MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — The fight for the Democratic Party's soul played out Monday as some of the leading presidential contenders clashed in a series of prime-time town halls over free college, free health care and whether President Donald Trump should be impeached.
Five 2020 hopefuls representing different wings of the party were set to address young voters in first-in-the-nation primary state New Hampshire by night's end. While they took turns on stage, the forum marked the first time this young presidential primary season in which multiple candidates appeared on national television for the same prime-time event.
The first two, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, offered sharply different approaches to some of the policy challenges expected to define their party's push to defeat Trump next year.
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."
With primary voting roughly nine months away, the Democratic Party is just beginning the high-stakes process of deciding what kind of Democrat is best positioned to defeat Trump next year. The Republican Party, led by Trump, has spent much of the last year warning voters that Democrats would take the country toward socialism should they win in 2020.
Among the candidates set to appear Monday, Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders have led the charge for the most liberal policy priorities, while California Sen. Kamala Harris and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg have more nuanced positions.
CNN did not explain how it chose the five candidates who participated in the first prime-time event featuring multiple 2020 contenders. The cable network has held prime-time town halls for many of the candidates, including four of the five who appeared Monday.