The fourth Democratic presidential primary debate will feature 12 candidates sharing one stage for a one night, three-hour event.
The event, co-hosted by CNN and The New York Times, is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio. The debate will stream live, without requiring log-in to a cable provider, on CNN.com and NYTimes.com.
The last debate marked the first time Democratic front-runner Joe Biden and runner-up U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., faced off. Since then, Warren has surged in the polls, putting Biden’s place at the top of the primary field in doubt.
Who is participating?
The following candidates are scheduled to participate in the fourth primary debate:
- Former Vice President Joe Biden
- U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.
- South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg
- Former U.S. Housing Secretary Julian Castro
- U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii
- U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.
- U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.
- Former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas
- U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
- Businessman Tom Steyer
- U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
- Businessman Andrew Yang
Qualifying criteria for the October debate is the same as the September event. Candidates had to gather 130,000 unique donors and register at least 2% support in four qualifying polls.
Several other Democrats are still in the race, despite not qualifying for Tuesday’s debate. Author and spiritualist Marianne Williamson expressed her disdain for being left out on Twitter shortly before the event started.
10:45 p.m. – Democrats pledge to codify Roe v. Wade
Biden, Klobuchar and Warren pledged to support an effort that would codify abortion rights guaranteed through Roe v. Wade.
Klobuchar said most women want to keep the landmark Supreme Court case intact and took the opportunity to criticize Trump for supporting restrictions to abortion.
“You, Donald Trump, are not on the side of women,” Klobuchar said.
Harris said her Justice Department would ensure that any state law which contradicted with Roe v. Wade would not be enforced.
10:40 p.m. – What is the best vision to beat Trump?
Throughout the debate, lower-polling Democrats called for their rivals to focus on a vision for the future of the country instead of attacking Trump and each other.
Buttigeig returned to the point several times, saying partisan battles will not unify the country after Trump is no longer president. Meanwhile, Warren and Sanders ontinued to push for “big structural change,” saying a political revolution is needed to address systemic issues that have long gone unaddressed.
Biden said he is the only person on the stage who achieved anything worthwhile, slamming Warren for offering vague proposals. Warren said the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is one example of big change she was able to achieve, though Biden said he whipped up enough support to pass the legislation in Congress.
Klobuchar said states like Ohio are not “flyover country to me,” touting her ability to win in red parts of her home state of Minnesota.
10:20 p.m. – Democrats want to break-up big tech companies
Candidates said large social media and technology companies like Facebook and Amazon are bordering on monopolies and something should be done about it. Warren was the most aggressive in calling to break up big tech companies, while other candidates expressed some support for regulation to encourage more competition.
“I’m not willing to give up and let a handful of monopolists dominate our economy and our democracy,” Warren said.
Yang said social media companies are making a fortune on monetizing their users’ personal data. He said user data belongs to the people.
9:55 p.m. – Aging candidates say they’re healthy enough to run
Moderators asked Sanders whether voters should be concerned about his age, reflecting on a recent heart attack the 78-year-old senator suffered. Sanders said he is fit and ready to return to the campaign trail and thanked his fellow primary contenders for the well-wishes while he recovered from emergency surgery.
Biden, who is 76, was also asked whether he is healthy enough to be president. “With age comes wisdom,” he said and pledged to release his medical records before the Iowa caucuses next year.
If reelected, Trump would be the oldest president ever elected to a second term.
Gabbard said it’s unfair for moderators to ask about whether age matters in the election.
9:50 p.m. – Yang proposes decriminalizing opioid use
During a conversation on the opioid crisis, Yang proposed decriminalizing possession of small amounts of drugs, including heroin. Yang said the addiction issue should be treated as a public health crisis, and jailing struggling people doesn’t help anyone.
“The least we can do is put the resources to work in our communities so our people have a fighting chance to get well,” he said.
Harris said a failed war on drugs has led to mass incarceration and said drug company executives should face legal consequences for their role in the opioid crisis.
Sanders said the opioid crisis is a byproduct of “unfettered capitalism,” driven by greedy pharmaceutical companies that lied to the public about the addictive nature of their products.
9:35 p.m. – O’Rourke unable to answer how he’d take away weapons
O’Rourke struggled to answer how he would enforce his ban on high-powered rifles. During the last debate, he pledged to institute a mandatory buyback program that would fine people who don’t turn in their weapons.
Moderators challenged O’Rourke to explain how he would ensure people comply with the policy, and Buttigieg stepped in to criticize the former congressman for not having a real plan to take dangerous weapons off the streets.
Democrats agree on a need for universal background checks and red flag laws but clashed on whether a mandatory ban on high powered “assault weapons” is necessary.
9:15 p.m. – Trump, Turkey and foreign policy
After a commercial break, the debate’s second hour started off with a discussion on foreign policy.
Gabbard and Buttigieg, both Iraq War veterans, clashed on Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria.
Gabbard said “Trump has the blook of the Kurds on his hand” but called for an end to the “regime change war” in Syria. Buttigieg said Trump robbed soldiers of their honor by breaking an American pledge to stand with Kurdish allies in the region.
8:55 p.m. – Will taxes fix income inequality?
Democrats had a spirited conversation on whether a wealth tax on the richest Americans is the best way to address income inequality. Warren and Sanders proposed raising taxes to pay for universal childcare, free public college and eliminating student loan debt.
Democrats agreed that billionaires are hoarding wealth and should be taxed fairly, blaming Republicans for decades of tax breaks.
Warren proposed a 2-cent wealth tax on every dollar of net worth greater than $50 million, and an extra 1-cent tax on every dollar of net worth above $1 billion. The “ultra-millionaire tax” would affect America’s 75,000 richest families, she said, and generate $2.75 trillion over a decade.
Sanders is proposing an annual tax on the top 0.1 percent of U.S. households. His wealth tax would only apply to households with a net worth of over $32 million and would raise an estimated $4.35 trillion over the next decade.
Harris also highlighted her own plan to cut taxes on the middle class. Under her plan, married couples filing jointly who earn less than $100,000 per year would be eligible for a $6,000 tax credit. Single-filers earning less than $50,000 per year would receive a $3,000 tax credit.
8:45 p.m. – General Motors strikes get a quick mention
Moderators asked candidates to explain how they would compel companies like General Motors to make investments in the U.S., noting the automaker used to be the top employer in Ohio but now ranks 72nd in the state.
GM employees in the United Auto Workers union have been on strike for the last month. Booker said unions should be strengthened but did not answer how he would convince GM to bring jobs back to the U.S.
Earlier in the debate, Democrats disagreed on how to address the impact of automation on jobs. Yang has made addressing automation a central part of his campaign, saying downplaying the issue is irresponsible.
8:30 p.m. – Harris says ‘women will die’ under abortion restrictions
During a conversation on healthcare, Harris highlighted a lack of focus on reproductive rights. She said women will die under new abortion restrictions being passed by Republican-led state legislatures across the country.
Abortion rights have largely gone ignored during the Democratic debates. The moderators quickly moved on to another issue shortly after Harris finished speaking.
8:20 p.m. – Warren pressured on Medicare for All
Warren was asked to definitively state whether taxes will go up for middle-class families under her Medicare for All healthcare plan, which would expand Medicare to cover Americans under a single-payer government-run system.
She initially dodged the question which attracted criticism from Buttigieg. The South Bend, Ind. Mayor slammed Warren for misleading Midwest voters, saying it’s an example of what Americans hate about Washington.
Warren said costs will go up for the wealthy and corporations, but she would not sign a bill that doesn’t decrease costs for middle-class families.
Sanders, who has championed Medicare for All and said he “wrote the damn bill,” laid it out more clearly. He said premiums, deductibles and co-payments would be eliminated, offsetting an increase in taxes that would be needed to pay for the program.
“At least Bernie is being honest on this,” Klobuchar said.
8:05 p.m. – Impeachment kicks off the night
Primary candidates started off the night in agreement that Trump should be impeached.
Warren was given the first question, asked why Trump should be removed from office with only a year before voters will decide the next election. She said the impeachment process shows Trump and future presidents that he is not above the law.
House Democrats are several weeks into an impeachment inquiry meant to determine whether there is enough evidence to draft articles of impeachment against Trump. The president is accused of abusing his power to ask the Ukranian president to investigate Biden’s son and his foreign business dealings.
Sanders said Congress has “no choice” but to impeach Trump, who he called the most corrupt president in history. Sanders said Trump is using his position to advance his family’s business interests.
While Democrats argue Trump attempted to compel a foreign leader to benefit his reelection campaign, the president is leveling allegations of corruption against Biden. No Democrats have joined Trump’s attacks on Biden, but all of the primary candidates support an impeachment inquiry.
Biden criticized Trump for not cooperating with the inquiry.
Gabbard is the only sitting member of the U.S. House on the debate stage. She expressed some concern about partisan battles, warning that Trump will “feel exonerated” if the GOP-controlled Senate doesn’t vote to remove him from office.
Yang shifted the focus to jobs leaving Ohio, saying that is what got Trump elected.
“When we’re talking about him, we’re losing,” Yang said. “We need to present a new vision.”
Impeachment may rally Trump’s base
Republicans expect the impeachment fight to benefit Trump’s 2020 campaign. The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee raised $15 million in 72 hours raised following the announcement of the impeachment inquiry.
The RNC since held protests in the districts of House Democrats who supported the inquiry and spent $2 million on ads. Republicans are particularly focused on convincing independent voters that the impeachment attempt is a purely partisan attack on Trump, senior Trump campaign officials told MLive during a press call Tuesday.
Swing voters in Ohio expressed unease about impeaching Trump, according to a focus group survey of 11 voters conducted by Engagious/FPG. Voters who flipped from former President Barack Obama to Trump largely felt impeachment distracts Congress from working on issues they care most about.
Is Ohio still a swing state?
Tuesday’s event will be the most crowded presidential debate in modern history, held in a state that was long considered a predictor of presidential elections but has recently become more winnable for Republicans.
History suggests a candidate must win Ohio’s 18 electoral votes to win the presidency. It’s yet to be seen whether Ohio remains a battleground state after President Donald Trump won by 8 percentage points in 2016.
On the eve of the debate, Democratic hopeful Tom Steyer said Ohio is “pretty darn red,” according to The Columbus Dispatch.
The demographics of the voting-age population in Michigan and Ohio are extremely similar, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. While Michigan also went to Trump in 2016, Democrats bounced back two years later to flip two congressional districts and win all statewide offices.
Expect to hear about union autoworker strikes
Though previous debates dedicated little time to Michigan or Midwest issues, an ongoing strike by United Auto Workers could make candidates focus more on appeals to blue-collar workers. Trump’s ability to win over white working-class voters Michigan counties that previously voted Democrat was a key reason he was the first Republican to win the state since 1988.
DNC Chair Tom Perez join striking autoworkers outside a General Motors parts distribution center in Ohio Monday. Perez also participated in a roundtable with dairy farmers.
Trump takes to the skies
Trump’s reelection campaign launched an aerial banner across the city of Westerville on Tuesday hours before the debate was scheduled to start. It reads “SOCIALISM DESTROYS OHIO JOBS. VOTE TRUMP.”
The campaign also ran a front-page ad in the Columbus Dispatch criticizing several policy proposals championed by Democratic primary candidates. The ad states “Democrats will kill Ohio jobs” and “wreck Ohio’s economy.”
The ad states proposals to end fossil fuel use in the next three decades would eliminate 278,000 oil, gas and coal jobs. It also criticizes “Medicare for All” proposal, posited by Warren and Sanders, which would replace the private health insurance market with a single-payer government-run system.
“This week’s debate will be another display of the 2020 Democrats’ far-left lurch toward big government socialism,” said Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh in a statement. “While Democrats will use the debate stage to paint a glamorous view of their socialist agenda, Team Trump is here to expose the truth behind their job-killing policies and remind Ohioans what’s at stake in 2020.”
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