WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The barrage of questions fired at Elizabeth Warren at Tuesday’s debate in Ohio underscored her new front-runner status in the Democratic presidential race, but also lingering concern within the party over whether the progressive senator can defeat President Donald Trump next year.
Time and again on Tuesday, the U.S. lawmaker from Massachusetts faced skepticism from her Democratic rivals about her leftist agenda, ranging from taxing the rich, to potentially costly universal government-run healthcare, to free college tuition.
Moderates suggested Warren may not only be too liberal to seize the White House from the Republican Trump in the November 2020 election but that her push for sweeping change would cause another bitter split in the country after Trump’s already divisive presidency.
Warren’s recent surge in the polls – she is now considered a favorite for the nomination along with former Vice President Joe Biden – made her the top target at the debate, with moderates such as Biden, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, leading the charge.
In an interview with Reuters after the debate, Klobuchar, a Minnesota lawmaker who is competing with Biden and Buttigieg to appeal to Midwestern swing voters, said Warren needed to explain how she was going to pay for her sweeping proposals.
“I just think I have a better way, and I think it’s also important that she keeps not telling us how she’s going to pay for them,” Klobuchar said. “And, as I said, someone’s going to get that invoice, and she needs to tell us who it is.”
The debate highlighted the deep schism in the party that remains between its liberals and moderates, as well as persistent questions about Warren’s electability even as she continues to surge in most national polls.