CLEAR LAKE, Iowa (Reuters) – A cavalcade of Democratic presidential hopefuls on Friday tried to turn a few precious minutes before Iowa voters into the momentum needed to catapult their campaigns in the pivotal state.
A rite of passage for Democratic presidential candidates, the annual “Wing Ding Dinner” featured five-minute speeches from almost two dozen contenders seeking the party’s nomination to take on Republican President Donald Trump in the November 2020 election.
Iowa’s caucuses in February kick off the Democratic nomination process and can provide a candidate with crucial early momentum.
Despite the fact that many of the candidates urgently need to differentiate themselves among the horde, most of them trained their fire at Trump, not each other.
Some said Trump had inflamed social tensions with anti-immigrant and racially charged rhetoric, helping prompt mass shootings in Texas and Ohio last weekend that left 31 dead.
Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, accused Trump of “coddling white nationalists.”
The suspect in the El Paso shooting reportedly posted a hate-filled manifesto directed at Latinos before the massacre.
Former Vice President Joe Biden said Trump “offers no moral leadership. He has no interest in unifying this country.”
Trump, he said, has adopted a political strategy of “hate, racism and division.”
Former U.S. Congressman Beto O’Rourke, who is from El Paso, did not speak at the event, but appeared in a video accusing Trump of fostering “hatred, racism and intolerance.”
Tim Ryan, a U.S. congressman from Ohio, urged Congress to pass an assault weapons ban.
“People are dying on the streets of this country, being killed by weapons made for the battlefield,” Ryan said. “This country will never be safe until we get these weapons of war off the streets.”
There were some signs of the ideological and generational tensions within the party. Montana Governor Steve Bullock, a moderate, decried sweeping progressive proposals that he said were “written for press releases.”
But when progressive U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren championed her plan to provide “Medicare for All” and levy a tax on the nation’s wealthiest, she received loud cheers.