In a Democratic campaign cattle-call of sorts Friday one presidential hopeful pledged to work for ordinary people, another pitched his anti-establishment message and another called for more debates to counter the message from a larger Republican field.
In all, four Democratic presidential hopefuls were in Minnesota Friday trying to convince some of the most active members of their party from around the country that they, and not their rivals, deserved the party’s nomination.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee spoke to the Democratic National Committee’s summer conference in downtown Minneapolis.
Clinton vowed to “take on problems that keep ordinary people up at night” if she’s elected president.
In her 25 minute speech Clinton tried to fire up the Democratic insiders by contrasting her positions with those of the 17 candidates who are seeking the Republican nomination.
“We Democrats are not going to sit idly by while Republicans shame and blame women. We’re not going to stay quiet while they demonize immigrants whether they’re Latino, Asian or anything else,” she said. “We’re not going to keep silent when they say climate change isn’t real or same sex couples are threatening our freedom or trickle-down economics works.”
Sanders took a veiled jab at Clinton, saying enthusiasm to elect Democrats around the country will not come with a presidential candidate who represents politics as usual.
“Given the collapse of the American middle class and given the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality we are experiencing, we do not need more establishment politics or establishment economics,” Sanders said.
Sanders said Democrats need a candidate who will take on Wall Street, fix foreign trade policies, force corporate America to invest in this country and reform the criminal justice system.
Clinton also said she would work to pass common sense gun restrictions and protect seniors on Social Security. She said she would reduce the burden of college loan debt and take steps to address heroin addiction.
O’Malley said Democrats need more pre-primary debates before they choose a 2016 presidential nominee. He said the four scheduled debates are not enough to counter the messages Republicans are putting out in their debates.
“Republicans say Americans need to work longer hours. But as Democrats we know we’re all working harder than ever and many of us are making less than before. We must raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, pay overtime pay for overtime work, and pay women equal pay for equal work to move America forward,” he said.
O’Malley has been trailing Clinton and Sanders in public opinion polls.
Lincoln Chaffee briefly raised some eyebrows when he declared he never had a scandal in 30 years of public service. It sounded like a shot at Clinton. But he later told reporters he was not trying to make that comparison.
During her speech Clinton did not mention the private email server she used as secretary of state, which has dogged her campaign for months.
She told reporters later that she is trying to do a better job explaining to the public and the media why it should not be a major issue.
As Clinton spoke to the delegates Minnesota Republican leaders were criticizing her at the State Fair.
Minnesota Republican Party Chair Keith Downey said Clinton is losing steam in public opinion polls.
“The Democrats very clearly had coalesced around one candidate, Hillary Clinton,” he said. “All of the major donors, the political infrastructure, was really aligned behind her. The growing field on the Democratic side is not because people are interested in other candidates, it’s really because Hillary Clinton is imploding before the American people.”
Democrats say they’re confident whoever wins their party’s nomination will prevail in Minnesota. The Democratic candidate for president has carried the state in every election since 1972.
MPR News reporter Tom Scheck contributed to this report.