MIAMI, Florida (HawaiiNewsNow) - On a crowded debate stage Wednesday night, Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard made her pitch for president.
“The American people deserve a president who will put your interests ahead of the rich and powerful,” said Gabbard, who announced her run for president in January.
“Our nation was founded on the principles of service above self. ... That’s not what we have. Instead we have a government that is of, by and for the rich and powerful. This must end.”
Gabbard joined nine other presidential candidates ― including Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke ― for the first of two Democratic debates this week in Miami.
Candidates had 60 seconds to answer, and 30 seconds for follow-up questions.
Gabbard has sought to set herself apart in a crowded field of Democratic contenders by focusing on foreign policy, and raising alarms about the possibility of the United States entering a new war.
She stayed on that theme Wednesday, answering a question about equal pay for women by talking about her service in the military and how much the wars in the Middle East have cost the U.S.
Later, Gabbard said that America’s troops in Afghanistan must come home.
“We have lost so many lives. We’ve spent so much money. Money that’s coming out of our pockets,” she said. “We are no better off in Afghanistan today than we were when this war began.”
HNN political analyst Colin Moore said Gabbard’s frequent reminders to the audience that she’s a military veteran were smart, but are unlikely to improve her poll numbers. “Is this debate going to make a big difference in Tulsi Gabbard’s campaign? It doesn’t look like it,” he said. “But not because she under-performed. In such a crowded field, it’s almost impossible to stand out.”
Gabbard also reiterated her support Wednesday for Medicare for all, saying that no sick American should wonder how to get quality care.
At one point, the congresswoman was asked about her past positions on LGBTQ rights.
In January, shortly after she announced her presidential run, Gabbard apologized for previous anti-LGBTQ statements. She said Wednesday that, “there is no one in our government at any level that has right to tell any American who they should be allowed to love or marry.”
The Democratic debates were held over two days because there are so many candidates.
The second grouping of candidates — including former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris — will debate Thursday.
In order to qualify for the debates this week, candidates needed to meet funding and polling minimums. Debating candidates were divided was at random except for the front-runners: The Democratic National Committee intentionally split them up to avoid the impression that one night was more important than the other.