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Westlake Legal Group > Democratic Party

Elizabeth Warren, Candidate With the Plans, Needed One for All the Incoming Attacks

WESTERVILLE, Ohio — Senator Elizabeth Warren looked down, performatively taken aback. She raised her hand to speak — surely it was her turn again. She shrugged a little.

For about an hour on Tuesday, Ms. Warren had been the prime target of her debate rivals, compelled to defend as never before the hard-charging progressivism and soak-the-rich economic approach that has elevated her to the top of the polls. Beto O’Rourke, the former Texas congressman, had a theory about all of that.

“Sometimes, I think Senator Warren is more focused on being punitive or pitting some part of the country against the other,” he said, using a question about the wealth tax to lash Ms. Warren’s broader political philosophy, “instead of lifting people up and making sure this country comes together.”

Ms. Warren turned to Mr. O’Rourke, then back to the cameras. “So, um, I’m really shocked at the notion that anyone thinks I’m punitive,” she said.

Perhaps. But she should not have been surprised.

For months, Ms. Warren had moved largely unimpeded in her brisk jog to the front of the 2020 Democratic pack, coasting through debates without incident as her calls for “big structural change” took hold and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. absorbed the unforgiving glare afforded the favorite. Time and again this year, moderators had invited Ms. Warren’s top competitors to attack her. Time and again, they had done so gently, if at all.

This time, Mr. O’Rourke went after her. Pete Buttigieg, the millennial mayor of South Bend, Ind., did the same early in the evening in a slashing exchange on health care. Andrew Yang said she was wrong on the wealth tax. Senator Kamala Harris smiled as she and Ms. Warren sparred over whether to regulate President Trump’s tweets. Mr. Biden initiated his most direct debate-stage confrontation with Ms. Warren to date, saying she was “being vague” in campaign proposals.

This was Ms. Warren’s reward for achieving co-front-runner (and maybe outright front-runner) status: persistent sniping from fellow Democrats who see her surge as the most urgent threat to their own paths to the nomination. Ms. Warren greeted the deluge with mixed success, never wobbling too precariously but retreating at times to the safe harbor of stump-speech platitudes. On occasion, she appeared so eager to avoid the fray that she could give the impression that she was not engaging with the substance. “A yes-or-no question that didn’t get a yes-or-no answer,” Mr. Buttigieg observed at one point.

ImageWestlake Legal Group the-daily-album-art-articleInline-v2 Elizabeth Warren, Candidate With the Plans, Needed One for All the Incoming Attacks Warren, Elizabeth United States Politics and Government Sanders, Bernard Presidential Election of 2020 Democratic Party Debates (Political) Buttigieg, Pete (1982- ) Biden, Joseph R Jr

Listen to ‘The Daily’: The Moderates Strike Back: The 4th Democratic Debate

Candidates asserted themselves by attacking Elizabeth Warren, not Joe Biden, revealing a shifting balance of power in the Democratic field.

The fresh antipathy was all the more striking for its contrast with the treatment of two fellow contenders whose campaigns have been consumed by drama of late. Shortly after his recent heart attack, Senator Bernie Sanders attracted little meaningful criticism, on policy matters or his health. He will receive a boost this weekend with the expected endorsement of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the New York congresswoman who has emerged as an impassioned gatekeeper of the left.

And Mr. Biden, straining to keep his grip on the race, survived an early dissection of the impeachment inquiry that centers on Mr. Trump’s urging of the Ukrainian president to investigate Mr. Biden and his son Hunter.

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Westlake Legal Group warrenvideocover-videoSixteenByNine3000 Elizabeth Warren, Candidate With the Plans, Needed One for All the Incoming Attacks Warren, Elizabeth United States Politics and Government Sanders, Bernard Presidential Election of 2020 Democratic Party Debates (Political) Buttigieg, Pete (1982- ) Biden, Joseph R Jr

Senator Elizabeth Warren was the prime target of her rivals at Tuesday’s debate. Patrick Healy, the political editor for The New York Times, explains what this means for the Democratic contest.CreditCreditTamir Kalifa for The New York Times

While the candidates plainly saw little incentive in questioning whether Hunter Biden had traded on the family name in dealings abroad — lest they be seen as doing the president’s bidding — their deference itself was damning: Other campaigns have long expected Mr. Biden to falter on his own, viewing Ms. Warren as the more nettlesome long-term headache, and the former vice president’s performance on Tuesday quite likely did little to alter their calculation.

The moment that Mr. Biden had prepared for came early. Asked about his son in the debate’s opening minutes, Mr. Biden worked to summon the righteous fury and stern statesman’s gaze perfected over his half-century in public life.

“My son did nothing wrong,” he said firmly. “I did nothing wrong.”

At times, his delivery was wobbly, as it tends to be. He stopped and started a bit. He cited George Washington. But he worked toward the conclusion he has been repeating often on the campaign trail.

“He doesn’t want me to be the candidate,” Mr. Biden said of the president. “He is going after me because he knows if I get the nomination, I will beat him like a drum.”

Before the debate, several rivals had come to Mr. Biden’s defense, plainly mindful of the limits and potential downsides of condemning peers so far this year — and of condemning Mr. Biden on this subject in particular. None made an issue of Mr. Biden’s family on Tuesday.

At the previous three debates, Mr. Biden had been the focus of attacks both glancing and sharply personal. Yet the candidates who have gone after Mr. Biden frontally — including Ms. Harris; Julián Castro, the former federal housing secretary; and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who has left the race — have seen few lasting benefits. In some cases, such as Mr. Castro’s, the effort appeared to backfire with some Democratic voters and officials who are eager to keep the focus on Mr. Trump.

Taking on Ms. Warren brought risks of its own, given her popularity with the party’s base and the scant evidence throughout this primary that voters are inclined to reward infighting of any sort.

But less than four months before the Iowa caucuses, her competitors have determined that complacency will not suffice.

Mr. Buttigieg was the first aggressor, a few minutes into the debate in Westerville. He had been asked about Ms. Warren’s support for Medicare for All and her squishy responses to the question of whether middle-class taxes would rise under it. This was the candidate with “a plan for everything,” Mr. Buttigieg taunted, “except this.”

Ms. Warren’s head shot skyward. “We can pay for this,” she insisted, repeating that “costs” would rise only for the wealthy and declining to concede — as Mr. Sanders, her comrade-in-health-care-policy, has — that middle-class taxes would go up.

Amy Klobuchar, a moderate Senate peer who has leveled few attacks from the stage all year, was having none of it. “At least Bernie’s being honest here,” she said.

The debate, the fourth of the campaign, came during a period of momentum for Ms. Warren, who has moved into a lead position, topping Mr. Biden in some surveys both nationally and in early-voting primary states. At the previous debate, Mr. Biden quickly abandoned mannerly efforts to draw contrasts with her, and other high-polling rivals had until Tuesday largely refrained from issuing piercing criticism onstage.

But in the lead-up to the debate, several contenders had telegraphed arguments against Ms. Warren. At a fund-raiser last week, Mr. Biden made an oblique jab, saying that to claim that Medicare for All is achievable without a significant increase of taxes “not just for the wealthy but across the board is just not honest.” And on Tuesday morning, Mr. Buttigieg released a digital ad that swiped at Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders over their support for Medicare for All, a sweeping single-payer plan that would all but eliminate private health insurance.

The two leading candidates had avoided flashes of explosive confrontation with each other until around the final half-hour of the debate, when Mr. Biden said, “I’m the only one who has gotten anything really big done,” criticizing Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders for advocating overly general ideas on issues like health care. Ms. Warren went on to point to her role in helping to create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau during the Obama administration.

“I agreed with the great job she did,” Mr. Biden said. Turning to face Ms. Warren, jabbing his hand in her direction, the former vice president’s voice rose. “And I went out on the floor and got you votes. I got votes for that bill. I convinced people to vote for it. So let’s get those things straight, too.”

Some in the room applauded.

“I am deeply grateful to President Obama,” she said pointedly — as his vice president grinned — “who fought so hard to make sure that agency was passed into law, and I am deeply grateful to every single person who fought for it and who helped pass it into law.”

“You did a hell of a job at your job,” Mr. Biden said, interrupting her.

Less clear was Mr. Biden’s appraisal of Ms. Warren in her new role: the co-favorite.

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Warren Draws Fire From All Sides, Reflecting a Shift in Fortunes in Race

Westlake Legal Group 15debate-ledeall1-facebookJumbo-v2 Warren Draws Fire From All Sides, Reflecting a Shift in Fortunes in Race Warren, Elizabeth United States Politics and Government Sanders, Bernard Polls and Public Opinion Ohio Klobuchar, Amy Health Insurance and Managed Care Harris, Kamala D Democratic Party Debates (Political) Buttigieg, Pete (1982- ) Booker, Cory A Biden, Joseph R Jr

WESTERVILLE, OHIO — Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts faced a sustained barrage of criticism from her Democratic rivals at a presidential debate in Ohio on Tuesday, tangling with a group of underdog moderates who assailed her liberal economic proposals, while former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. appeared to fade from the fray after parrying President Trump’s attacks on his family.

The debate confirmed that the primary race had entered a new phase, defined by Ms. Warren’s apparent strength and the increasing willingness of other Democrats to challenge her. She has risen toward the top of the polls while confronting limited resistance from her opponents, and in past debates she attracted a fraction of the hostility that Democrats trained on Mr. Biden.

That changed in a dramatic fashion on Tuesday, when a group of her rivals voiced sharp skepticism of Ms. Warren’s agenda or accused her of taking impractical stances on issues like health care and taxation. Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., insistently charged Ms. Warren with evading a “yes-or-no” question on how she would pay for a “Medicare for all” health care system, while Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota cast parts of Ms. Warren’s platform as a “pipe dream.” Former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas branded Ms. Warren’s worldview as overly “punitive.”

Ms. Warren sought at every turn to dispense with her critics by casting them as lacking ambition or political grit. When she addressed criticism of her proposal to tax vast private fortunes, for instance, Ms. Warren suggested her opponents believed it was “more important to protect billionaires than it is to invest in an entire generation” but did not single out her rivals.

The debate unfolded in a drastically altered political landscape, with Mr. Trump facing impeachment and Mr. Biden in the center of a firestorm over his son’s financial overseas financial dealings. The candidates were prompted to cover a wide range of issues, including a number that had featured little or not at all in past debates, such as the impeachment of Mr. Trump, the Turkish invasion of Syria and the details of gun control policy and the taxation of great wealth.

The moderators began with a series of questions about impeachment to each of the 12 candidates — the largest field ever for a primary debate — affording them an opportunity to denounce Mr. Trump. And Mr. Biden was quickly asked about his son Hunter Biden’s overseas financial work, delivering a narrow, repetitive answer in which he said neither he nor his son had done anything wrong.

Foreign policy played a greater role on Tuesday evening than in any other debate, pushed to the political foreground by the renewed outbreak of war and humanitarian catastrophe in Syria. The Democrats chiefly trained their attention on Mr. Trump’s role in instigating the crisis there: For instance, Julián Castro, the former housing secretary, condemned Mr. Trump for “caging kids on the border and letting ISIS prisoners run free” in Syria.

With Mr. Biden a diminished force, Mr. Buttigieg and Ms. Klobuchar appeared determined to present themselves as strong alternatives for voters in the middle. Both emphasized their Midwestern credentials, and Mr. Buttigieg invoked his experience as a military veteran in several wide-ranging answers on foreign policy.

Their new aggressiveness represented a shorter-term calculation about halting Ms. Warren’s increasing strength in Iowa. With Ms. Warren gaining there, Ms. Klobuchar and Ms. Buttigieg plainly decided to target her in an effort to appeal to the state’s moderate voters, who so far have lined up with Mr. Biden.

With a powerfully funded campaign and an expanding field operation in Iowa, Mr. Buttigieg may be uniquely well positioned to cut into Mr. Biden’s blocs of support in the leadoff caucus state.

In an intense argument that reflected their changing fortunes in the race, Mr. Biden briefly went on the offensive against Ms. Warren toward the end of the debate, describing her health care plans as “vague” and demanding in a raised voice that she give him some credit for her signature accomplishment, the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau after the 2008 financial crisis. Ms. Warren expressed gratitude for the help she had received — not from Mr. Biden but from former President Barack Obama.

But Ms. Warren was on the defensive for much of the evening and most of all on the issue of single-payer health care, when she again declined to specify precisely how she would fund a sweeping system of government-backed insurance. Unlike Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Ms. Warren has not acknowledged in plain terms that a “Medicare for all” plan would quite likely have to substitute broad-based taxes for private insurance premiums and other costs.

“I will not sign a bill into law that does not lower costs for middle-class families,” Ms. Warren said, declining to elaborate.

Ms. Klobuchar, in her most assertive debate performance yet, chided Ms. Warren for not explaining to voters “where we’re going to send the invoice” for single-payer care.

“At least Bernie’s being honest here,” Ms. Klobuchar said.

Ms. Warren was squeezed, at times, from the left as well: While Mr. Sanders never broke their informal nonaggression pact, he agreed with several of the moderates that it was “appropriate” to enumerate the financial trade-offs involved in single-payer health care, including taxes on Americans that would be “substantially less than what they were paying for premiums and out-of-pocket expenses.”

And while Mr. Sanders, who had a heart attack this month, was forced to address new concerns about his health, his campaign aides confirmed during the debate that he had secured an endorsement from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York that could inject new energy into his candidacy.

But there were also the germs of a broader debate about the role of the United States in the Middle East: In an intense exchange between the two military veterans onstage, Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii said that it was not only Mr. Trump who had “the blood of the Kurds on his hands,” but also politicians in both parties and news media organizations that had cheered for “regime change war.”

Her remarks drew forceful pushback from Mr. Buttigieg, who said Ms. Gabbard was “dead wrong,” arguing that “the slaughter going on in Syria is not a consequence of American presence — it a consequence of a withdrawal and a betrayal by this president of American allies and American values.”

While Mr. Biden and Ms. Warren did not clash directly over foreign policy, they diverged in a stark fashion over the situation in Syria. Mr. Biden said he would want to keep American troops there and convey to the Turkish government that it would pay a “heavy price” for its invasion. Ms. Warren said she opposed Mr. Trump’s handling of the situation but believed the United States should “get out of the Middle East.”

Throughout the evening, Mr. Biden played a far less central role than he did in past debates, stepping to the foreground for exchanges over foreign policy but otherwise taking a more passive approach. His most important moment of the night may have come early on, when he was pressed by a moderator to explain why his son had not crossed any ethical lines by doing business in Ukraine while his father was overseeing diplomacy there for the Obama administration.

Mr. Biden said several times that he and his son had done “nothing wrong,” and alluded repeatedly to an interview Hunter Biden gave to ABC News, in which he said it had been an error in judgment to sit on the board of a Ukrainian gas company while the elder Mr. Biden was vice president. Mr. Trump has accused the Bidens of corruption, often in false or exaggerated terms, and his efforts to enlist the government of Ukraine in tarring Mr. Biden instigated an impeachment inquiry.

“This is about Trump’s corruption,” Mr. Biden said. “That’s what we should be focusing on.”

None of Mr. Biden’s Democratic rivals chose to press the subject, reflecting both the political sensitivity of issues touching on Mr. Biden’s family and also a calculation, by his most immediate rivals, that Mr. Biden is likely to continue sinking in the race without a further onslaught from fellow Democrats. While a number of candidates are hoping to peel away moderate voters from Mr. Biden, they tried to do so on Tuesday by challenging the left rather than by blasting the leading candidate of the center.

Defending his political stature, Mr. Biden at one point described himself as “the only one on this stage who has gotten anything really big done,” and cited his work on the Violence Against Women Act and the Obama administration’s health care law.

That argument drew a fierce response from Mr. Sanders, who said Mr. Biden had also achieved far less laudable feats, like the passage of the NAFTA trade deal and a law tightening the federal bankruptcy code. “You got the disastrous war in Iraq done,” Mr. Sanders said.

And Ms. Warren, too, took issue with Mr. Biden’s claim, pointing to her role as the architect of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — an agency, she said, that represented “structural change in our economy.” In a moment of crackling tension, Mr. Biden raised his voice and urged Ms. Warren to give him credit, too, for the birth of the agency.

“I went onto the floor and got you votes,” he said.

Ms. Warren retorted by saying she was “deeply grateful for President Obama, who fought so hard to make sure that agency was passed into law,” as well as for others in the administration who did the same.

Just as striking as the offensives by Ms. Klobuchar and Mr. Buttigieg were the more passive showings by Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris — both of whom were counting on a strong outing.

Mr. Booker repeatedly said the focus of the debate should be on Mr. Trump. He denounced the moderators’ questions about Mr. Biden’s son. “The only person sitting at home enjoying that was Donald Trump,” Mr. Booker said.

And he even defended the fitness of the septuagenarian candidates onstage — Mr. Biden, Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren — by noting that Mr. Trump would be the least healthy candidate running in 2020. Ms. Harris also mostly trained her fire on the president, at one point using her new catch line: “Dude gotta go.”

The only moment when Ms. Harris showed any appetite for tangling with the other candidates was when she demanded to know why Ms. Warren would not join her in urging Twitter to remove the president’s account.

Ms. Harris seemed more focus on trying to build support with women, as she spoke most forcefully about the importance of defending abortion rights. “It is her body, it is her right, it is her decision,” she said.

After presenting her message at the previous three debates with only intermittent challenges from her rivals, Ms. Warren was met with cutting criticism of her signature populist flourishes.

“I want to give a reality check to Elizabeth,” said Ms. Klobuchar, before alluding to another candidate onstage, the hedge fund executive Tom Steyer. “No one on this stage wants to protect billionaires. Not even the billionaire wants to protect billionaires. We just have different approaches.”

Mr. Buttigieg was just as pointed, repeatedly casting Ms. Warren as a “Washington politician,” but he and Ms. Klobuchar were not alone. Even lagging candidates such as former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas and Andrew Yang, a former tech entrepreneur, took on Ms. Warren, all but confirming her front-runner status.

Mr. Sanders was not as ubiquitous a presence as he had been at past debates, but he drew applause by pre-empting a question about his health. “I’m healthy, I’m feeling great,” he said before vowing “a vigorous campaign.”

That, Mr. Sanders said, “is how I think I can reassure the American people.”

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Warren Comes Under Fire on Funding for Health Care Plan

WESTERVILLE, Ohio — Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, an emerging front-runner in the Democratic presidential race, battled sustained criticism from her Democratic rivals over her position on health care in a debate on Tuesday night, squeezed by a combination of moderate and progressive opponents who pressed her to describe in plain terms how she would fund a “Medicare for all”-style system.

Ms. Warren, who has endorsed a proposal by Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont for single-payer care, has consistently refused to say that she would embrace middle-class tax increases to finance the plan. She maintained that practiced position on the stage in Ohio, vowing that she would lower health care costs for all but the wealthy yet repeatedly sidestepping the question of whether she would enact a broad-based tax increase.

“I will not sign a bill into law that does not lower costs for middle-class families,” Ms. Warren said, declining to go into detail. But the answer failed to keep her foes at bay, and for the first time in the race Ms. Warren found herself assailed from multiple sides over an extended period in the debate. Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., accused her of evading “a yes-or-no question,” while Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota called the single-payer proposal backed by Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders a “pipe dream.”

Ms. Klobuchar reserved her sharpest words, however, for only one of those two progressives. “At least Bernie’s being honest here,” Ms. Klobuchar said, challenging Ms. Warren to tell voters “where we’re going to send the invoice” for single-payer care.

Ms. Warren was not alone in facing scrutiny early in the debate: Joseph R. Biden Jr. was quickly pressed on the issue of his son Hunter and his work for a Ukrainian gas company while his father was vice president. Mr. Biden responded to a question about his son’s overseas work in narrow and repetitive terms, saying several times that he and his son had done “nothing wrong.”

The drawn-out argument over health care captured one of the defining themes in the Democratic race: the ideological divide over the best way to provide universal coverage, and over the proper scale and cost of government-backed social programs. Up to this point, the Democrats’ policy debate has largely been defined by Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders, with their promises to restructure huge parts of the American economy. The debate in Ohio represented the most assertive effort so far by candidates skeptical of their policies to put up resistance to those ideas.

The fierce exchange also signaled that the race had entered a new phase, defined by Ms. Warren’s apparent status as a leader of the Democratic pack and a new mood of urgency among other candidates eager to challenge that status.

Mr. Sanders, who has observed a kind of informal nonaggression pact with Ms. Warren so far, did not exactly break from that approach on Tuesday night. But he called it “appropriate” for candidates to explain the fiscal trade-offs involved in a “Medicare for all” system: Mr. Sanders said that voters would see their taxes go up, but that they would save money overall because of the way health care would be restructured.

“Premiums are gone, co-payments are gone, deductibles are gone, all out-of-pocket expenses are gone,” Mr. Sanders said, adding, “The tax increase they pay will be substantially less, substantially less than what they were paying for premiums and out-of-pocket expenses.”

But Mr. Sanders more forcefully scolded the candidates onstage who opposed single-payer care and whom he described as “defending a system which is dysfunctional, which is cruel.”

The Democratic field appeared far more eager to attack Ms. Warren for her health care policies than to critique Mr. Biden who remains a top candidate in the race, for the family business entanglements that have defined a weekslong clash between Mr. Biden and President Trump.

Mr. Biden has tried to put to rest criticism of his son’s financial dealings in Ukraine and China. Over the weekend, he said he would not allow members of his family to do business overseas during a potential Biden presidency, and Hunter Biden stepped down from his role at an investment fund linked to China.

Prompted by a moderator to explain why his family had not observed similar restrictions while he was vice president, Mr. Biden avoided answering directly and repeatedly defended his son. He pointed to an interview Hunter Biden gave to ABC News, in which he described his decision to work in Ukraine as an error of judgment but said he had not done anything wrong ethically.

“I carried out the policy of the United States government in rooting out corruption in Ukraine,” Mr. Biden said, adding, “My son’s statement speaks for itself.”

The other Democrats onstage did not appear eager to press the issue, in part because they believe there is no appetite among primary voters for criticism of Mr. Biden’s family. There is also a feeling among some Democrats that Mr. Biden is on the downswing in the race and that it makes little sense to attack him in ways that might antagonize his supporters. Neither Ms. Warren nor Mr. Sanders, Mr. Biden’s two most formidable rivals, took up the line of attack on Ukraine.

Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, who in previous debates took on Mr. Biden in pointed terms, instead scolded the moderators for even asking Mr. Biden about his son’s work in Ukraine.

“The only person sitting at home enjoying that was Donald Trump,” said Mr. Booker, lamenting what he called ‘‘elevating a lie and attacking a statesman.”

With a dozen candidates onstage and impeachment in the air, it was unclear heading into Tuesday’s debate whether it would prove to be a turning point in the race. With Mr. Trump’s struggle to stabilize his presidency dominating the news, along with a national security and humanitarian crisis unfolding in Syria, the trading of rhetorical blows on a stage in suburban Ohio may or may not captivate the attention of primary voters across the country this week.

Still, the debate promised to test Mr. Biden and Ms. Warren’s competing claims to the status of Democratic front-runner: The two candidates have been closely matched in recent polling, nationally and in the early primary states, with Ms. Warren assembling an increasingly formidable coalition on the left and Mr. Biden remaining the favorite among more moderate Democrats. In recent weeks, the former vice president has been increasingly critical of Ms. Warren’s vows to overhaul the American economy, and he has spoken dismissively about the idea of electing a “planner” to the presidency — an allusion to Ms. Warren’s swollen sheaf of policy proposals.

They entered the debate battling different vulnerabilities. Mr. Biden has been mired in a nearly monthlong battle with Mr. Trump over the work Mr. Biden’s son Hunter did in foreign countries while Mr. Biden was vice president. Mr. Trump’s attacks have veered into personal smears and even potentially impeachable behavior, with entreaties to Ukraine and China to investigate the Bidens, but they have left Mr. Biden off balance at a perilous moment in his candidacy.

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Westlake Legal Group opt01_UPDATE_00012-videoSixteenByNineJumbo1600 Warren Comes Under Fire on Funding for Health Care Plan Warren, Elizabeth United States Politics and Government Sanders, Bernard Polls and Public Opinion Ohio Klobuchar, Amy Health Insurance and Managed Care Harris, Kamala D Democratic Party Debates (Political) Buttigieg, Pete (1982- ) Booker, Cory A Biden, Joseph R Jr

Over the years, televised debates have yielded turning points for presidential contenders. We look at some pivotal moments from past debates and explain how they shaped the race.

Even before Mr. Trump’s onslaught, Mr. Biden was struggling to excite the Democratic base. While some in his party are content with what they see as a play-it-safe candidacy, others want him to offer a message beyond nostalgic tributes to the Obama years and vows to restore comity in Washington. As Ms. Warren now threatens to overtake him as the clear leader in the race, Mr. Biden’s allies believe he must both dispense forcefully with the criticism of his family and also articulate more clearly what he would aim to achieve as president.

At the same time, Ms. Warren has been confronting a new level of criticism from her Democratic rivals as she has risen in the polls. And before she can cement a commanding position in the race, Ms. Warren may have to put to rest a few persistent questions about her candidacy — how she would appeal to moderate voters in the general election, for instance, and black voters, and how she would make good on her proposal to create a system of single-payer health insurance.

It is on that last front that her rivals have been most comfortable criticizing her, and it was quick to rise to the forefront Tuesday night, Ms. Warren was pressed on how she would fund a “Medicare for all”-style health insurance system, goading her to say in plain language whether she would raise taxes on the middle class.

Up to this point, Ms. Warren has been careful not to allow any daylight to emerge on the health care issue between her and Mr. Sanders, her most formidable populist rival, who has made “Medicare for all” the defining cause of his campaign. But there may now be more pressure on Ms. Warren to revise her stance in a way that might reassure voters on the center-left than there is on her to protect her left flank from Mr. Sanders, who has been fading in the polls and grappling with the aftermath of a heart attack.

Mr. Sanders has been off the campaign trail for nearly all of October, since he was hospitalized in Las Vegas and had two stents placed in an artery. He has been recovering at his home in Burlington, Vt., and announced plans for a comeback tour starting in New York this weekend. But with his advanced age in the spotlight and his poll numbers slowly declining, Mr. Sanders may face a steep climb to overtake either Mr. Biden or Ms. Warren, with whom he has had something of a nonaggression pact.

At least for a moment, Mr. Sanders showed an unaccustomed willingness to highlight his differences with Ms. Warren last weekend, explaining in a television interview that a crucial distinction between them was that Ms. Warren is a “capitalist through her bones” and he is not.

More eager for conflict might be the candidates in the middle and the back of the Democratic pack — figures like Mr. Buttigieg, Ms. Klobuchar, Mr. Booker, former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas and Senator Kamala Harris of California. Mr. Buttigieg, whose campaign is stocked with cash but struggling to move up in the polls, has been taking a notably sharper tone with his Democratic opponents. He has chided Ms. Warren for certain aspects of her agenda and more bluntly criticized Mr. O’Rourke for his left-wing proposals to examine the tax-exempt status of religious institutions and to require gun owners to surrender some types of firearms.

Some of Mr. Buttigieg’s rivals have responded in kind, with Mr. O’Rourke branding him as a carefully poll-tested candidate and Ms. Harris suggesting on Twitter that Mr. Buttigieg’s gun policies amounted to little more than a “Band-Aid” on a serious problem.

Lending a fresh layer of unpredictability to the evening were Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, an idiosyncratic lawmaker who is running as a peace candidate, and Tom Steyer, a billionaire former hedge fund investor who has spent lavishly from his personal fortune to buy himself a place on the debate stage. Ms. Gabbard has lashed out in surprising directions in the past, delivering a searing attack on Ms. Harris in a July debate, while Mr. Steyer, appearing in a debate for the first time, has tried to strike a combative pose as a populist critic of Washington.

Several candidates were fighting not only for attention but also for survival, as they strain to meet the stricter qualification standards for the next debate in November. Julián Castro, the former housing secretary, was in that cluster, along with Ms. Klobuchar, Mr. O’Rourke and Ms. Gabbard. Together, they make up an ideologically varied group joined by a common challenge: winning sustained interest from voters in a race dominated by a few exceedingly well-known candidates who have topped the polls for months.

One Democrat not at risk of being sidelined was Andrew Yang, the former technology entrepreneur who has built a powerful niche following with his stern warnings about the automation of work and his proposal to give every American a $12,000-a-year stipend paid from government funds. He raised more money than all but a few candidates in the last quarter, and in the polls he is now even with or leading a number of candidates with far more extensive qualifications for the presidency.

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What 2020 Candidates Said About Impeachment at the Democratic Debate

Westlake Legal Group 15breakout-impeachment-vid-facebookJumbo-v2 What 2020 Candidates Said About Impeachment at the Democratic Debate Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Presidential Election of 2020 impeachment Democratic Party Debates (Political)

Since Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced last month that the House would initiate a formal impeachment inquiry against President Trump, the topic has dominated the news. At Tuesday night’s Democratic debate, moderators asked the candidates about their views in an attempt to find daylight between them.

All 19 candidates in the field, including the 12 on the stage on Tuesday, have come out in support of the impeachment inquiry, though Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii had long opposed the idea.

The candidates are not perfectly aligned, however.

Some have spoken in favor of impeachment more forcefully than others. For instance, Julián Castro, the former housing secretary, has repeatedly called for impeachment proceedings to begin and for Mr. Trump to be impeached. Senator Elizabeth Warren has similarly called on the House “to vote on articles of impeachment” and promised to “do what the Constitution requires” if the matter comes before the Senate.

After months of restraint, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. toughened his position and called for Mr. Trump’s impeachment for the first time last week. (Mr. Trump is facing an impeachment inquiry in the first place because of his request to the Ukrainian government that it look into what Mr. Biden did with the country’s officials when his son, Hunter Biden, was working for a gas company there.)

At the same time, others like Ms. Gabbard, have been careful to endorse only the impeachment inquiry and not necessarily impeachment itself.

Below is a partial transcript of the exchange on impeachment at Tuesday night’s Democratic debate:

WARREN: Sometimes there are issues that are bigger than politics. I think that’s the case with this impeachment inquiry. When I made the decision to run for president, I certainly didn’t think it was going to be about impeachment. But when the Mueller report came out, I read it, all 442 pages. And when I got to the end, I realized that Mueller had shown … that this president had obstructed justice and done it repeatedly. And so at that moment, I called for opening an impeachment inquiry. Now, that didn’t happen and look what happened as a result. Donald Trump broke the law again in the summer, broke it again this fall.

You know, we took a constitutional oath, and that is that no one is above the law, and that includes the President of the United States. Impeachment is the way that we establish that this man will not be permitted to break the law over and over without consequences. This is about Donald Trump. But understand, it’s about the next president and the next president and the next president and the future of this country. The impeachment must go forward.

ANDERSON COOPER: Thank you, Senator Warren. You’re all going to get in on this, by the way. Senator Sanders, do Democrats have any choice but to impeach? Please respond.

SANDERS: No, they don’t. In my judgment, Trump is the most corrupt president in the history of this country. It’s not just that he obstructed justice with the Muller report. I think that the House will find him guilty of — worthy of impeachment because of the emoluments clause. This is a president who is enriching himself while using the Oval Office to do that and that is outrageous. And I think in terms of the Ukrainian incident, the idea that we have a president of the United States who is prepared to hold back national security money to one of our allies to get dirt on a presidential candidate is beyond comprehension. So I look forward, by the way not only to a speedy expeditious impeachment process, but Mitch McConnell has got to do the right thing and allow a free and fair trial in the Senate.

COOPER: Vice President Biden, during the Clinton impeachment proceedings, you said, “The American people don’t think that they have made a mistake by electing Bill Clinton and we in Congress had better be careful before we upset their decision.” With the country split, have Democrats been careful enough in pursuing the impeachment of President Trump?

BIDEN: Yes, they have. I said from the beginning that if in fact Trump continued to stonewall what the Congress is entitled to know about his background, what he did, all the accusations in the Mueller report, if they did that they would have no choice — no choice but to begin an impeachment proceeding which gives them more power to seek more information. This president — and I agree with Bernie, Senator Sanders — is the most corrupt in modern history and I think all of our history. The fact is that this president of the United States has gone so far as to say since this latest event, that in fact he will not cooperate in any way at all, will not list any witnesses, will not provide information, will not do anything to cooperate with the impeachment. They have no choice but to move.

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Biden Defends Son Hunter at Debate, Saying Focus Should Be on Trump

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[Watch the debate and follow our live analysis here.]

Joseph R. Biden Jr. pushed back against President Trump’s attack on his son’s business dealings, saying that the attention should instead be on Mr. Trump’s actions of inviting a foreign power into the election and not on the controversy sparked by unfounded conspiracies about the overseas business dealings of his son Hunter.

But the former vice president at first did not address part of a question at the Democratic presidential debate from Anderson Cooper, who asked whether it was appropriate for his son to have business dealings in Ukraine while Mr. Biden was vice president. Mr. Biden instead pivoted to Mr. Trump, and invoked the founding fathers.

“My son did nothing wrong,” Mr. Biden said. “I did nothing wrong.”

He continued:

“Look, the fact that George Washington on the first time he spoke after being elected, that we had to worry about is foreign interference in our elections, it was the greatest threat to America. This president on three occasions, three occasions, has invited foreign governments and heads of government to get engaged in trying to alter our elections. The fact is that it is outrageous. Rudy Giuliani, the president and his thugs have already proven that they, in fact, are flat lying. What we have to do now is focus on Donald Trump. He doesn’t want me to be the candidate. He is going after me because he knows if I get the nomination, I will beat him like a drum.”

When pressed by Mr. Cooper in a follow-up question on whether his son should have had foreign business dealings during the Obama administration, Mr. Biden again said they had done nothing wrong.

“I did my job,” he said. “I never discussed a single thing with my son about anything having to do with Ukraine. No one has indicated I have. We’ve always kept everything separate, even when my son was the attorney general of the state of Delaware. We never discussed anything. There would be no potential conflict.”

Over the past week, the Biden campaign and allies have taken numerous steps to mitigate any distraction posed by the younger Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine and China. On Sunday, Hunter Biden announced through his lawyer that he intended to step down from the board of a Chinese company, BHR, by the end of the month. His lawyer also said that should the elder Mr. Biden be elected president, Hunter Biden would “agree not to serve on boards of, or work on behalf of, foreign-owned companies.”

In an interview with ABC News on Tuesday morning, Hunter Biden denied any wrongdoing, saying his only mistake was creating a situation for President Trump and his allies to attempt to exploit.

“I gave a hook to some very unethical people to act in illegal ways to try to do some harm to my father,” he said in the interview. “That’s where I made the mistake. So I take full responsibility for that. Did I do anything improper? No, not in any way. Not in any way whatsoever.”

The elder Mr. Biden, in a brief news conference on Sunday after his son’s announcement that he would step down from the BHR board, echoed those sentiments, contending repeatedly that “no one has asserted my son did a single thing wrong” and accusing the president of sowing misinformation.

“No one,” he said, “has asserted that I have done anything wrong except the lying president. That’s the only thing. That’s the focus.”

The former vice president added that he learned of his son’s decision through the public announcement and that he never consulted with his son. He said his son’s choice “represents the kind of man of integrity he is.”

For weeks, Mr. Trump and his allies have attacked Hunter Biden’s business entanglements in Ukraine and China while his father was vice president, with unfounded and baseless accusations that the elder Mr. Biden used his office to help his son. There is no evidence to support their claims.

Mr. Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, have asked Ukraine’s government to investigate the Bidens, including in a conversation between Mr. Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. The effort helped to trigger an impeachment inquiry in the House.

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Who Is Marc Lacey? Meet the Times Editor Moderating the Democratic Debate

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CreditBrittainy Newman/The New York Times

BEHIND THE BYLINE

Westlake Legal Group author-lara-takenaga-thumbLarge Who Is Marc Lacey? Meet the Times Editor Moderating the Democratic Debate United States Politics and Government Newspapers News and News Media New York Times Lacey, Marc Democratic Party Debates (Political) CNN

Oct. 14, 2019


The Reader Center has started an interview series, Behind the Byline, to introduce you to Times journalists. Is there a reporter, photographer or editor whom you would like to get to know? Tell us in the form below.

Over his 20 years at The New York Times, Marc Lacey has worn many hats: a White House correspondent, a foreign correspondent who has reported from dozens of countries, the editor of the weekend news report and, now, the National editor.

But on Tuesday, he’ll try on a very different one. Alongside the CNN anchors Anderson Cooper and Erin Burnett, Marc will moderate the fourth Democratic debate — the first that The Times has hosted in more than a decade.

[Watch the debate and follow our live analysis.]

Here, Marc shares how he learned about his latest gig, the career path he almost chose and his surprising hobby.

What was your path to becoming the National editor?

I still remember when I got the call from New York in 2011 asking whether I wanted to be an editor. I was the first-ever Phoenix bureau chief for The Times and was in my home office gazing out at the man-made lake I lived on. My pontoon boat was docked nearby, with my fishing rod at the ready.

After more than a decade of adventurous reporting posts, I thought editing would be another adventure. I have not been wrong. I have edited some of our finest foreign correspondents, run The Times over the weekend and, since 2016, overseen coverage of the country. Regrettably, though, I no longer catch fish in the middle of the day.

Video

Westlake Legal Group opt01_UPDATE_00012-videoSixteenByNineJumbo1600 Who Is Marc Lacey? Meet the Times Editor Moderating the Democratic Debate United States Politics and Government Newspapers News and News Media New York Times Lacey, Marc Democratic Party Debates (Political) CNN

Over the years, televised debates have yielded turning points for presidential contenders. We look at some pivotal moments from past debates and explain how they shaped the race.

What do you enjoy most about the role? What is most challenging about it?

I’m part conductor, part coach. I no longer pick up the French horn and blow out notes. But I can tell when someone is off key. And if I wave my arms the right way, beautiful music will result.

As for the coaching part, I have an amazing team of correspondents scattered throughout the country. I call plays, together with my top-notch editing staff, and we watch from the sidelines as they carry them out. I put people in the positions that bring out the best in them and help us win, journalistically speaking.

As for the challenges, the hours are long but nothing like those in the field.

[Read how our National desk covers the United States ahead of a pivotal election.]

What did you learn as a former correspondent — in Kenya, Mexico and the United States — that has informed your work as an editor?

I learned how to go from a deep sleep to a state just alert enough to understand that the editor on the other end of the phone was sending me to a coup attempt in a place called N’Djamena, which is the capital of Chad.

“Were you asleep?” I used to be asked back then. If I had had the vocabulary at the time, I would have responded: “Bruh.” Now that I’m making the calls, I apologize to correspondents for waking them at ungodly hours and then mention someplace they never thought they’d go.

How did you find out that you would be co-moderating the next Democratic debate? What was your reaction?

My phone rang one recent night. I ignored it. It rang again. I ignored it again. The same call and no response continued a few more times right in the middle of the last presidential debate, which I was watching from home.

It turned out that it was Patrick Healy, our political editor, who had just learned that The New York Times would be co-sponsoring the next debate with CNN. Apparently there had been a meeting among the top Times brass in which various people were proposed for the Times moderator role.

When Pat asked me, I chuckled. It turns out he wasn’t joking.

[Meet the 21 reporters covering the election for our Politics desk.]

What’s something that readers would be surprised to learn about you?

I ride a motorcycle — not a particularly mean one, but a motorcycle nonetheless. This is very much counter to my image, which is why I don’t sell it.

If you had to choose another job, in journalism or not, what would it be?

I majored in biology at Cornell and believe that if the stars had aligned differently, I might have made a fine surgeon.

Journalism can be messy work just like medicine, but we, much like those in operating rooms, try to suture all the wounds and wipe away any mess before we finish.

How do you spend your time when you’re off duty?

I have a dog named Sandy who greets me at the end of each workday with so much enthusiasm that I forget all the hostile tweets I might have received that day. The debate’s going to be great, I have no doubt, especially to my labradoodle. To her, no matter what happens onstage, I will have won.

Marc Lacey’s labradoodle, Sandy, living the life.CreditCourtesy of Marc Lacey

A note to readers who are not subscribers: This article from the Reader Center does not count toward your monthly free article limit.

Follow the @ReaderCenter on Twitter for more coverage highlighting your perspectives and experiences and for insight into how we work.

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As Debate Nears, Where Do Democratic Voters Stand on the Issues?

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When they tune into Tuesday night’s CNN/New York Times Debate, what will Democratic voters be hoping to see? And what can opinion polls tell us about where the primary electorate stands on the issues?

Recent polls show that Democratic voters are most concerned about health care, gun control, climate change and immigration. Still, in poll after poll, they say decisively that nominating a candidate who can beat President Trump in the general election is more important than finding one whose views align perfectly with their own.

With Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts running neck-and-neck with former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the stakes on Tuesday are higher than at any point in the race thus far. Here’s a glimpse at the issues and ideas that will be on many viewers’ minds as they watch the Democratic debate.

The House’s impeachment inquiry is underway, and Democrats broadly support removing Mr. Trump from office.

Roughly nine in 10 Democratic voters said in a Quinnipiac poll released last week that they had been paying at least some attention to impeachment news, and nearly as many said that if a president asked a foreign leader to investigate a political rival — which Mr. Trump did — that is cause enough to be impeached and removed.

But the president may not be the only politician imperiled by the controversy. At Tuesday’s debate, that political rival, Mr. Biden, will be looking to assuage Democrats’ fears about his family’s role in the Ukraine story. By a margin of 50 percent to 32 percent, Democrats nationwide said in an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll this month that Mr. Biden’s chances of becoming the Democratic nominee were likely to be more hurt than helped by the fact that Mr. Trump had mentioned him in a phone call with the Ukrainian leader — even though Mr. Biden is not believed to have broken the law.

And ultimately, a candidate’s general election appeal is paramount to Democratic voters. By a wide margin — 61 percent to 37 percent — Democrats said in a separate NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll last month that they cared about finding a nominee who was likely to beat Mr. Trump more than they cared about nominating one who personally inspires them.

Join us for live analysis on debate night. Subscribe to “On Politics,” and we’ll send you a link.

Disagreements over health care dominated the first three Democratic debates, and the issue is likely to play a prominent role in Tuesday’s.

The rising costs of health insurance and pharmaceutical drugs continue to worry voters. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll in September found that seven in 10 Americans believed the federal government should make lowering prescription drug prices a top priority. Sixty-four percent also considered lowering the overall cost of health care to be a top priority. Among Democrats, those numbers are even higher.

Yet Democratic candidates disagree on how to achieve these goals. Ms. Warren and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont spent much of the first three debates arguing on behalf of Medicare for All, which would effectively replace private health insurance with a government-run system. Mr. Biden and other more moderate candidates have only endorsed a public option, which would allow Americans to choose between a government plan and private ones.

Last month’s Kaiser poll found that the general public was about evenly split on whether to support Medicare for All, but Democratic voters largely supported the idea. More than three quarters of Democrats nationwide favored creating a national Medicare for All program, with 51 percent favoring it strongly, according to the poll.

But as is often the case, people’s responses depend on how the question is worded. In a Quinnipiac poll last month, when given a choice between keeping the private health care system and building on Obamacare, or replacing private insurance outright with Medicare for All, just 47 percent of Democratic voters chose Medicare for All, compared to 44 percent who preferred a more incremental approach. This suggests that candidates advocating a fully government-run system need to convince more Democratic voters to unite around the idea.

But less consensus exists on what to do with the assault weapons that Americans already own: All the candidates support some kind of program in which the government would buy weapons back from gun owners, but none of the three leading Democrats — Mr. Biden, Ms. Warren or Mr. Sanders — support making that program mandatory. Seven in 10 Democratic voters support mandatory buybacks, according to an August Quinnipiac poll, although less than half of all voters do.

There is a similar lack of consensus among the Democratic candidates on whether to force all gun owners to register their weapons in a national database. Democratic politicians long dismissed the idea of a gun registry as a fear-mongering tactic from the National Rifle Association, but it now enjoys broad support from the public: 62 percent of Americans back the idea, including 85 percent of Democrats.

Most candidates now favor establishing a registry, though some — including Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind. — do not. Others, like Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders, say it should apply only to owners of assault weapons.

Democratic voters widely believe that climate change represents an international emergency — 84 percent said so in the August Quinnipiac poll — and roughly nine in 10 think the United States is not doing enough to address global warming.

All the major Democratic candidates have expressed support for the Green New Deal, though some have been more guarded than others. All five senators who will debate Tuesday night co-sponsored the bill. Mr. Buttigieg has simply called it “the right beginning,” while Mr. Biden’s campaign website endorses it as a “crucial framework.”

But the Green New Deal enjoys broad support from the American public, with 63 percent of respondents to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll in July saying they like the idea of investing government money to fund sustainable infrastructure projects and green jobs. Among Democrats, it’s a particularly winning concept; 86 percent of Democrats nationwide back the Green New Deal, the poll found.

Instituting a tax on carbon emissions enjoys less support from the public — just 50 percent of Americans like the idea, according to that poll — but 71 percent of Democrats support it.

Even as Mr. Trump has made cracking down on immigration a central facet of his administration, Americans have generally become more accepting of immigrants. This year for the first time, a majority of Americans (55 percent) said in a Gallup poll that they believed immigration tends to help the United States economy, not hurt it. For Democrats, that’s especially true.

And a recent Pew study found that views of Immigration and Customs Enforcement — the agency most directly associated with the president’s aggressive immigration policies, and which some immigration activists want abolished — have taken a negative turn. Fifty-four percent of all Americans now hold an unfavorable view of ICE, a seven-point jump from last year. And Democrats in particular feel this way: 77 percent of them expressed a negative view of ICE.

By a wide margin, Democrats believe immigration should be either kept at current levels or increased: According to Gallup, 41 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents want to encourage more immigration into the country, compared to just 13 percent who want it discouraged. That marks a 10-point leap since Mr. Trump’s election.

And it’s clear that Democrats worry about the vilification of immigrants — a central facet of Mr. Trump’s public identity. A full 82 percent of Democratic voters said they considered prejudice against immigrants a “very serious” problem in a recent Quinnipiac University poll.

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How to Prepare a Debate Zinger That Doesn’t Sound Prepared

Westlake Legal Group 13zingers1-facebookJumbo How to Prepare a Debate Zinger That Doesn’t Sound Prepared Rubio, Marco Republican Party Primaries and Caucuses Presidential Election of 2020 Mondale, Walter F Harris, Kamala D Gingrich, Newt Democratic Party Debates (Political) Christie, Christopher J Castro, Julian Bentsen, Lloyd M

The goal of breaking out in a way that alters the dynamics of the race is all the more urgent for most of the candidates in Tuesday’s debate, as they fight for oxygen in a campaign now overshadowed by the impeachment inquiry Mr. Trump faces in Washington.

“You can see they’re grasping for this one line their staff told them would make them stand out in the crowd,” said former Representative Dennis E. Eckart, an Ohio Democrat practiced in political debate prep.

Catchy debate lines alone rarely determine the outcome of a race. But there is a skill to landing the perfect zinger, the kind of quick remark that can reinvigorate a campaign, boost fund-raising, allay concerns about a candidate or even sink an opponent.

Ahead of the CNN/New York Times debate, here is a guide to the art of the zinger, from veterans of the practice.

When debate moderator Bret Baier of Fox News urged civility and substance at a Republican primary debate in 2011, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich wrote down his words, on an “instinct they couldn’t get through the whole debate” without asking provocative questions, he recalled in a recent interview.

And when another debate moderator, Chris Wallace, asked Mr. Gingrich that night whether his campaign was “a mess,” Mr. Gingrich was ready with a reference to Mr. Wallace’s colleague.

“I took seriously Bret’s injunction to put aside the talking points,” he admonished. “And I wish you would put aside the gotcha questions.”

The conservative crowd loved the lashing of the news media, and Mr. Gingrich’s record of debate-stage zingers helped him survive in the race for longer than some political observers initially had expected.

“You have to think about two audiences,” Mr. Gingrich said. “Those who are in the room, and those who are at home. And you’ve somehow got to meet both.”

Join us for live analysis on debate night. Subscribe to “On Politics,” and we’ll send you a link.

The ability to capitalize on real-time developments also helped former Gov. Chris Christie paint Senator Marco Rubio as a scripted creature of Washington during a 2016 primary debate. When Mr. Rubio responded by repeating several times a statement he’d made earlier, nearly verbatim, Mr. Christie noticed — and called him out sharply.

“One-liners are much better when they come spontaneously than when they’re prepackaged,” he said in an interview over the summer. “Most of those pre-canned lines don’t really go over all that well. I think it’s got to be spontaneous. I think it’s got to be something that comes about in the context of what people are hearing.”

Mr. Christie’s campaign was already struggling by that debate, but his lacerating attack helped ensure that Mr. Rubio’s campaign never recovered, either.

Mr. Castro tried a similar approach onstage last month when he suggested that Mr. Biden was forgetting remarks he had just made, comments widely perceived as a swipe at the 76-year-old Mr. Biden’s age. Mr. Castro also argued that Mr. Biden was contradicting himself, though it didn’t appear that he had done so.

“If you were watching, you were saying, ‘Oh, Castro’s paying attention, it didn’t look like he struggled to bring it in,’” said Mr. Eckart, who helped prepare Senator Lloyd Bentsen, Michael S. Dukakis’s running mate, for a memorable vice-presidential debate in 1988.

But just as some Republicans have never forgiven Mr. Christie for his savaging of Mr. Rubio, some Democrats thought Mr. Castro had crossed a line — and an important backer pulled an endorsement, a reminder of the risks of slinging zingers at this stage of the primary, when many Democrats are leery of internecine warfare. (Others defended Mr. Castro, arguing that candidates should be able to withstand tough criticism ahead of a possible general election against Mr. Trump.)

“If you go headhunting, you better be very careful who you’re hitting,” said Tad Devine, a veteran Democratic strategist who advised Senator Bernie Sanders in 2016 but is currently unaligned.

Noting that many Democrats feel warmly about candidates like Mr. Biden, he said, “If somebody hits you, you can hit them back hard — everybody’s going to give you latitude. If you’re going to be that tough, if you’re going to launch, that’s a high hurdle to get over with voters.”

One of the most effective debate retorts in modern history was a light line that got President Ronald Reagan’s opponent, Walter F. Mondale, laughing.

“I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience,” Mr. Reagan said in a 1984 debate, helping ease concerns about his age.

Don’t sound overly rehearsed. Do look for opportunities to make a memorable point.

It’s a difficult balance to strike, debate experts acknowledge — and identifying those moments without sounding canned onstage takes practice.

“Most great debate moments are pre-thought-out,” said Karen Dunn, a lawyer and one of the Democratic Party’s most seasoned debate prep experts.

To help prepare Mr. Bentsen to face off against Dan Quayle in the vice-presidential debate, Mr. Eckart watched extensive video of Mr. Quayle. To Mr. Eckart, Mr. Quayle appeared to be channeling the mannerisms of former President John F. Kennedy, a late colleague of Mr. Bentsen’s.

Mr. Eckart said he did the same as he played Mr. Quayle in debate preparations, convinced the Republican would invoke Mr. Kennedy onstage.

“Bentsen just fiercely looked back at me, and he did not want to respond,” he recalled, describing how he goaded the candidate throughout several rounds of debate practice.

But Mr. Eckart was right: Mr. Quayle did compare himself to Mr. Kennedy onstage, and Mr. Bentsen, having responded viscerally to the comparison during debate practice, was prepared with an answer.

“Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy,” Mr. Bentsen said. “I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy.”

Mr. Eckart, who is unaligned in the presidential contest, sometimes still assists with political debate prep — and he continues to show candidates video of their opponents to get them talking.

“Eventually they say something that you just look at and say, ‘Oh my God, that’s perfect,’” he said. “Scriptwriters are lousy debate preppers. You have to let your emotion and your deep-seated personal beliefs out.”

Debate specialists stress that genuine conviction is the most important aspect of landing a strong debate line. But candidates and their teams get no shortage of suggestions from outside allies, too, Ms. Dunn said.

“Many people will send in their zingers,” Ms. Dunn said. “Sometimes, if it can’t be used in a debate, it might be usable for speeches. If it can’t be used in a speech, at least it will make the debate team laugh.”

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Missing From Elizabeth Warren’s 2020 Surge: Democratic Endorsements

Westlake Legal Group merlin_162565353_6e8d439e-7b57-4b89-9ce4-ae7ba3196a22-facebookJumbo Missing From Elizabeth Warren’s 2020 Surge: Democratic Endorsements Warren, Elizabeth Presidential Election of 2020 Politics and Government Massachusetts Haaland, Deb Endorsements Democratic Party

WASHINGTON — Senator Elizabeth Warren has built her following in part by taking pictures with thousands of voters deep into evening after campaign events, but her dinner audience here one night last month was far smaller. And Ms. Warren’s guests were more interested in hearing, and politely challenging, her campaign pitch than eagerly capturing the moment for posterity on their iPhones.

Addressing a few dozen members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus at a Chinese restaurant a few blocks from the Capitol, she laid out her case for why she could unify Democrats, emphasized that she was not hostile to properly run businesses and made a soft sell to the lawmakers to support her presidential bid.

“She said, ‘Nobody could do this alone, I will need your help,’” recalled Representative Chellie Pingree of Maine, who attended the gathering and said Ms. Warren “was great.”

But just under a month since the family-style meal, the Massachusetts senator has the same small number of endorsements from congressional colleagues beyond her home state as she did beforehand: three.

Ms. Warren is expected to reveal additional support from Democratic officials this week in conjunction with Tuesday’s CNN/New York Times debate and the release of her smashing third-quarter financial disclosure. Yet her growing crowd sizes, soaring fund-raising and surge to the top of a number of national and early-state polls only shine a brighter light on one of the most revealing elements of this primary: the widening gap between the preferences of many Democratic voters and the lawmakers who represent them.

Keep up with the 2020 field with our candidate tracker.

Ms. Warren is now a clear front-runner in the race for her party’s nomination, yet just under four months before the leadoff Iowa caucuses she lacks the support of a single governor, big-city mayor or fellow senator outside Massachusetts.

She does have the backing of the Working Families Party, an influential liberal group, and yet she also has fewer total endorsements from state legislators in Iowa and New Hampshire than Senator Cory Booker, who registers in the lower single-digits of surveys and last month had to beseech donors to give him enough money to sustain his stagnant campaign.

The apparent lag between Democratic activists and Democratic elected officials, which comes nearly four years after President Trump’s stunning outsider’s capture of the Republican nomination and Senator Bernie Sanders’ surprisingly potent candidacy in the Democratic primaries, has done little to slow Ms. Warren’s momentum.

Yet the reluctance of Democratic lawmakers to embrace Ms. Warren’s campaign this deep into the year, after she has plainly emerged as a leading candidate, illustrates both the lingering reservations party elites have about her general election prospects and her unique positioning in this race.

“Racing to the left is not really speaking to the needs of people in the heartland,” said Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who expressed alarm about scrapping private health insurance, urged the candidates to focus on “pocketbook issues” and, when asked if Ms. Warren could reclaim the Midwestern states Mr. Trump captured in 2016, paused before saying: “I’m not sure.”

Ms. Warren is politically neither fish nor fowl.

She is not an anti-establishment insurgent in the style of Mr. Sanders, who were he in the position Ms. Warren is now would almost certainly have inspired a Stop Bernie campaign funded by a petrified donor class. But with her refusal to raise money among rich contributors, her unabashed populism and her pre-Senate roots in academia, she is hardly a Clinton-style creature of the Democratic political class.

As a result, many party officials are neither rushing to oppose her nor racing to her side, instead staying on the sidelines and doing what politicians often do when they are uncertain of what choice to make: buying time.

“It’s easier to wait, you keep your relationships good,” said Representative Deb Haaland of New Mexico, one of the few lawmakers who is supporting Ms. Warren, noting that some of her colleagues are loath to offend their friends in the race by choosing a candidate.

Reinforcing this instinct toward caution is the fluid nature of a primary still large enough to feature 12 candidates on the debate stage this week as well as the high stakes of next year’s general election.

“You had two candidates last time,” said longtime Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, referring to the Sanders-versus-Hillary Clinton race. “People want to see this unfold.”

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Thanks to his decades-long relationships and the perception in some quarters that he would be a strong candidate against Mr. Trump, Joseph R. Biden Jr. has picked up the most support from Democratic lawmakers of any of the presidential hopefuls. But his uneven performance as a candidate this year and Mr. Trump’s daily barrage of attacks on him, have left some party officials wondering just how safe a pick he is in 2020.

“People are concerned about Joe, but they ask: Is Elizabeth electable?” said former Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, explaining the dilemma. “So a lot of people are just keeping their powder dry because they have not decided who can best run against Trump.”

Defeating a president who may be the first incumbent to seek re-election after being impeached should be the party’s overriding focus, said Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois.

“I genuinely feel our republic is in danger,” Mr. Pritzker said.

A longtime donor who often immersed himself in primaries before he entered politics, Mr. Pritzker said he was staying out of this race for the time being in part because he was still stung by 2016, when some of Mr. Sanders supporters protested what they saw as his mistreatment by Mrs. Clinton and her establishment-aligned supporters.

“When he didn’t win people folded their arms and stayed home or they voted for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson,” said Mr. Pritzker, alluding to two of the third-party candidates whose votes helped cost Mrs. Clinton the election.

He’s not the only Democrat who has the echo of the Sanders-Clinton race still throbbing in their ears nor the only one determined to avoid alienating any of the supporters of this cycle’s candidates.

“Many believed the primary was rigged in favor of Hillary Clinton,” Representative Darren Soto of Florida said. “There is a feeling among many of us that we need to have a broad and diverse field, plenty of debates and let the primary voters decide on their own.”

What few lawmakers will say, at least publicly, is that wading into the race can also come with a cost: they run the risk of angering the eventual nominee if they support a losing candidate and they also invite complaints from their own constituents or donors, who may have a different preference.

What’s more, they also have to be mindful of their own political branding and how they align themselves.

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“Politicians are different from voters,” said Donna Brazile, the longtime Democratic strategist and former party chair. “They have to say, ‘How does this fit with my agenda, my district?’” In Ms. Warren’s case, even one of her biggest boosters, Ms. Haaland, conceded it was easier for her to step out early because of the progressive nature of her district.

“Some folks they’re just like, ‘I better stay out of it for a while because of my district,’” she said of her House colleagues.

And it’s not just lawmakers who are taking a wait-and-see approach. Powerful liberal interest groups, including much of organized labor, are also hanging back, which only prompts the politicians to believe it’s safer to remain mum.

“That would make a difference if they came out,” Representative Dina Titus of Nevada said of unions. “They’re all being coy, too.”

Ms. Titus said she planned to get behind a candidate later this year, but her state, the third to vote in next year’s primary, illustrates just how many party elites were remaining neutral: Nevada’s governor, two senators, three Democratic House members and longtime boss, former Senator Harry Reid, have all refrained from endorsing a candidate.

Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland said that he had also been “drawn in different directions in this race,” noting that he wanted to make a decision that’s both “passionate and strategic.”

But after having lunch in Washington last month with Ms. Warren and her husband, Bruce Mann, Mr. Raskin said he planned on endorsing the senator.

“If all she had to her name was senator from Massachusetts she would not be an ideal candidate,” he said, before citing Ms. Warren’s record as a consumer advocate and critic of Washington self-dealing. “As a candidate of public integrity and honesty in government, she has a very powerful story to tell at a time of boundless Republican corruption and lawlessness.” What’s more, Mr. Raskin said, “She made a very eloquent and personal pitch to me.”

As for Ms. Pingree, she said she was “watching the wisdom, the perspective of the public” and was eager “to see who people get excited about.”

She will also have a chance to gauge the views of her colleagues. When Congress comes back from its recess this week, Ms. Pingree said she and the other House Democrats who live in her Washington high rise planned on having a debate watch party in the building’s common room.

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We Surveyed the 2020 Democrats on Gun Control. Here Are the New Dividing Lines.

The 2020 Democratic presidential candidates are far more forceful and united on gun control than their predecessors, endorsing a wide range of policies that past nominees sidestepped or rejected, according to a New York Times survey of the 19 campaigns.

The political terrain on guns has been shifting for several years in response to a seemingly unending series of mass shootings and a newly emboldened network of advocacy groups. Policies that were dividing lines among Democrats have become baselines, and proposals that were politically untouchable are now firmly on the table.

All 19 candidates support an assault weapons ban. The biggest disagreement: whether people who already own those weapons should be required to sell them to the government, or simply given the option to do so. There is also some support for a federal gun registry, an idea that many Democrats used to dismiss exasperatedly as gun-lobby scaremongering.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. is calling for a ban on all online sales of guns and gun parts, an unusually aggressive proposal. Senator Elizabeth Warren wants a 30 percent excise tax on guns and a 50 percent excise tax on ammunition. Thirteen candidates want to require a license to own a gun.

The scope of the candidates’ plans is striking: The Times asked about 17 policies, and a third of the field said yes to all of them. Most said they were prepared to take executive action, push to eliminate the Senate filibuster, or both in order to enact them.

The candidates feel comfortable releasing sweeping gun plans largely because they believe they now have the political momentum Democrats lacked for years. While some gun-control measures are more popular than others — and the divide between Democrats and Republicans is still large — a wide range of them are supported by a majority of Americans, according to the Pew Research Center.

“It’s a story about how the country is shifting,” said Peter Ambler, the executive director of Giffords, a gun control advocacy group. “And what you see happening in the Democratic primary is a direct reflection of what’s happening in the country.”

If it seems unremarkable that every Democratic presidential candidate wants to ban assault weapons, it’s worth looking back just a few years. In 2013, the last time such a ban received a floor vote in the Senate, nearly 30 percent of the Democratic caucus voted against it.

The Times survey adds to a pile of evidence that that segment of the Democratic Party is headed toward extinction. It is no longer politically tenable to be a Democratic presidential candidate and support the sale of the AR-15, which has become the weapon of choice for mass shooters.

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Several other policies had unanimous support among the candidates who completed the survey:

  • So-called red-flag laws, which allow the confiscation of guns from people judged to pose an imminent risk to themselves or others;

  • A ban on high-capacity magazines;

  • Closing the “boyfriend loophole,” which lets convicted domestic abusers buy guns if they weren’t married to, living with or raising a child with the person they abused;

  • Closing the “Charleston loophole,” which lets gun sales go through without a background check if the check takes more than three days;

  • Enacting a federal anti-gun-trafficking law.

Most of the candidates also support a higher minimum age (generally 21) for gun purchases; a waiting period ranging from three days (Senator Amy Klobuchar) to 14 days (Marianne Williamson); a purchase limit of one gun per month; and civil liability for gun manufacturers when their weapons are used in crimes.

The biggest sticking point among Democrats now is what to do about the millions of assault weapons Americans already own. The candidates are united in calling for a buyback program, through which owners would be able to sell those weapons to the government. But, to state the obvious, many people don’t want to give up their AR-15s.

Should the government make them? And if so, how?

Westlake Legal Group buyback-300 We Surveyed the 2020 Democrats on Gun Control. Here Are the New Dividing Lines. United States Politics and Government Presidential Election of 2020 gun control Democratic Party

Democratic candidates who

support a voluntary gun buyback program

Michael

Bennet

Joseph R.

Biden Jr.

Steve

Bullock

Pete

Buttigieg

Julián

Castro

Bernie

Sanders

Joe

Sestak

Tom

Steyer

Amy

Klobuchar

Andrew

Yang

Elizabeth

Warren

Those who support a

mandatory gun buyback program

Cory

Booker

Kamala

Harris

Wayne

Messam

Beto

O’Rourke*

Marianne

Williamson

John

Delaney

Tulsi

Gabbard

Westlake Legal Group buyback-600 We Surveyed the 2020 Democrats on Gun Control. Here Are the New Dividing Lines. United States Politics and Government Presidential Election of 2020 gun control Democratic Party

Democratic candidates who support a voluntary gun buyback program

Michael

Bennet

Joseph R.

Biden Jr.

Steve

Bullock

Pete

Buttigieg

Julián

Castro

Amy

Klobuchar

Bernie

Sanders

Joe

Sestak

Tom

Steyer

Elizabeth

Warren

Andrew

Yang

Those who support a mandatory gun buyback program

Cory

Booker

Kamala

Harris

Wayne

Messam

Beto

O’Rourke*

Marianne

Williamson

John

Delaney

Tulsi

Gabbard

*Also supports a voluntary buyback program for handguns.

Most of the candidates, including the three leaders in the polls, told The Times that buybacks should be voluntary. Several — including those leaders, Mr. Biden, Ms. Warren and Senator Bernie Sanders — said that anyone who kept an assault weapon should have to register it.

Only five candidates support mandatory buybacks; Senator Kamala Harris is the highest polling among them. But their calls have gotten outsized attention, especially since one candidate, former Representative Beto O’Rourke, declared at the last debate: “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.”

That remark led to a caustic exchange at a recent gun control forum that pointed to differences in strategy. Mayor Pete Buttigieg argued that by insisting on mandatory buybacks, Democrats might squander a chance to pass new gun laws. Mr. O’Rourke accused him of being “afraid of doing the right thing.”

That argument continues to play out more broadly. Several senators who support gun control measures have worried publicly that Mr. O’Rourke’s “hell yes” comment, and the idea of mandatory buybacks, have played into the National Rifle Association’s hands.

The Times survey asked the candidates who supported mandatory buybacks how they intended to enforce them. None answered in detail. While they described penalties for noncompliance, they did not explain how, if the owner of an AR-15 kept it, officials would ever know.

“When a mandatory buyback program for assault weapons is enacted, it is the law,” Chris Evans, a spokesman for Mr. O’Rourke, said. “We expect people to follow the law here in the United States, and we know that Americans are law-abiding people.”

Fourteen states and the District of Columbia require a license or permit to buy a gun, and some studies have found that licensing requirements are associated with a decrease in gun homicides and suicides.

But at the national level, a federal gun licensing program was barely part of the discussion until this May, when Senator Cory Booker proposed one.

In a vivid example of how quickly the Democratic field is adopting new ideas, other candidates followed almost immediately. Thirteen of them, including nine of the top 10 by polling average, now support such a program.

Westlake Legal Group licensing-300 We Surveyed the 2020 Democrats on Gun Control. Here Are the New Dividing Lines. United States Politics and Government Presidential Election of 2020 gun control Democratic Party

Democratic candidates who

support gun licensing requirements

Cory

Booker

Kamala

Harris

Pete

Buttigieg

Julián

Castro

Amy

Klobuchar

Wayne

Messam

Beto

O’Rourke

Bernie

Sanders

Joe

Sestak

Tom

Steyer

Marianne

Williamson

Elizabeth

Warren

Andrew

Yang

Those who do not

Michael

Bennet

Joseph R.

Biden Jr.

Steve

Bullock

John

Delaney

Tulsi

Gabbard

Westlake Legal Group licensing-600 We Surveyed the 2020 Democrats on Gun Control. Here Are the New Dividing Lines. United States Politics and Government Presidential Election of 2020 gun control Democratic Party

Democratic candidates who support gun licensing requirements

Cory

Booker

Kamala

Harris

Wayne

Messam

Beto

O’Rourke

Pete

Buttigieg

Julián

Castro

Amy

Klobuchar

Marianne

Williamson

Bernie

Sanders

Joe

Sestak

Tom

Steyer

Elizabeth

Warren

Andrew

Yang

Those who do not

John

Delaney

Tulsi

Gabbard

Michael

Bennet

Joseph R.

Biden Jr.

Steve

Bullock

The outlier is Mr. Biden, whose gun plan would incentivize states to enact licensing programs but would not require them to do so.

“You don’t need a federal license to drive a car,” Mr. Biden said at the recent gun forum, though the analogy is imperfect given that every state requires a driver’s license. He framed his choice mainly as a matter of what could pass Congress.

Mr. Booker said at the forum that licensing was “not a radical concept” and that anyone who did not support a federal program “should not be a nominee from our party.”

The candidates’ licensing plans vary, but the common threads are a federal background check and an interview. Some candidates, including Mr. Booker and Julián Castro, would require applicants to pass a gun safety course. Andrew Yang supports a tiered system, meaning different guns would require different licenses, much as a regular driver’s license is not sufficient to drive a truck.

The N.R.A. and other gun-rights groups have long used the idea of a gun registry to motivate voters, arguing that universal background checks would lead to a database of gun owners, and that a database would lead to gun confiscation.

In the past, Democrats generally tried to counter this argument by rejecting the premise: No, they said, background checks wouldn’t lead to a registry. They didn’t want to “take away your guns.” They dismissed such talk as gun-lobby alarmism.

That approach is still common, but no longer universal. Based on the Times survey, 11 candidates support a registration requirement in at least some circumstances.

Westlake Legal Group registration-300 We Surveyed the 2020 Democrats on Gun Control. Here Are the New Dividing Lines. United States Politics and Government Presidential Election of 2020 gun control Democratic Party

Democratic candidates who

support a gun registration program

Joseph R.

Biden Jr.*

Cory

Booker

Kamala

Harris

Wayne

Messam

Julián

Castro

Bernie

Sanders*

Tom

Steyer*

Elizabeth

Warren

Beto

O’Rourke

Marianne

Williamson

Those who do not

Michael

Bennet

Steve

Bullock

Pete

Buttigieg

Joe

Sestak

John

Delaney

Tulsi

Gabbard

Andrew

Yang

Amy

Klobuchar

Westlake Legal Group registration-600 We Surveyed the 2020 Democrats on Gun Control. Here Are the New Dividing Lines. United States Politics and Government Presidential Election of 2020 gun control Democratic Party

Democratic candidates who support a gun registration program

Cory

Booker

Kamala

Harris

Wayne

Messam

Beto

O’Rourke

Julián

Castro

Joseph R.

Biden Jr.*

Marianne

Williamson

Bernie

Sanders*

Tom

Steyer*

Elizabeth

Warren

Those who do not

Michael

Bennet

Steve

Bullock

Pete

Buttigieg

Joe

Sestak

John

Delaney

Tulsi

Gabbard

Amy

Klobuchar

Andrew

Yang

*Specified that a registration requirement would apply only to assault weapons.

Some, including Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders, said the requirement would apply only to assault weapon owners who chose not to participate in a voluntary buyback program. But at least five candidates — Mr. Booker, Wayne Messam, Mr. O’Rourke, Ms. Warren and Marianne Williamson — are proposing more than that.

“Individuals will be required to register their guns through a registry,” Mr. O’Rourke told The Times. “All new handguns will be microstamped.”

Ms. Warren, a front-runner for the nomination and steadily rising in the polls, was similarly unequivocal.

“I believe that all guns should be registered,” she said.

HOW WE COMPILED THE RESULTS Fifteen candidates responded to The Times’s survey. For those who didn’t — Julián Castro, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard and Andrew Yang — we found answers to some of our questions in published plans, interviews and debate transcripts.

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