PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (AP) – Five Democratic senators vying for their party’s nomination to challenge President Donald Trump in 2020 fanned out across the country Saturday to campaign and meet voters.
Kamala Harris of California spent her second straight day in the pivotal early-voting state of South Carolina, holding a town hall meeting in Columbia, the capital. Also visiting the state was Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who met with an estimated 800 voters in Greenville before heading to Georgia — an unusual early stop for a White House hopeful but one that signals Democratic hopes to make inroads in the South.
Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York both focused on New Hampshire. Booker made his first visit to there since joining the race earlier this month, holding a question-and-answer session with more than 400 voters in Portsmouth.
Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, meanwhile, made her own uncommon choice for early campaigning by visiting Wisconsin before heading to Iowa, home to the nation’s first caucus.
And a Democratic heavyweight who’s yet to address his 2020 plans, former Vice President Joe Biden, made his own high-profile appearance at the Munich Security Conference.
The Democratic senators stepped up their campaigning during the long holiday weekend at the start of Congress’ first recess this year.
Their outreach to voters came in the wake of Trump’s controversial decision to declare a national emergency in order to unilaterally redirect federal money for his promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Booker plans to spend three days in New Hampshire, which casts the first votes in the 2020 primary, and he kicked off the swing with a freewheeling “conversation” that drew questions on health care, the environment and foreign relations.
Booker is one of several Democratic presidential contenders who back legislation that would transition the United States to universal health insurance coverage, but he acknowledged Saturday that compromise may be necessary to get major health care legislation through the Senate.
Booker told voters in New Hampshire there are a “lot of pathways” to achieving universal health coverage, noting that just lowering Medicare eligibility to age 55 would be “a step in the right direction.” He said supporters of so-called Medicare for All are “going to have to find ways to advance the ball given the Congress that we have.”
Booker brought a personal touch to his first official visit to New Hampshire as a presidential candidate, sharing his African-American family’s story of struggling to buy a home in a majority-white neighborhood in the late 1960s as he urged the crowd to “put that indivisible back in this one nation under God.” The famously social media-savvy senator stayed long after the event concluded to snap selfies and record videos with supporters.
Gillibrand, in her second day of campaigning in New Hampshire, issued a rebuke of what she called President Donald Trump’s divisive language.
The New York senator and Democratic presidential candidate told a crowd of about 450 people Saturday at Dartmouth College — her alma mater — that the president’s worst offense since he was elected has been to “dehumanize people” and create a climate of fear and hatred, especially toward immigrants.
Gillibrand said Trump wants Americans “to be afraid of one another.” She insisted “that’s not who we are.”
Gillibrand, who took questions from the audience, said she favors a single-payer health care system modeled on Medicare and would take on climate change by incentivizing the creation of renewable energy. She added that she was optimistic that “common sense” gun laws would pass now that young voters are calling for change.
Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind., were also in New Hampshire on Saturday.
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