Michael Bennet didn’t make the debate stage, but he has some thoughts about the rest of the field.
During an appearance on Yahoo Finance’s On the Move on Friday, the Democratic Senator from Colorado ran through the shortcomings he sees in the candidates who did make the stage.
When asked if he watched Wednesday’s debate, he said he saw part of it and wanted to jump through the screen “basically for the entire hour and a half.” The Senator missed a decent chunk of the debate, which had a total running time of closer to two and a half hours.
“What bugs me the most is that we're not focused on an agenda that will actually unify the Democratic party and win back some of the 9 million people who voted twice for Barack Obama and once for Donald Trump,” he said, adding that the solution “is staring at us in plain sight.”
Speaking of two of his fellow senators — Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — Bennet said that "getting sidetracked on Bernie's ideological commitment and Elizabeth’s ideological commitment to Medicare for All isn't going to make a difference for the kids that I used to work for the Denver public schools."
Bennet served as Superintendent of Denver Public Schools before his appointment to the Senate in 2009. He was elected to a full six-year term in 2010 and re-elected in 2016.
Bennet has his own plan called Medicare X, which he believes is more likely to become reality because it takes a more gradual approach to the problem. Nobody would be required to join Medicare X’s public option, meaning private insurance would remain in place. He said he wants to “make available to everybody a public option they can buy. If they want to keep their private insurance, [they can] keep their private insurance.”
The Senator wasn’t any softer on the plans for a wealth tax from Sanders and Warren. “I think it's unworkable and probably unconstitutional and unnecessary,” he said.
Plenty of critiques of moderates
Former vice president Joe Biden — a fellow moderate — also came in for criticism. “It's time for a new generation of leadership,” said Bennet, adding that Biden “says that if we just get Trump out of the way, it’ll go back to normal. I totally disagree with that. Our democratic institutions are broken.”
On the challenge of getting climate change legislation passed, Bennet said that “you can't accept the rubble that is Washington DC today.” Bennet is a member of the Senate’s bipartisan climate caucus and has repeatedly introduced legislation on the issue without anything getting passed.
The Senator didn’t express any policy disagreements with Mayor Pete Buttigieg but took issue with the South Bend mayor’s experience. “Mayor Pete and I both started at the local level, the only difference is my school district had a budget that was three times the size of his city,” he said. He added, “I've been in the Senate for 10 years, which is long enough to know why the most important things aren't getting done.”
Bennet faces a steep climb to get back on a debate stage. His recent polling average, according to Real Clear Politics, is just 0.8 percent. To qualify for the December debate, candidates must receive 4% support in four national polls or 6% support in two early state polls. In addition, candidates need to receive donations from 200,000 individual donors.
Yet the Senator says he is undeterred. The reason he gives for why he he’s staying in the race even though he hasn’t seen a debate stage or polled as well as he would have hoped?
“I don't think anybody in this field is bringing the same set of experiences to the race,” he said.
Ben Werschkul is a producer for Yahoo Finance in Washington, DC.