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Democratic 2020 contenders make appearances at trendy SXSW festival in Texas

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks at a campaign rally in Long Island City, Queens in New York, March 8, 2019.
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks at a campaign rally in Long Island City, Queens in New York, March 8, 2019. EPA/PETER FOLEY

AUSTIN, Texas -A big chunk of the 2020 Democratic field began making Texas an unlikely early-state stop Saturday and pushed back on big tech in front of young, social-media savvy crowds in a city where companies including Google and Apple have big footprints.

Texas is an early primary state, but the real draw of the South by Southwest Festival in Austin for Democrats is face time with the party’s ascendant young and liberal wing. The festival has grown from obscure roots into a weeklong juggernaut of tech, politics and entertainment.

READ MORE: Elizabeth Warren wants to break up big tech companies that have ‘too much power’

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts defended her new call to break up tech giants to an audience dotted with employees of some of those very companies. Her appearance began with her interviewer asking tech employees in the crowd to stand up. Warren scanned the room as several people got on the feet.

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“There are parts about big tech that are frankly just like railroads of the Teddy Roosevelt era,” she said. “What’s new is old. When someone gets market dominance, how then they start to destroy competition.”

WATCH: Elizabeth Warren vows to break up big tech companies like Google, Facebook if elected president

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Warren was also asked whether Sen. Bernie Sanders discouraged from her entering the race. She wouldn’t divulge details, calling it a private dinner.

Other highlights of Saturday campaigning:

Amy Klobuchar

The Minnesota senator kicked off SXSW with promises to reign in tech companies and saying that she has spoken to former President Barack Obama about her own presidential ambitions.

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Klobuchar wouldn’t go as far as Warren when asked whether Google or Facebook should be broken up.

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“I would want to have it investigated. That is how I do things,” she said. If anti-competitive problems are discovered, Klobuchar said, “then you come up with a plan to break up or to move something out if there is a piece of it that is anti-competitive.”

Klobuchar criticized the tech industry for not protecting privacy and floated the idea of taxing social media companies when they sell personal data, but she did not give specifics.

Kamala Harris

The California senator said she’s committed to shoring up rural communities, a message the Democratic presidential hopeful shared with voters in some of the most sparsely populated parts of the early voting state of South Carolina.

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Harris told a crowd of several hundred gathered in tiny St. George that a national infrastructure of crumbling roads and bridges makes it difficult for people in communities like this one to get to their jobs, which may be miles and miles away.

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Harris also said she wants to make changes to rural hospital funding, tweaks that she hopes will lead fewer health care facilities in such areas to close.

In remarks to a small-business summit in North Charleston, Harris pledged to help build back America’s image abroad, which she said has been damaged by President Donald Trump.

“What we have seen recently is a president who is conducting foreign affairs by tweet. On Day One, I would make it very clear that I value the importance of diplomacy. I value relationships. And that doesn’t take any strength from us, any power from us — it gives us power,” she said.

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Speaking with reporters, Harris said that she wanted more information about the investigation into former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to be made available to the public.

Bernie Sanders

Sanders told a packed house in Des Moines that as president his power to reform industries and institutions would be limited, but he’d still fulfill his campaign promises with their support.

The Vermont senator said “no president, not the best-intentioned in the world, can take on those extraordinarily powerful forces.” He went on to say: “But we have something they don’t have — we have the people.”

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The crowd packed into the Animal Learning Center on the Iowa State Fairgrounds roared their approval of Sanders, who is making another run for the Democratic nomination. Many were decked out in his 2016 campaign gear or waved “IA loves Bernie” signs.

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About 50 volunteers showed up to support Sanders at the final stop of his three-day swing through the state, part of an Iowa volunteer force that he said already totals 7,000.

“We need you to add to that number,” he said, to roars from the crowd.

John Hickenlooper

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said during his first trip to Iowa as a candidate that it would be “crazy” to drive out everyone who’s in the U.S. illegally.

Hickenlooper launched his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination this week and is positioning himself as a uniter who can get things done.

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On immigration, Hickenlooper said both sides need to sit down and that hardliners must accept some realities.

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“To think we’re ever in this country, that was founded and defined by immigrants, to expel 10 million to 11 million people is crazy,” Hickenlooper said.

Beto O’Rourke

O’Rourke swung by the trendy and techie SXSW, too, but still didn’t announce whether he will embark on a White House run.

Officially, O’Rourke wasn’t part of the lineup at SXSW. The former Texas congressman attended a documentary about his longshot U.S. Senate campaign that may or may not become the springboard to a White House run.

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Associated Press Writers Meg Kinnard in St. George, South Carolina; Alexandra Jaffe in Des Moines, Iowa; Nicholas Riccardi in Dubuque, Iowa; and Will Weissert in Austin contributed to this report.

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