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2020 Democrats spar over socialism ahead of first debate

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 TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE in the general election.

Former Colorado Gov. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperGun control group rolls out first round of Senate endorsements The Hill’s Campaign Report: Republicans go on attack over calls to ‘defund the police’ Hickenlooper ethics questions open him up to attack 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 SandersThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Milley apologizes for church photo-op Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness 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 BennetSome realistic solutions for income inequality Democratic senators kneel during moment of silence for George Floyd 21 senators urge Pentagon against military use to curb nationwide protests MORE (Colo.) and former Rep. John DelaneyJohn DelaneyThe Hill’s Coronavirus Report: Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas says country needs to rethink what ‘policing’ means; US cases surpass 2 million with no end to pandemic in sight Minnesota AG Keith Ellison says racism is a bigger problem than police behavior; 21 states see uptick in cases amid efforts to reopen The Hill’s Coronavirus Report: Singapore Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan says there will be consequences from fraying US-China relations; WHO walks back claims on asymptomatic spread of virus MORE (Md.), have warned the party against embracing Medicare for All and other so-called socialist policies.

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