The signature domestic proposal by the leading progressive candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination came under withering attack from moderates in a debate that laid bare the struggle between a call for revolutionary policies and a desperate desire to defeat President Donald Trump.
Standing side by side at center stage on Tuesday, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren slapped back against their more cautious rivals who ridiculed "Medicare for All" and warned that "wish-list economics" would jeopardize Democrats' chances for taking the White House in 2020.
"I don't understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can't do and shouldn't fight for," said Warren, a Massachusetts senator, decrying Democratic "spinelessness."
Sanders, a Vermont senator, agreed: "I get a little bit tired of Democrats afraid of big ideas."
A full six months before the first votes are cast, the tug-of-war over the future of the party pits pragmatism against ideological purity as voters navigate a crowded Democratic field divided by age, race, sex and ideology. The fight with the political left was the dominant subplot on the first night of the second round of Democratic debates, which was notable as much for its tension as its substance.
We recap what you missed.
With files from the Associated Press.
Matt Rodriguez, Democratic strategist and founder and chief executive officer of Rodriguez Strategies. He is also a former senior Obama advisor in 2008; he tweets @RodStrategies
Amanda Renteria, president of Emerge America, a national organization that works to identify and train Democratic women who want to run for political office; she is the former national political director for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and has been a staffer for Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI); she tweets @AmandaRenteria
Sean T. Walsh, Republican political analyst and partner at Wilson Walsh Consulting in San Francisco; he is a former adviser to California Governors Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger and a former White House staffer for Presidents Reagan and H.W. Bush