Beto O’Rourke believes a path to the White House runs through Texas.
“There’s a new battleground state– Texas, and it has 38 electoral college votes,” O’Rourke told voters in Tuesday’s Democratic primary debate. “Those 38 Electoral College votes are now in play, and I can win them,” he said. “That is how we defeat Donald Trump in November 2020.”
A University of Texas at Tyler poll out Tuesday shows O’Rourke beating President Trump by a 12-point margin in the Lone Star State. It’s the fourth Texas poll showing Trump losing to or tied with any number of Democrats running for president.
While policy issues dominated the discussion, Trump remained the focal point of the debate among the 10 candidates on stage. A CNN moderator asked about electability, citing polls showing Democratic primary voters are overwhelmingly choosing electability over ideological purity, the only real constant in polling at the moment.
When asked how Bernie Sanders, a self-described Democratic socialist could beat Trump, he said every poll is already showing he’s beating Trump.
Healthcare causes sparks to fly
By and large, healthcare was the evening’s top issue early and a source of mild tension throughout. Sanders and Elizabeth Warren distinguished themselves by vocally supporting their single-payer plan Medicare for All, while other candidates, like O’Rourke, who remains in low single digits in national polling, and Pete Buttigieg, put forward plans of their own that they argued were cheaper or more realistic.
“The middle class will not pay more in taxes to ensure that every American is guaranteed world-class health care,” O’Rourke said, detailing his healthcare plan, Medicare for America.
“Right now we have a dysfunctional health care system,” Sanders said. “Eighty-seven million uninsured or underinsured, 500,000 Americans every year going bankrupt because of medical bills, 30,000 people dying while the health care industry makes tens of billions of dollars in profit.”
As some candidates turned up the criticism against the single-payer healthcare, Elizabeth Warren set the record straight about who was fighting for the healthcare of Americans.
“We are the Democrats,” Warren said. “We are not about trying to take away health care from anyone. That’s what the Republicans are trying to do. We should stop using Republican talking points in order to talk with each other about how to best provide that healthcare.”
After back-to-back scandals involving racist tweets from Trump, most notably telling four congresswomen of color to go back to their own countries, moderators asked candidates to address the president’s racism.
Warren called America’s persistent stain– racism– the new “domestic terrorism.” In addition to calling out racism for what it is, O’Rourke said he would sign Houston Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s reparations bill.
Like advocating for health care and speaking out against white nationalism, the belief in climate change was another issue that distinguished all Democrats on the stage from much of the Republican Party.
“Climate crisis is the existential crisis for our world. It puts every living thing on this planet at risk,” Warren said. Her plan would allocate trillions on R&D to create new clean-energy technologies open to anyone who would build it in America.
Ten other candidates, including Joe Biden, Julián Castro, and Kamala Harris will face off Wednesday. The next round of debates is in Houston in September.