten this great fortune,” she said of the nation’s wealthiest taxpayers. “But you gotta pay something back so everybody else gets a chance.”
The Republicans tasked with helping Trump win re-election paid close attention to the Democrats’ answers, seeking political ammunition to tear them down.
GOP Chair Ronna McDaniel pounced on Sanders’ call to restore the voting rights of felons, including people like the Boston Marathon bomber, who killed three people and injured hundreds in 2013 with a pair of pressure-cooker bombers and was sentenced to death.
“I think the right to vote is inherent to our democracy,” Sanders said. “Yes, even for terrible people.”
McDaniel responded on social media: “If you had any doubt about how radical the Democrat Party has become, their 2020 frontrunner wants to let terrorists convicted of murdering American citizens vote from prison. It’s beyond extreme.”
South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has generated tremendous buzz recently in the Democratic field, also opposed Sanders’ position. The 37-year-old openly gay former military officer said felons should have their voting rights restored only after they leave prison, not before.
There was very little discussion of immigration, an issue that has largely defined Trump’s presidency. Most of the Democrats seeking the presidency support a pathway to legal status for immigrants in the country illegally, particularly those brought to the country as children.
Buttigieg noted that most Americans support such a plan, based on public polls. And he condemned Trump for inflaming immigration tensions for political gain.
“We’ve got a White House that’s actually computed that it’s better off politically if this problem goes unsolved,” Buttigieg said. “It’s been used to divide us.”
Foreign policy was also an afterthought for most of the night, though Sanders drew cheers from the young crowd when he condemned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for treating Palestinians “unfairly.”
The Vermont senator said he believes the United States should “deal with the Middle East on a level-playing-field basis.” The goal, he continued, must be to try to bring people together and “not just support one country, which is now run by a right-wing, dare I say, racist government.”
Just five of the roughly 20 Democratic presidential candidates participated in Monday’s forum. Former Vice President Joe Biden, expected to announce his candidacy later in the week, was among the missing.
CNN did not explain how it chose the participants. The cable network has held prime-time town halls for many of the candidates, including four of the five who appeared Monday.
On impeachment, an issue that has exposed deep divisions within the Democratic Party in recent days, both Harris and Warren broke from Sanders and Klobuchar by openly calling for elected officials to begin proceedings to remove the president from office. Democratic leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have urged a more cautious approach because impeachment would be nearly impossible politically without significant Republican support.
Harris said the special counsel’s recently released report “tells us that this president and his administration engaged in obstruction of justice.”
“I believe Congress should take the steps toward impeachment,” she said.
Buttigieg said Trump has “made it pretty clear he deserves impeachment,” but that he’s focused on delivering the Republican president “an absolute thumping at the ballot box.”
Klobuchar, like Sanders, sidestepped direct questions about impeachment. Sanders warned that pushing too hard to remove the president before the next election might distract from Democrats’ priorities on health care and the economy.
“At the end of the day,” he said, “what is most important to me is to see that Donald Trump is not re-elected.”