ANKENY, Iowa — As of Sunday, 22 Democrats are now hoping to become the Democratic nominee for president in 2020.
The announcement wasn’t made as early as he would’ve liked, but Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet is officially running for president, and Iowans got their first look at what makes him stand out Sunday night at an Ankeny house party.
“It’s hard to believe that three weeks ago today, is that right three weeks ago today? Three weeks ago today I was being operated on,” Bennet said.
Just before entering the race, Bennet was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Now he is cancer free and using that experience to express his idea of healthcare and leaving it up to families to choose if they want a public or private option with his plan, Medicare X.
“What I think we need to do is provide universal healthcare for this country. It is long overdue and whatever path we chose needs to be, not just an idea, but something we can implement across the country because the majority of people support it,” Bennet said. “The experience I just had going through prostate cancer [surgery], and then a week later having my kid having to go through an appendectomy, has made me think a lot of whether or not we want to leave the choice for what kind of healthcare we have.”
In a crowded field of Democrats, the Iowans in attendance say that is one of the reasons Bennet stands out.
“He is very, very grounded in working in a bipartisan manner and I was really appreciative of his understanding of Medicaid and Medicare,” Denise Rathman said. “Just the idea of having an option, a public option versus just going to Medicare-for-all. I think that may be pragmatic. I don’t think everybody wants to hear that, but I think that may be the pragmatic route.”
“Well I think he’s going to be positioning himself a little bit, from what I call the mainstream, to the left and not necessarily to the far left,” John Phoenix said. “I’m not sure where I stand on that right now, but I think he’s going to be a middle left candidate that’s what I’m interpreting from his speeches.”
Bennet says he wants to beat the group of Republicans in Washington, D.C. who have “immobilized the American government” and it’s all about reestablishing a governing coalition so people can see durable climate change policies and universal healthcare for all that can’t be accomplished in a two years time.
“I think that requires us to construct a constituency of change that doesn’t accept the currently partisan lines that exist in Washington and gives us a different approach,” Bennet said. “Some people say that’s naive, but I think what’s really naive is imagining we can keep doing this the way were doing it and actually get to a result.”
The Ankeny Area Democrats hosted the event, and around 50 people showed up. Bennet says he’s ready to make up for some lost ground, fast.
“Just work hard, that’s what I always do. We will find a way to qualify. It’s not always going to be easy, but I think we can do it and I wouldn’t have gotten into the race if I didn’t think I could win it,” Bennet said. “This is a series of challenges that I’ve confronted just like everybody confronts challenges in their life, and now that I’m on the back end of the decision to get into this race, I couldn’t be happier about it.”
Bennet focused on universal healthcare and quality education being the key to his Anti Poverty Initiative. He also spoke passionately on creating a durable, meaningful climate change policy that can last decades.
He also commented on going up against fellow Colorado politician, former Gov. John Hickenlooper.
“We’re great friends. We always have been great friends. I’m glad he’s running. He was a great governor, a great Mayor, and I think he will be a great presidential candidate,” Bennet said. “Yeah of course we talked about [running] before we ran and before I ran. We have different approaches to the work, different points of view, and a very different experience. I think it’s going to be fun to have both of us in the field.”