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Sparks fly on race, age in Democrat debate

Democrat presidential candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders have stepped up the attack on Donald Trump, as they show their preparedness to fight in 2020.

Top Democratic presidential contenders launched repeated attacks on President Donald Trump during a debate on Thursday, but there was sharp disagreement over the best way to boost access to healthcare coverage.

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders trained their sights on Trump immediately as the second night of Democratic debates began.

"The American people understand that Trump is a phony, that Trump is a pathological liar and a racist and that he lied to the American people during his campaign," said Sanders, a U.S. senator running second to Biden in opinion polls among Democrats vying to challenge the Republican president in the November 2020 election.

Sanders defended his big-spending plans for a Medicare-for-All healthcare plan, saying it would reduce premiums for many but that some in the middle class might pay more.

Biden, the former vice president making his third run for the White House, said Trump's tax cuts for the wealthy and other economic policies were increasing economic inequality in the United States.

"Donald Trump has put us in a horrible situation. We do have enormous income inequality," Biden said. "The one thing I agree on is we can make massive cuts in the $US 1.6 trillion in tax loopholes out there, and I would be going about eliminating Donald Trump's tax cuts for the wealthy."

Sanders and Biden shared the stage with eight other Democrats, including two other top-tier candidates: Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and U.S. Senator Kamala Harris of California.

The remaining six are polling nationally around 1per cent or less.

Among those, Representative Eric Swalwell, 38, urged Biden, 76, to pass the torch to younger candidates.

"I was 6 years old when a presidential candidate came to the California Democratic convention and said it's time to pass the torch to a new generation of Americans," Swalwell said. "That candidate was then-Senator Joe Biden".

Biden responded: ""I'm still holding onto that torch. I want to make it clear."

Meanwhile Donald Trump, listening in from Osaka, said the candidates stance on health care would help him win the next election.

Trump tweeted: "All Democrats just raised their hands for giving millions of illegal aliens unlimited healthcare. How about taking care of American Citizens first!?

He then added: "That's the end of that race!"

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