The Pitches: Candidates In The 1st Democratic Debates

Twenty presidential hopefuls met fundraising and/or polling thresholds to qualify for the debates. Here’s how they’re framing their campaigns.

Night One, June 26

Photo of Cory Booker

Cory Booker

Senator from New Jersey

Booker is running on an aggressive optimism, promising to bring people together and fight for things like criminal justice overhaul, improved economic opportunity and LGBTQ rights.

Photo of Julián Castro

Julián Castro

Former secretary of housing and urban development

The former Obama administration housing chief is running on hopeful notes. He promises students being saddled with less debt, veterans being respected, people of color being safe and immigrants being welcome.

Photo of Bill de Blasio

Bill de Blasio

Mayor of New York City

Leading the country’s most populous city, de Blasio is running on putting working people first and is touting his record on minimum wage, sick leave, health care and universal pre-K. And he’s running against President Trump’s immigration and climate policies.

Photo of John Delaney

John Delaney

Former representative from Maryland’s 6th District

Delaney has campaigned in early states for nearly two years. He takes a pragmatic approach, especially on health care. He has spoken out against “Medicare for All,” a stance that hasn’t sat well with liberal activists.

Photo of Tulsi Gabbard

Tulsi Gabbard

Representative from Hawaii’s 2nd District

The military veteran is running on a platform of “peace,” to end foreign wars and use the money to spend in America.

Photo of Jay Inslee

Jay Inslee

Governor of Washington

His campaign begins and ends with the threat posed by climate change. He argues that the economy and fighting climate change are not incompatible and that a green economy creates jobs.

Photo of Amy Klobuchar

Amy Klobuchar

Senator from Minnesota

Klobuchar believes in a pragmatism that’s rooted in her senatorial experience and a Midwestern optimism. She believes it’s necessary to reach out to solve problems and bridge divides between rural and urban communities.

Photo of Beto O'Rourke

Beto O’Rourke

Former representative from Texas’ 16th District

Best known for almost beating Ted Cruz, O’Rourke has a “positive, unifying vision.” He wants to fix American democracy with changes to campaign finance and voting, and to end wars, reduce gun violence, address climate change and guarantee women’s health care.

Photo of Tim Ryan

Tim Ryan

Representative from Ohio’s 13th District

He’s running on “rebuilding the American Dream,” and that means, in his view, blue-collar jobs, public education and health care.

Photo of Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren

Senator from Massachusetts

You name it, Warren has a plan for it. She’s not running to create a new system, but she is running on big, structural change, including increased regulation and scrutiny of Wall Street and banking.

Night Two, June 27

Photo of Michael Bennet

Michael Bennet

Senator from Colorado

Bennet is running on fixing a broken political system, the blame for which he puts at the feet of Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell. Bennet says spending from wars and tax cuts was essentially the U.S. lighting “money on fire.”

Photo of Joe Biden

Joe Biden

Former vice president

Biden’s top concern is less about reshaping America and more about returning America to “normalcy.” He argues that if President Trump gets another four years, the DNA of the country will be fundamentally altered.

Photo of Pete Buttigieg

Pete Buttigieg

Mayor of South Bend, Ind.

The 37-year-old is making a generational-change argument. He argues for progressive processes — like fixing redistricting and voting rights — in addition to policies — like being more cautious on war and more progressive on climate change and health care.

Photo of Kirsten Gillibrand

Kirsten Gillibrand

Senator from New York

She’s focused on women’s rights, especially when it comes to health care. She boasts that a Fox host called her “not very polite” for speaking out about the “nationwide assault on women’s reproductive freedoms” and “fundamental human rights for women.”

Photo of Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris

Senator from California

Harris’ slogan is “for the people,” and she’s making the case that President Trump is a “fraud.” The former prosecutor says Trump is fighting for the wrong people — the powerful and wealthy — while she wants to “advocate for the voiceless and vulnerable.”

Photo of John Hickenlooper

John Hickenlooper

Former governor of Colorado

The centrist has a pragmatic message. He says pragmatists aren’t against big things; they know how to get them done. He has also spoken out against Democrats’ lurch toward socialism, warning that moving in that direction would reelect President Trump.

Photo of Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders

Senator from Vermont

Sanders wants to beat President Trump, but he believes the way to do it is not with “middle-ground” approaches, but with promising wholesale progressive change. He’s the only candidate willing to wear the (democratic) socialist label.

Photo of Eric Swalwell

Eric Swalwell

Representative from California’s 15th District

He has focused his campaign on ending gun violence in the country, targeting semiautomatic assault weapons in particular by calling for a mandatory national ban and buyback.

Photo of Marianne Williamson

Marianne Williamson

Spiritual guru, entrepreneur

The New Age author is campaigning with a philosophy of “Think. Love. Participate.” As an outsider to politics, she believes change needs to come from the outside and that “half-truth tellers” can’t beat President Trump.

Photo of Andrew Yang

Andrew Yang

Founder of Venture for America

The startup investor is running on a data-first approach to the presidency. His big idea is to address the threat of automation with a Universal Basic Income, in which every adult would get $1,000 a month.