The Moments That Mattered in Tuesday’s Democratic Debate

Democratic presidential candidates on stage in Detroit on Tuesday night debated in detail two different visions for the future of the party: sweeping overhauls of health care, immigration and student debt, or more incremental change to tackle those issues.

Two of the top-tier candidates—Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont—repeatedly defended their progressive plans against several more moderate candidates, while several contenders took the opportunity to criticize President Trump.

Here were the moments that mattered most in Tuesday night’s debate:

‘For Democrats to win, you can’t be afraid either’
Ms. Warren mostly introduced herself and her plans during the first debate in June, when she was the only top-tier candidate on stage. Appearing with several moderate candidates this time around, Ms. Warren offered a much more aggressive defense of her progressive vision for the country, pitching herself as a fighter for the “big structural change” that she has centered her campaign on.

“Democrats win when we figure out what is right and we get out there and fight for it,” she said. “I am not afraid and for Democrats to win, you can’t be afraid either.”

When former Rep. John Delaney called for “workable” ideas, “not fairy tale economics,” Ms. Warren responded: “I don’t understand why anybody goes through 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.”

‘I wrote the damn bill’
Mr. Sanders pushed back against repeated criticism of his Medicare for All plan that would eliminate private insurance, which Ms. Warren also supports.

When Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan questioned him on his claim that his plan would cover “all health care needs for senior citizens,” including dental care and hearing aids, Mr. Sanders responded: “I wrote the damn bill.”

During the debate, Mr. Sanders’s campaign sent an email to supporters selling—for any contribution—a sticker, featuring an image of the senator holding a megaphone and the words “I wrote the damn bill” in bold.

‘President Obama Was Right’
Former Vice President Joe Biden isn’t the only candidate tying himself to former President Obama, who was mentioned at least 10 times Tuesday night on a range of issues from health care to trade. He was mentioned by both the progressive and more moderate candidates on stage.

Mr. Delaney invoked the former president twice when defending his position on trade. “I’m the only one running for president who supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership. President Obama was right about that,” he said. “We should be getting back in that.”

Mr. Obama has indicated he won’t endorse a candidate in the primary.

‘Today they are supporting naked racism in the White House’
Mr. Trump’s tweets targeting Rep. Elijah Cummings and a quartet of Democratic congresswomen—all of whom are minorities—in recent weeks have been condemned by Democrats as racist, but none of the candidates were asked about them on Tuesday.

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