First of 2 back-to-back U.S. Democratic debates underway

The first of two debates between 20 of the 24 Democratic candidates in the 2020 U.S. presidential race kicked off tonight in Miami with 10 candidates, including three senators, a mayor and several current or former members of Congress.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren started off by answering a question about her policy-driven campaign and how it may affect what is seen as a good economy.

“Who is this economy really working for?” she said. “It’s doing great for a thinner and thinner slice at the top.”

The Massachusetts senator says the economy is working well for “giant oil companies” and those who want to invest in private prisons, but not for those struggling and Americans facing the effects of climate change.

Watch as Warren vows to take on PACs:

Sen. Elizabeth Warren says she would go after the big fundraisers who carry so much power in Washington. 0:41

Trying to differentiate himself from the rest of the large field, former Texas rep. Beto O’Rourke showed off his fluent Spanish while answering his first question.

O’Rourke said in English that “this economy has got to work for everyone” and right now, it isn’t. Then he switched to Spanish, saying in that language that “we need to include everyone” in a booming national economy.

O’Rourke, who hails from the Texas-Mexico border city of El Paso, spoke in Spanish at length, then switched back to English. He said the Trump administration has focused on helping the wealthy and large corporations over everyday Americans — echoing similar sentiments of the other Democrats on stage.

As for U.S. President Donald Trump himself, he is skipping the opening minutes of the first Democratic debate to greet service members at Alaska’s Elmendorf Air Force Base.

As the debate was starting Wednesday, Trump told troops: “I had my choice between you and them. And I chose you.” 

Trump is on his way to Japan for the G20 summit. 

But Trump was clearly the focus of many of the candidates. Every one decried the Trump administration’s immigration policies, saying the president is to blame for the deaths of an immigrant father and his toddler daughter found lying face-down after drowning in the Rio Grande.

Castro called the photo “heartbreaking” and said it “should piss us all off.” He also attacked O’Rourke for not supporting fully decriminalizing the act of crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.

Watch that moment:

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker talks about what he would do day one to improve immigration laws in the U.S., spurring a passionate reaction from Julian Castro. 1:39

For many of these White House hopefuls, Wednesday’s debate will be the highest-profile opportunity yet to offer their vision for the country. While the crowded field has been courting voters in key states for several months already, the vast majority of the nation has yet to pay close attention to the diverse field.

Earlier in the day, Trump confirmed that he would watch the debate from Air Force One.

His first tweet of the night:

The debate will be split over two nights, with 10 other candidates — including former vice-president Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — appearing Thursday.

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