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Sanders, de Blasio, Weld take 'soapbox' at Iowa State Fair

The lone Republican vying for President Donald Trump's office said he's "in it to win it."

By
Nicholas Sakelaris
The Iowa Democratic Party booth provides information on candidates Saturday at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa. Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI
The Iowa Democratic Party booth provides information on candidates Saturday at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa. Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 12 (UPI) -- The fourth day of "soapbox speeches" at the Iowa State Fair featured Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders and Bill de Blasio, who told fair-goers they could beat President Donald Trump in next year's election.

Sanders and de Blasio joined other Democratic candidates Sunday in speaking at the Des Moines event, which runs through Aug. 18.

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Nearly all Democratic candidates spoke in traditional "soapbox speeches" at the fair since it opened last Thursday, hoping their appearances at the event will lay a favorable path to the state's Democratic caucuses on Feb. 3, which is the first major date on the 2020 primary calendar.

Sanders did well in Iowa in 2016, pulling within a third of a percentage point of then Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. The Vermont senator said Sunday the party has since shifted left, closer to the same philosophy he's had all along.

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"When I came here four years ago, many of the ideas that I talked about, at that point, seemed very, very radical and kind of extreme," he said. "It turned out they were not so radical or extreme for the people of Iowa."

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Sanders touched on workers' rights, fighting climate change and ending inequality.

"The only way change ever takes place is when millions of people stand up and say, loudly and clearly, enough is enough," he said.

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"This is the moment we bring our people together and create an economy and a government not dominated by the billionaires, but an economy and government that works for all of us."

Also speaking Sunday, De Blasio said the party's best chance to defeat Trump next year is a fellow New Yorker.

"We are fighting for the heart and soul of this country," the New York City mayor said. "People need to feel that we are the party of working people again."

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De Blasio is struggling in the polls and in his bid to qualify for the next primary debate in Houston next month, the party's third. Nine Democrats have qualified so far and 13 will look to do the same by the Aug. 28 deadline.

Another contender looking to qualify is Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, who used his soapbox moment to separate himself from the field. For one, he said he is hesitant to back plans by multiple candidates to make college tuition-free.

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"I don't [support tuition-free educations]," he said, which drew some boos from the crowd. "You've got to make choices. I would rather have free preschool in this country than free college in this country.

"You know why politicians don't talk about free preschool and do talk about free college? Because preschool kids can't vote."

Bennet said his plan calls for making college loans easier to pay back, rather than eliminating them. He also touched on the state of healthcare in the United States, a major topic of debate among the candidates.

"I'm so sick and tired of this country not having universal healthcare," Bennet said

Tom Steyer in his speech Sunday called for voters to help what he called a corporate "stranglehold" on the United States, noting that banks paid $130 billion in fines after the financial crisis.

"But nobody went to jail. I promise we will put people in jail who defraud and take advantage of the American people."

The lone Republican attempting to unseat Trump, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, also spoke Sunday.

"He's not a fiscal conservative," he said of Trump. "He doesn't believe in conserving the environment, he doesn't believe in free trade, he doesn't believe in all of the things that the real Republican Party used to stand for.

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"I'm unapologetic about challenging him because I don't think that he's a real Republican."

Weld was actually on the ballot in 2016 as Libertarian Gary Johnson's running mate. He said he's challenging an incumbent GOP president because he's "troubled" by Trump's tenure.

"We are all one country and we should feel that way," he said. "We shouldn't spend all of our time listening to someone trying to persuade us that some brown person is going to come across the Southern border, the Mexican border, and take our job, further kindling economic insecurity or harm our wife or children.

"It's just demagoguery of the first order."

Candidate Pete Buttgieg is scheduled to give his "soapbox" speech Tuesday. Beto O'Rourke had been scheduled to appear, but he canceled the trip to remain with the community in El Paso, Texas, after a shooting attack killed more than 20 people a week ago.

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