Democratic candidates clash in presidential debate

Joe Biden, left, and Bernie Sanders during the debate.AFPFREDERIC J. BROWN

Joe Biden, left, and Bernie Sanders during the debate.AFPFREDERIC J. BROWN  

White House candidates not only attacked President Donald Trump but also clashed sharply with one another during the Democratic debate, where a smaller field allowed lesser-known hopefuls to shine against the frontrunners.

One day after Mr. Trump’s ignominious impeachment, seven candidates united on Thursday to declare the President must be defeated at the 2020 ballot box.

“We need to restore the integrity of the presidency,” said frontrunner Joe Biden, who accused Mr. Trump of “dumbing down” the office “beyond what I even thought he would do”.

Senator Bernie Sanders, who is second in the standings, blasted Mr. Trump as “running the most corrupt administration in the modern history of this country”.

Fellow Senator Elizabeth Warren said the President ignores the poor, to do “everything he can for the wealthy and the well-connected”.

Moral leadership

But after calls for greater moral leadership from the White House and crisp back-and-forth about trade policy, health care and how to lift more Americans out of poverty, the debate took a more aggressive tone with a series of heated clashes between candidates.

Ms. Warren launched her sharpest attacks yet on rival Pete Buttigieg, saying the 37-year-old Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has been holding closed-door fundraisers for the wealthy, including at a billionaire-owned “wine cave” in California. The final prime-time debate of 2019 featured just seven of the 15 Democrats still in the contest six weeks before the first nomination ballots are cast in Iowa in February.

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