The latest US Democratic presidential debate was held in Detroit where ten candidates addressed issues such as healthcare, immigration, gun violence and racial divisions.

Much of the CNN debate was dominated by healthcare and the economy with moderate candidates criticising the progressive, liberal policies of Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

They were accused of engaging in "wish-list economics" that would increase taxes on the middle classes.

Both Ms Warren and Mr Sanders offered an unabashed defence of their policies as their more moderate rivals described their proposals as unrealistic and politically untenable.

All the candidates were united in stressing the urgency of defeating Republican President Donald Trump in the November 2020 election.

But they delivered bruising critiques of their party rivals' positions as detailed policy disagreements dominated the nearly three-hour event.

The moderate wing, led at times by Montana Governor Steve Bullock, argued Democrats risk losing voters after moving too far to the left in the opening debate last month in Miami.

"Watching that last debate, folks seemed more concerned about scoring points or outdoing each other with wish-list economics than making sure Americans know we hear their voices and will help their lives," said Mr Bullock, who emerged as a forceful voice in his first presidential debate.

In contrast, progressives argued their policies would excite voters and allow them to draw a distinct contrast to Mr Trump.

Mr Trump has been eager to paint the entire Democratic field as socialists, seeking to make any eventual nominee unsavoury for voters by arguing Democrats want to raise taxes, open the US borders and take away private healthcare.

His campaign spokeswoman echoed that sentiment in a statement about the debate, calling the field "radical Democrats" with a "socialist message".

Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, encouraged his party to ignore Mr Trump's inevitable criticism.

"If we embrace a far-left agenda, they're going to say we're a bunch of crazy socialists," he said. "If we embrace a conservative agenda, you know what they're going to do? They're going to say we're a bunch of crazy socialists."

As the front-runners in polls among the candidates debating last night, Mr Sanders and Ms Warren vowed not to attack each other, but needed to distinguish themselves in their bid to gain ground on the leader in the race, former US vice president Joe Biden.

Instead, they often found themselves teaming up to defend policy positions they share instead of drawing contrasts.

The first section of the debate centered on a dispute about the future of the US healthcare system, and whether Democrats should embrace Medicare for All proposals that would have the government take over the health insurance industry.

Democrats have made access to affordable healthcare one of their defining issues as the Trump administration has worked to chip away at former Democratic President Barack Obama's signature 2010 Affordable Care Act.

Former congressman John Delaney attacked the Medicare for All proposal that has been put forward by Ms Warren and Mr Sanders, arguing Americans who like private insurance should be able to keep it.

Ms Warren said: "We're not trying to take healthcare away from anyone. That's what Republicans are trying to do."

Mr Sanders, who has introduced a Medicare for All bill in the US Senate, said: "Healthcare is a human right, not a privilege. I believe that, I will fight for that."

The candidates also differed on immigration policy, disagreeing on whether illegal border crossings should be decriminalised.

"You don't have to decriminalise everything," Mr Bullock said."What you have to do is to have a president in there with the judgement and the decency to treat someone that comes to the border like one of our own."

Ms Warren disagreed, saying: "We need to expand legal immigration, we need to create a path for citizenship not just for dreamers but for grandmas and for people who have been working here in the farms and for students who have overstayed their visas."

Mr Bullock said: "You are playing into Donald Trump's hands."

Ten more candidates will face off tonight, including Mr Biden and Senator Kamala Harris.

Additional Reporting Reuters