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Westlake Legal Group > Presidential Election of 2020

8.3 Million Watched Ohio Democratic Debate on Television

Westlake Legal Group 15debate-livebriefing-postpromo-facebookJumbo-v2 8.3 Million Watched Ohio Democratic Debate on Television United States Politics and Government Television Ratings (Audience Measurement) Primaries and Caucuses Presidential Election of 2020 News and News Media New York Times Democratic Party Debates (Political) CNN

WESTERVILLE, Ohio — The Democratic debate stage is getting bigger, but television ratings are getting smaller.

The primary debate on Tuesday night in Ohio, co-sponsored by CNN and The New York Times, drew about 8.3 million live television viewers on CNN, Nielsen said on Wednesday. The event featured 12 candidates, up from the 10 who debated last month in Houston at an event seen by about 14 million people on ABC News and Univision.

Interest in the 2020 presidential race is clearly strong. The 8.3 million people who watched on Tuesday roughly equaled the number of viewers for a 2008 matchup between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, days before the so-called Super Tuesday primary night.

But the three-hour Ohio event — which featured a cavalcade of candidates attacking Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — did not perform much better than this year’s lowest-rated primary debate, a CNN forum in late July in Detroit with 8.2 million viewers.

Some viewers may be growing tired of watching an oversize Democratic field. A dozen candidates qualified for Tuesday’s debate, based on criteria set by Democratic officials, who are keen to avoid any suggestion of skewing their party’s presidential contest.

This was also the first debate to be held since the start of the fall TV season, when viewers flock to new episodes of their favorite shows. Over all, the Ohio debate — which was also competing with Game 4 of the National League Championship Series — was the third-most-viewed program on television on Tuesday, behind episodes of “N.C.I.S.” and “F.B.I.” on CBS.

Online viewership is not included in Nielsen numbers, and many people most likely watched via Facebook and other streaming venues. CNN said that at any given minute of Tuesday’s debate, an average of 450,000 people were watching on CNN.com or nytimes.com.

Held in a converted gymnasium at Otterbein University in Ohio, the event featured the most candidates ever assembled on a primary debate stage. Producers faced a difficult task in choreographing the stage, but for the most part, the night went smoothly.

The moderating team — Erin Burnett and Anderson Cooper, of CNN, and a television newcomer, Marc Lacey, the national editor of The Times — kept outbursts and interruptions to a minimum. The journalists also stepped back at times to allow the candidates to engage one another directly. Organizers granted 75 seconds for each candidate to respond to questions, up from 60 seconds for the last round of CNN debates.

Candidates were at their lecterns for the 8 p.m. start time, and the questions began immediately. It was a more restrained approach than CNN’s debates in Detroit, which featured a singing of the national anthem in prime time and a Hollywood-style introductory video that some mocked as hyperbolic.

This was also the year’s first Democratic debate to start with questions about President Trump and his behavior in the White House. Earlier debates began with a detailed policy discussion about health care.

The next Democratic debate, on Nov. 20 in Georgia, will be broadcast on MSNBC, with The Washington Post as a co-sponsor.

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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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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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Ilhan Omar Endorses Bernie Sanders, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Will Do So as Well

Westlake Legal Group 15aoc-sanders-facebookJumbo Ilhan Omar Endorses Bernie Sanders, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Will Do So as Well Sanders, Bernard Presidential Election of 2020 Omar, Ilhan Ocasio-Cortez, Alexandria Endorsements

WESTERVILLE, Ohio — Representative Ilhan Omar endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont for the Democratic presidential nomination on Tuesday, and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will endorse Mr. Sanders at a rally this weekend, according to his campaign.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York and a star of the progressive left, will join Mr. Sanders at his “Bernie’s Back” rally in Queens on Saturday. Earlier Tuesday, his campaign had teased that Mr. Sanders would have a “special guest” at the event.

News of the endorsements came as the Democratic presidential candidates were wrapping up their appearances in the fourth debate of the primary season. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s planned endorsement was first reported by The Washington Post.

The endorsements, which come just two weeks after Mr. Sanders suffered a heart attack in Las Vegas, are likely to provide a much-needed boost to Mr. Sanders’s campaign. They could also serve to quell some concerns about his health and his age.

“Bernie is leading a working-class movement to defeat Donald Trump that transcends generation, ethnicity and geography,” Ms. Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, said in a statement.

She cited the bill she and Mr. Sanders introduced in June to cancel all of the country’s student debt, worth about $1.6 trillion, and praised him for working to end foreign wars. “I believe Bernie Sanders is the best candidate to take on Donald Trump in 2020,” she said.

In his own statement, Mr. Sanders called Ms. Omar “a leader of strength and courage.”

Mr. Sanders, 78, has been recovering since his heart attack, first at a hospital and then at his home in Burlington, Vt. The debate on Tuesday night in Westerville, Ohio, just outside of Columbus, was his first appearance before a national audience since the episode.

Mr. Sanders’s health issues have cast a degree of uncertainty over his campaign and left his aides rushing to reassure voters about his age and health, just as he was trying to improve his standing in a race that in recent weeks has become more of a two-person contest between Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Asked about his health directly at the debate on Tuesday night, Mr. Sanders nodded to the rally and to the “special guest.”

“Let me invite you all to a major rally we’re having in Queens,” he said. “We’re going to have a special guest at that event, and we are going to be mounting a vigorous campaign all over this country.”

He also said, “I’m feeling great.”

Mr. Sanders’s campaign is billing the New York rally as his official return to the campaign trail. It had toyed with holding the rally in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, according to an aide, but settled on a park in Queens, with a backdrop of the Manhattan skyline.

Presidential endorsements from the congresswomen, both members of the group of first-term Democratic women of color known as “the squad,” were highly coveted. In addition to being among the country’s most prominent progressives, they have also become some of President Trump’s favorite foils.

Last month, Ms. Warren won the endorsement of the Working Families Party, a progressive group that endorsed Mr. Sanders during the last presidential cycle.

The endorsement was a boon to Ms. Warren’s candidacy as she aimed to position herself as Mr. Biden’s main rival and the standard-bearer for the progressive left. But it also unnerved supporters of Mr. Sanders, who criticized the endorsement process.

Matt Stevens contributed reporting from New York.

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6 Takeaways From the October Democratic Debate

WESTERVILLE, Ohio — The CNN/New York Times debate on Tuesday night revealed new dynamics in the Democratic presidential race: Senator Elizabeth Warren took sustained fire from multiple rivals, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. struggled to make an impact and Mayor Pete Buttigieg and other candidates were newly aggressive in making their points.

Here are six takeaways from the debate:

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_162781581_5ca56f81-861f-4248-85a7-c7d3a6706cab-articleLarge 6 Takeaways From the October Democratic Debate Warren, Elizabeth Primaries and Caucuses Presidential Election of 2020 Harris, Kamala D Debates (Political) Buttigieg, Pete (1982- ) Biden, Joseph R Jr

Senator Kamala Harris challenges Senator Elizabeth Warren on whether Trump’s Twitter account should be shut down.CreditHilary Swift for The New York Times

For the first time this year, Ms. Warren was frequently called out and criticized by her rivals:

  • Mr. Biden called her health care plans “vague” and argued she had never accomplished anything big.

  • Mr. Buttigieg implied she didn’t trust the American people to decide whether they wanted to remain on private health insurance plans.

  • Senator Amy Klobuchar denounced Ms. Warren’s plans as a “pipe dream.”

  • Senator Kamala Harris wanted to know why Ms. Warren didn’t join her call for Twitter to ban President Trump from its social media platform.

For a candidate who has risen in the polls based on her policy acumen and specifics, Ms. Warren’s unwillingness to address the question of whether her “Medicare for all” plan would require higher taxes on the middle class was striking. And her opponents put her on the defensive.

Ms. Warren in large part survived the attacks, though she never did answer questions about whether she’d raise those middle-class taxes. Nor did she explain to Ms. Harris why she thinks Mr. Trump should remain on Twitter. But she did present a concise counterargument, saying that only her ambitious ideas can produce an electoral mandate from disaffected Americans to defeat Mr. Trump.

In all, the debate served as a certification of Ms. Warren’s status as one of two front-runners in the race, alongside Mr. Biden. It also crystallized much of the 19-way race as a contest to be the Biden alternative. The candidates sparring with Ms. Warren were auditioning to Democratic voters not just how they would go toe-to-toe with President Trump, but also how they would stack up against Ms. Warren as the campaign narrows to just a few candidates.

Unlike the previous three debates, nobody instigated a fight with Mr. Biden. It was a sign both of his diminished status in the race — he’s no longer the solo front-runner, having ceded ground to Ms. Warren — but also evidence that attacking Mr. Biden hasn’t served his rivals well when they’ve tried.

The toughest moment for Mr. Biden came when the moderators pressed him on his son Hunter Biden’s work in Ukraine. When no candidate pressed him on the topic, it faded from the discussion after Mr. Biden delivered a garbled and wobbly explanation.

Mr. Biden, as is his custom, at times wondered away from the question at hand. During a monologue about tax rates, he bemoaned the size of the field and the relatively brief amount of time allotted candidates to answer questions.

He was strongest when on offense against Ms. Warren. But it was a telling sign that his rivals tried to present themselves as a Biden alternative by contrasting themselves with Ms. Warren instead of Mr. Biden. She. not the former vice president, looked like the candidate to beat on Tuesday night.

He railed against billionaires. He pitched “Medicare for all.” He tossed out his campaign URL. He said “damn” — twice.

It was vintage Bernie Sanders on Tuesday — and that was a relief to his supporter and advisers two weeks after the 78-year-old suffered a heart attack.

“I’m healthy, I’m feeling great,” Mr. Sanders said as the debate approached the two-hour mark. But by then Mr. Sanders had made that case with his performance, dueling with Mr. Biden over their ideological differences and thrusting his arm into the arm to seek more airtime.

“We are going to be mounting a vigorous campaign all over this country. That is how I think I can reassure the American people,” Mr. Sanders said when asked about his health.

When Senator Cory Booker interjected with a joke that Mr. Sanders also supports medical marijuana, Mr. Sanders did not hesitate with the retort, “I’m not on it tonight.”

He may not have won over new supporters, but he looked like the same old Bernie Sanders. For this debate, that was more than enough.

For months, Mr. Buttigieg has been satisfied to make most of his points at the debates without scoring them at the expense of his rivals. That ended Tuesday.

Mr. Buttigieg sparred sharply with former Representative Beto O’Rourke on guns. He rebuked Representative Tulsi Gabbard on foreign policy. And, most notably, he engaged in the most substantive and sustained contrast of any candidate yet with Ms. Warren.

It was Mr. Buttigieg’s exchange with Ms. Warren over “Medicare for all” that was most memorable, pressing her as she declined to say, yet again, whether her plan would require a middle-class tax increase. (She says her plan would curb middle-class “costs.”)

“A yes or no question that did not get a yes or no answer,” Mr. Buttigieg said, adding, “Your signature, Senator, is to have a plan for everything. Except this.” He rattled off how her plan would “obliterate” the private health insurance of 150 million Americans while pitching his “Medicare for all who want it” alternative.

Mr. Buttigieg’s rebuke of Mr. O’Rourke — “I don’t need lessons from you on courage” — may lend itself more to a viral moment. But the bigger leap was to be seen as a foil to Ms. Warren.

It felt at times on Tuesday as if the sprawling 12-person stage had actually narrowed to a four-person debate, with Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders representing the left, and Mr. Biden and Mr. Buttigieg representing the center-left. The occasional television shot of just those four served to hammer home the point.

Mr. Booker and Ms. Harris were not the main course on Tuesday. They were the palette cleansers. Mr. Booker and Ms. Harris both came into the debate struggling for support and attention. And it was apparent by the end of the first hour that they had adopted a similar game plan: seeking to rise about the fray and food fight unfolding around them while punching at President Trump.

“Tearing each other down because we have a different plan is unacceptable,” Mr. Booker said. He had been the first candidate to castigate the media for asking Mr. Biden questions about his son’s work in Ukraine.

At one point, Ms. Harris aired a complaint that women’s advocates have pressed for months: the lack of questions about abortion. “This is the sixth debate we have had in this presidential cycle. Not one word with all of these discussions about health care, on women’s access to health care. It’s outrageous,” Ms. Harris said.

On Tuesday, both Ms. Harris and Mr. Booker hit Mr. Trump harder on foreign affairs than any rivals onstage. This is not a new strategy. Ms. Harris focused on Mr. Trump during the last debate, too. And for two candidates who have punched their ticket to November, this was a bloodless way to sell themselves without much risk on a crowded stage.

The sixth night of Democratic presidential debates delivered three hours of discussion but no signature moments and little likely to be remembered when the primaries and caucuses begin in February.

The most contentious exchanges — between Ms. Warren and Mr. Buttigieg, and then again between Mr. Biden and Ms. Warren — were intermittent, spaced throughout a debate that by obligation had to include seven candidates who haven’t sniffed 5 percent in a poll in months.

With so many low-polling candidates obligated to get speaking time too, the debate meandered through exchanges with Ms. Klobuchar, Mr. O’Rourke and Mr. Castro, each of whom faces long odds to appear at the party’s next debate on Nov. 20 in Atlanta. The billionaire investor Tom Steyer was there too, though, in his first debate appearance, spent more time introducing himself to Democratic voters than he did making a case why he’d be better than anyone else onstage.

While exposing the divisions between the party’s factions, the most taut moments of contrast served more as an example of what is to come once the field shrinks.

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Democrats Debate Who Is Best to Take On Trump

Here’s what you need to know:

Castro: People “older than me, who had a lot to teach me,” and “people who thought differently from me.”

Gabbard: Former Representative Trey Gowdy, the South Carolina Republican who led an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.

Klobuchar: Senator John McCain. She tells stories about traveling with Mr. McCain and visiting him when he was dying. She says she will appeal to independents and moderate Republican voters.

Steyer: A woman in South Carolina who is fighting “for clean water and environmental justice.”

O’Rourke: Former Representative Will Hurd, a Texas Republican with whom he took a cross-country trip. “Not only had we formed a friendship, but we had formed trust.”

Booker: Former Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a Republican, and Senator Jim Inhofe, with whom he joins in Bible study.

Yang: “We have to evolve in the way we think about ourselves and our work and values. It’s not left or right. It’s forward and that is where we must take the country in 2020.”

Harris: “I do believe that to beat Trump but also to heal our country, we need a leader who has the ability to unify the country. And see that the vast majority have so much more in common than what separates us.”

Buttigieg: Talks generally about “building a sense of belonging in this country” and working together as Americans.

Sanders: “There is no job that I would undertake with more passion than bringing our people together around an agenda that works for every man, woman and child in this country. Rather than the corporate elite and the one percent. A progressive agenda that stands for all, is the way we transform this country.”

Warren: “Look, people across this country, whether they are Democrats, independents or Republicans, they know what’s broken. They know that we have an America, that’s working better and better and better, for a thinner and thinner and thinner slice at the top. And leaving everyone else behind.”

Biden: “We have to unite the country, because folks it’s time we stopped walking around with our heads down. We’re in a better position than any country in the world to own the 21st century. So for God’s sake, get up. Get up and remember this is the United States of America. There’s nothing we’re unable to do, when we decide we’re going to do it. Nothing at all.”

The entire Democratic argument was distilled into a five-minute discussion with Joe Biden on one side and Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren on the other. Mr. Biden, as he has done since his campaign began, argued that his history of working with Republicans would make him more palatable to independents and some Republicans while at the same time offering an implicit argument that his more doctrinaire opponents would hand a second term to Mr. Trump.

At the same time, Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren pitched themselves as capable of expanding the Democratic electorate by exciting voters about bolder proposals. “For me,” Ms. Warren said, “this is about knowing what’s broken, knowing how to fix it and yes, I’m willing to go out there and fight for it.” Her implication, of course, is that Mr. Biden doesn’t know any of those things.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 15debate-livebriefing-biden-sanders-warren-articleLarge Democrats Debate Who Is Best to Take On Trump Presidential Election of 2020 Debates (Political)

Joseph R. Biden Jr. speaks about his accomplishments.CreditTamir Kalifa for The New York Times

One of the debate’s closing segments brought a clear example of the two poles in the party: Joe Biden vs Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

After touting himself as “the only one on this stage who has gotten anything really big done,” Mr. Biden slammed both Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders as offering “vague” ideas. Pushing a “Medicare for all” overhaul as they do, Mr. Biden said, “requires you not be vague. Tell people how you’re going to get it done.”

Ms. Warren followed by reciting her history of envisioning and then creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Mr. Biden sought to claim credit for that too.

“I went on the floor and I got votes for that bill, I convinced people to vote for that,” he said. “Let’s get that straight.”

Ms. Warren paused, and speaking slowly, said, “I am deeply grateful to President Obama who fought so hard to make sure that agency was passed into law,” specifically not giving credit to Mr. Biden.

As conservatives have taken a decisive majority on the Supreme Court, Democrats publicly grappled with the idea of expanding the court to take back power.

Mr. Biden said he was against adding additional justices to the Supreme Court, calling it “court packing,” worried about the trust in the institution itself.

“We begin to lose any credibility the court has at all,” Mr. Biden said.

Mr. Buttigieg, who has floated multiple options to expand the high court to as many as 15 justices — an idea, he acknowledged, was attacked as “too bold to even contemplate” — said that he wanted to depoliticize the court.

Now, he said “we have this apocalyptical ideological firefight” with every vacancy.

Ms. Warren said she was open to expanding the court — but stopped short of embracing it outright.

Finally, there came a question on abortion.

Ms. Harris said she’d require Justice Department pre-clearance for any state laws restricting abortion access. Ms. Klobuchar asked viewers to imagine her onstage debating abortion rights with Mr. Trump. And then Mr. Booker said he’d create an “office of reproductive rights” in the White House.

There’s little disagreement among the Democratic candidates on abortion rights, it’s more a matter of degree to which.

Ms. Gabbard said she’d prohibit third trimester abortions, a position that puts her nearly along among candidates who have stressed that decisions about ending a pregnancy should be left to women and their doctors.

Ms. Harris, who had refrained from attacking her opponents for the debate’s first two hours, asked Ms. Warren why she did not call for Twitter to suspend Mr. Trump’s account.

“Senator Warren, I just want to say that I was surprised to hear that you did not agree with me that on this subject of what should be the rules around corporate responsibility for these big tech companies, when I called on Twitter to suspend Donald Trump’s account, that you did not agree,” Ms. Harris said.

Ms. Warren shot back, “I don’t just want to push Donald Trump off Twitter, I want to push him out of the White House.” She did not say whether Twitter should indeed suspend the president from its platform.

Ms. Harris got another shot, and again pressed Ms. Warren. Ms. Warren once again did not take the bait and dodged the question.

Throughout the primary, Ms. Warren has led the field in her aggressive stance to break up big tech companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook and she did so again on Tuesday.

“I’m not willing to give up and let a handful of monopolists dominate our economy and our democracy,” she said.

Ms. Warren walked through Amazon’s role as a product marketplace and product seller.

“You get to be the umpire in the baseball game or you get to have a team. You don’t get to be both at the same time,” she said.

While her Democratic rivals do want to go as far, most agree with the sentiment. Mr. O’Rourke said they should not call out particular companies. Mr. Yang said breaking up companies would not solve problems, rattling off a joke that grew broad laughs.

“There is a reason why no one is using Bing today,” he said. “Sorry Microsoft.”

Mr. Booker, meanwhile, called for “regulation and reform,” while acknowledging that tech companies represent a “massive problem in our democracy.”

As the debate approached the end of the second hour, Bernie Sanders was asked directly to reassure the American people about his health two weeks after a heart attack. But before the moderator Erin Burnett could get the question out, Mr. Sanders delivered his answer. “I’m healthy, I’m feeling great,” he said.

Cory Booker interjected with a joke that Mr. Sanders also supports medical marijuana.”

I’m not on it tonight,” Mr. Sanders retorted.

When Ms. Burnett then asked the question, Mr. Sanders invited people to his rally this weekend in New York. “We are going to be mounting a vigorous campaign all over this country. That is how I think I can reassure the American people,” he said, thanking his rivals for their “love” and “prayers.”

“I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart, and I’m so happy to be back here with you this evening,” he said to applause.

The opioid discussion that just took place is a good exhibit of why some of the most vexing issues facing the presidential candidates is so difficult as a debate topic.

Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer each bemoaned prescription drug companies for pushing prescription opioids on Americans to enrich themselves, but didn’t reveal much contrast between themselves or their onstage opponents, or even Mr. Trump.

Yet this is a topic that hits home for millions of Americans and one that candidates are asked about frequently on the campaign trail. It’s a serious problem without easily digestible solutions.

There’s a lot of agreement onstage, with little understanding of what, exactly any of the candidates would do.

Beto O’Rourke and Pete Buttigieg sparred aggressively over guns in an intense and personal exchange. Mr. O’Rourke has called for the mandatory buyback of assault weapons by the government. Mr. Buttigieg has called that unrealistic and a plan that damages the Democratic Party.

“If the logic begins with those weapons being too dangerous to sell, then it must continue by acknowledging with 16 million AR-15s and AK-47s out there, they are also too dangerous to own,” Mr. O’Rourke said. “Every single one of them is a potential instrument of terror.”

But Mr. O’Rourke struggled to say how he would handle taking the guns from Americans who do not want to give up those weapons. “Congressman, you just made it clear that you don’t know how this is actually going to take weapons off the streets,” Mr. Buttigieg said. “We can’t wait, we can’t wait for universal background checks.”

“We cannot wait for purity tests,” he concluded, “We just have to get something done.”

After Mr. O’Rourke said it was time to stop listening to polls and be bold, Mr. Buttigieg jumped back in. “I don’t need lessons from you on courage,” Mr. Buttigieg said, saying the real problem was the National Rifle Association, whom they should unite against. He said Democrats could conceivably ban assault weapons and not get “wrapped around the axle” of mandatory buybacks.

“If you’re not going door to door, it’s not mandatory,” Mr. Castro said, opposing the plan, noting that in many communities the idea of police knocking on doors has also led to violence.

Joe Biden tried once again to present himself as the person onstage with the most direct foreign policy experience.

“I may be the only person who has spent extensive time alone with Putin and Erdogan,” he said, referring to the Russian and Turkish leaders.

During two opportunities to discuss the current situation in Syrian, Mr. Biden didn’t exactly say whether he’d send additional American troops to quell the fighting along the Syria-Turkey border, but blamed Mr. Trump for inflaming a tense situation.

“We have an erratic, crazy president who knows not a damn thing about foreign policy and operates under his own fear for re-election,” he said.

Democrat after Democrat piled onto Mr. Trump on international affairs.

“This president is turning the moral leadership of this country into a dumpster fire,” Senator Cory Booker said.

“This president is caging kids on the border and letting ISIS prisoners run free,” added Julián Castro.

Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke and Amy Klobuchar, three candidates who sorely need to boost themselves in the polls, have adopted the same strategy tonight: Go after Elizabeth Warren.

All three sought to contrast themselves and their plans with Ms. Warren, with Mr. O’Rourke arguing the Massachusetts senator is “more interested in being punitive” than offering a positive vision. Ms. Klobuchar has twice offered “a reality check to Elizabeth.” And Mr. Buttigieg scolded her for not saying whether her health care plan will raise middle class taxes.

Ms. Warren, a polling co-leader with Mr. Biden, serves a useful foil for the three aiming to occupy the party’s moderate lane. Ms. Klobuchar and Mr. O’Rourke are in danger of missing next month’s debate, while Mr. Buttigieg is trying to lift himself into the field of front-runners.

By contrast, there were few attacks on Mr. Biden, who took much of the incoming fire from rivals in the past debates. Going after Ms. Warren lets the would-be moderate standard-bearers avoid a contrast with Mr. Biden, particularly on the Ukraine issue where he has become vulnerable. Attacking Ms. Warren serves as a rehearsal for the party’s moderate voters of how the candidates would fare against her in a presumed one-on-one matchup much later in the primary process.

It also shows which of the liberal candidate is feared most by the moderates. It’s no longer Bernie Sanders, it is only Ms. Warren.

Mr. Booker and Ms. Harris both came into the debate struggling for support and attention. And it was apparent by the end of the first hour that they had adopted a similar game plan: seeking to rise about the fray and food fight unfolding around them.

“Tearing each other down because we have a different plan is unacceptable,” Mr. Booker said at one point, saying Democratic infighting would be “a disaster for us.”

Earlier, Mr. Booker had been the first candidate to castigate the media for asking Mr. Biden questions about his son’s work in Ukraine.

“I feel like I’m having déjà vu up here,” Mr. Booker said, lashing Mr. Trump for circulating false allegations.

At one point, Ms. Harris aired a complaint that women’s advocates have pressed for months: the lack of questions about abortion.

“This is the sixth debate we have had in this presidential cycle. Not one word with all of these discussions about health care, on women’s access to health care. It’s outrageous,” Ms. Harris said to cheers.

Tulsi Gabbard attacked The New York Times, CNN, the “mainstream media” and others who have written about how Russians are praising her and encouraging her presidential campaign.

“Just two days ago The New York Times put out an article saying that I’m a Russian asset and an Assad apologist and all these different smears,” Ms. Gabbard said. “This morning a CNN commentator said on national television that I’m an asset of Russia. Completely despicable.”

The Times article did not describe Ms. Gabbard in these ways. It noted that she has drawn support from Russian state news media sources and others in that country, as well as white nationalist and members of the alt-right.

Her broadside came in response to a question about whether additional U.S. troops should be sent to protect Kurdish communities in Syria, who are under attack by Turkish troops following Mr. Trump pulling U.S. forces out of the country.

Ms. Gabbard repeatedly invoked the phrase “regime change war” to describe American policy abroad and in the Middle East in particular.

“As president I will end these regime change wars by doing two things — ending the draconian sanctions that are really a modern day siege, the likes of which we are seeing Saudi Arabia wage against Yemen that have caused tens of thousands of Syrian civilians to die and to starve,” she said. “And I would make sure we stop supporting terrorists like Al Qaeda in Syria who’ve been the ground force in this ongoing regime change war.”

Mr. Buttigieg, who like Ms. Gabbard is a military veteran, sharply disagreed.

“Well, respectfully, congresswoman, I think that is dead wrong. The slaughter going on in Syria is not a consequence of American presence, it’s a consequence of a withdrawal and a betrayal by this president, of American allies and American values,” he said.

Bernie Sanders got a question right in his wheelhouse: Should billionaires exist? He didn’t quite say yes but did launch into his regular tirade against the ultra-wealthy, saying it is “a moral and economic outrage” that the three richest Americans control as much wealth as half the country.

Mr. Steyer, himself a billionaire, went next. He denounced corporate power and blamed Republicans for passing legislation cutting taxes for the wealthy.

“The results are as shameful as Senator Sanders said,” he said. “It’s absolutely wrong, undemocratic and unfair.”

Ms. Warren then weighed in: “My question is not why do Bernie and I support a wealth tax, it’s why doesn’t — does everyone else on this stage — think it’s more important to protect billionaires than it is to invest in an entire generation.”

Mr. Biden then remarked, “No one is supporting billionaires.”

Ms. Warren didn’t quite roll her eyes, but she threw him a side eye.

Ms. Klobuchar weighed in soon after: “I want to give a reality check here to Elizabeth. No one on this stage wants to protect billionaires. Not even the billionaire wants to protect billionaires. We have different approaches. Your idea is not the only idea.”

The health care discussion showed the greater schism in the Democratic Party. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are on the side of eliminating private health insurance and installing a Medicare for all system, while Joseph R. Biden Jr., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Amy Klobuchar are on the other, castigating Medicare for all as a “pipe dream,” as the Minnesotan called it.

It is the broader debate rippling throughout the 2020 Democratic campaign trail. Polls show the party’s voters tend to favor the Warren-Sanders proposals, but are nagged by whether a candidate running on eliminating private health insurance can win a general election. This is the crux of the Democratic debate: a pull between early-state voters’ hearts and heads, with each of them becoming prognosticators guessing about what swing voters in key swing states might prefer.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, as she has done for weeks on the campaign trail, refused to entertain the question of whether “Medicare for all” will require a middle-class tax increase.

Instead she aimed to turn the question to overall costs.

“Let me be clear on this,” she said. “I will not sign a bill into law that does not lower costs for middle class families.”

She repeatedly refused to say.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg immediately pounced.

“A yes or no question that did not get a yes or no answer,” he said, saying it sounded like the type of things Americans hate about Washington. He added, “Your signature senator is to have a plan for everything: Except this.”

Mr. Buttigieg then pitched his “Medicare for all who want it.” When Ms. Warren’s turn came, she said that Mr. Buttigieg’s vision amounts to “Medicare for all who can afford it.”

Mr. Buttigieg came back and said Ms. Warren would “obliterate” the private health insurance of 150 million Americans. “It’s just better than Medicare for all whether you want it or not,” Mr. Buttigieg said, rebranding Ms. Warren’s plan in a more negative light.

Senator Amy Klobuchar followed up with her own hit on Ms. Warren.

“At least Bernie’s being honest here,” Ms. Klobuchar interrupted, addressing Ms. Warren as “Elizabeth,” saying Americans deserved to know where the “invoice” was going.

Ms. Klobuchar continued, dismissing Ms. Warren’s ideas as unrealistic, declaring there is a “difference between a plan and pipe dream.”

It fell to Mr. Sanders to explain exactly what Medicare for all would require.

“Taxes will go up,” he said, before explaining that costs will go down because, under his plan, medical insurance premiums and co-pays would be eliminated.

Maggie Astor, Thomas Kaplan, Jonathan Martin, Sydney Ember, Katie Glueck and Kevin McKenna contributed reporting.

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Watch the Debate Live: Democrats Take Shots at Warren, Not Biden

Here’s what you need to know:

Joe Biden tried once again to present himself as the person onstage with the most direct foreign policy experience.

“I may be the only person who has spent extensive time alone with Putin and Erdogan,” he said, referring to the Russian and Turkish leaders.

During two opportunities to discuss the current situation in Syrian, Mr. Biden didn’t exactly say whether he’d send additional American troops to quell the fighting along the Syria-Turkey border, but blamed Mr. Trump for inflaming a tense situation.

“We have an erratic, crazy president who knows not a damn thing about foreign policy and operates under his own fear for re-election,” he said.

Democrat after Democrat piled onto Mr. Trump on international affairs.

“This president is turning the moral leadership of this country into a dumpster fire,” Senator Cory Booker said.

“This president is caging kids on the border and letting ISIS prisoners run free,” added Julián Castro.

Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke and Amy Klobuchar, three candidates who sorely need to boost themselves in the polls, have adopted the same strategy tonight: Go after Elizabeth Warren.

All three sought to contrast themselves and their plans with Ms. Warren, with Mr. O’Rourke arguing the Massachusetts senator is “more interested in being punitive” than offering a positive vision. Ms. Klobuchar has twice offered “a reality check to Elizabeth.” And Mr. Buttigieg scolded her for not saying whether her health care plan will raise middle class taxes.

Ms. Warren, a polling co-leader with Mr. Biden, serves a useful foil for the three aiming to occupy the party’s moderate lane. Ms. Klobuchar and Mr. O’Rourke are in danger of missing next month’s debate, while Mr. Buttigieg is trying to lift himself into the field of front-runners.

By contrast, there were few attacks on Mr. Biden, who took much of the incoming fire from rivals in the past debates. Going after Ms. Warren lets the would-be moderate standard-bearers avoid a contrast with Mr. Biden, particularly on the Ukraine issue where he has become vulnerable. Attacking Ms. Warren serves as a rehearsal for the party’s moderate voters of how the candidates would fare against her in a presumed one-on-one matchup much later in the primary process.

It also shows which of the liberal candidate is feared most by the moderates. It’s no longer Bernie Sanders, it is only Ms. Warren.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_162774933_c867c030-4326-461e-bcb8-2ce87d98a038-articleLarge Watch the Debate Live: Democrats Take Shots at Warren, Not Biden Presidential Election of 2020 Debates (Political)

Senator Cory Booker and Senator Kamala Harris speak on women’s healthcare.CreditTamir Kalifa for The New York Times

Mr. Booker and Ms. Harris both came into the debate struggling for support and attention. And it was apparent by the end of the first hour that they had adopted a similar game plan: seeking to rise about the fray and food fight unfolding around them.

“Tearing each other down because we have a different plan is unacceptable,” Mr. Booker said at one point, saying Democratic infighting would be “a disaster for us.”

Earlier, Mr. Booker had been the first candidate to castigate the media for asking Mr. Biden questions about his son’s work in Ukraine.

“I feel like I’m having déjà vu up here,” Mr. Booker said, lashing Mr. Trump for circulating false allegations.

At one point, Ms. Harris aired a complaint that women’s advocates have pressed for months: the lack of questions about abortion.

“This is the sixth debate we have had in this presidential cycle. Not one word with all of these discussions about health care, on women’s access to health care. It’s outrageous,” Ms. Harris said to cheers.

Tulsi Gabbard attacked The New York Times, CNN, the “mainstream media” and others who have written about how Russians are praising her and encouraging her presidential campaign.

“Just two days ago The New York Times put out an article saying that I’m a Russian asset and an Assad apologist and all these different smears,” Ms. Gabbard said. “This morning a CNN commentator said on national television that I’m an asset of Russia. Completely despicable.”

The Times article did not describe Ms. Gabbard in these ways. It noted that she has drawn support from Russian state news media sources and others in that country, as well as white nationalist and members of the alt-right.

Her broadside came in response to a question about whether additional U.S. troops should be sent to protect Kurdish communities in Syria, who are under attack by Turkish troops following Mr. Trump pulling U.S. forces out of the country.

Ms. Gabbard repeatedly invoked the phrase “regime change war” to describe American policy abroad and in the Middle East in particular.

“As president I will end these regime change wars by doing two things — ending the draconian sanctions that are really a modern day siege, the likes of which we are seeing Saudi Arabia wage against Yemen that have caused tens of thousands of Syrian civilians to die and to starve,” she said. “And I would make sure we stop supporting terrorists like Al Qaeda in Syria who’ve been the ground force in this ongoing regime change war.”

Mr. Buttigieg, who like Ms. Gabbard is a military veteran, sharply disagreed.

“Well, respectfully, congresswoman, I think that is dead wrong. The slaughter going on in Syria is not a consequence of American presence, it’s a consequence of a withdrawal and a betrayal by this president, of American allies and American values,” he said.

Bernie Sanders got a question right in his wheelhouse: Should billionaires exist? He didn’t quite say yes but did launch into his regular tirade against the ultra-wealthy, saying it is “a moral and economic outrage” that the three richest Americans control as much wealth as half the country.

Mr. Steyer, himself a billionaire, went next. He denounced corporate power and blamed Republicans for passing legislation cutting taxes for the wealthy.

“The results are as shameful as Senator Sanders said,” he said. “It’s absolutely wrong, undemocratic and unfair.”

Ms. Warren then weighed in: “My question is not why do Bernie and I support a wealth tax, it’s why doesn’t — does everyone else on this stage — think it’s more important to protect billionaires than it is to invest in an entire generation.”

Mr. Biden then remarked, “No one is supporting billionaires.”

Ms. Warren didn’t quite roll her eyes, but she threw him a side eye.

Ms. Klobuchar weighed in soon after: “I want to give a reality check here to Elizabeth. No one on this stage wants to protect billionaires. Not even the billionaire wants to protect billionaires. We have different approaches. Your idea is not the only idea.”

The Democrats onstage mostly agree on economic policy but they disagreed over how to address the growing issue of automation replacing jobs, and the severity of threat that automation poses.

Ms. Warren said that automation was not a central issue, saying economic data suggested trade was a bigger issue.

“The principle reason has been bad trade policy,” Ms. Warren said of job losses.

Mr. Yang, who has made addressing automation a central issue, disagreed, saying Americans can see the issue playing out in front of them. “They see a self-serve kiosk in every McDonald’s,” he said, as millions of truckers worry about self-driving cars.

Mr. Yang said downplaying automation was “Ignoring the realities that Americans see around them every single day.”

Mr. Sanders, meanwhile, pledged a job for everyone who loses one through automation.

“Damn right we will,” Mr. Sanders said.

The health care discussion showed the greater schism in the Democratic Party. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are on the side of eliminating private health insurance and installing a Medicare for all system, while Joseph R. Biden Jr., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Amy Klobuchar are on the other, castigating Medicare for all as a “pipe dream,” as the Minnesotan called it.

It is the broader debate rippling throughout the 2020 Democratic campaign trail. Polls show the party’s voters tend to favor the Warren-Sanders proposals, but are nagged by whether a candidate running on eliminating private health insurance can win a general election. This is the crux of the Democratic debate: a pull between early-state voters’ hearts and heads, with each of them becoming prognosticators guessing about what swing voters in key swing states might prefer.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, as she has done for weeks on the campaign trail, refused to entertain the question of whether “Medicare for all” will require a middle-class tax increase.

Instead she aimed to turn the question to overall costs.

“Let me be clear on this,” she said. “I will not sign a bill into law that does not lower costs for middle class families.”

She repeatedly refused to say.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg immediately pounced.

“A yes or no question that did not get a yes or no answer,” he said, saying it sounded like the type of things Americans hate about Washington. He added, “Your signature senator is to have a plan for everything: Except this.”

Mr. Buttigieg then pitched his “Medicare for all who want it.” When Ms. Warren’s turn came, she said that Mr. Buttigieg’s vision amounts to “Medicare for all who can afford it.”

Mr. Buttigieg came back and said Ms. Warren would “obliterate” the private health insurance of 150 million Americans. “It’s just better than Medicare for all whether you want it or not,” Mr. Buttigieg said, rebranding Ms. Warren’s plan in a more negative light.

Senator Amy Klobuchar followed up with her own hit on Ms. Warren.

“At least Bernie’s being honest here,” Ms. Klobuchar interrupted, addressing Ms. Warren as “Elizabeth,” saying Americans deserved to know where the “invoice” was going.

Ms. Klobuchar continued, dismissing Ms. Warren’s ideas as unrealistic, declaring there is a “difference between a plan and pipe dream.”

It fell to Mr. Sanders to explain exactly what Medicare for all would require.

“Taxes will go up,” he said, before explaining that costs will go down because, under his plan, medical insurance premiums and co-pays would be eliminated.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. largely dodged a question about whether it was proper for his son, Hunter, to work for a Ukrainian energy company, aiming to turn the question back onto President Trump’s conduct.

“My son did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong. I carried out the policy of the United States government in rooting out corruption in Ukraine,” Mr. Biden said.

Invoking George Washington’s warning about foreign interference in American affairs, Mr. Biden said Mr. Trump has directed his aides to investigate Mr. Biden and his son because he doesn’t want him as a general election opponent.

“Rudy Giuliani, the president and his thugs have already proven they are flat lying,” Mr. Biden said. “He doesn’t want me to be the candidate.”

Pressed again on the question, Mr. Biden said: “My son’s statement speaks for itself. I did my job. I never discussed a single thing with my son about anything having to do with Ukraine. No one has indicated I have.”

Senator Bernie Sanders followed Mr. Biden but notably choose not to defend Mr. Biden or his son’s work in Ukraine, pivoting to his own message about fighting for the middle class.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper directed the first question to Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has surged in the polls in recent months, about impeachment, asking her why Mr. Trump should be impeached and removed from office with only a year until the election.

“Sometimes there are issues that are bigger than politics,” she began. “No one is above the law.”

“This is about Donald Trump but understand this is about the next president and the next president and the next president,” she said. “The impeachment must go forward.”

Mr. Sanders added that Mr. Trump the “most corrupt” president in American history.

Mr. Biden agreed that Mr. Trump was the “most corrupt,” and hit Mr. Trump for failing to cooperate. “They have no choice but to move,” Mr. Biden said of Congress.

“He’s been selling out our democracy,” Senator Kamala Harris said when her turn came around, adding “He has given us the evidence and tried to cover it up.”

By opening the debate with impeachment questions, the moderators are throwing softballs to the candidates onstage. So far they’ve allowed Ms. Warren, Mr. Sanders, Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris to recite their stump speech remarks on impeachment without any contrast with each other.

“Our framers imagined this moment,” Ms. Harris said. “A moment when we would have a corrupt president.”

It’s a far cry from the first three debates, which each opened with taut exchanges about health care policy. Allowing them each a direct contrast with Mr. Trump falls square in the wheelhouse of each of the Democrats running to replace him.

The challenge for the candidates who have to go later in what are effectively opening statements on impeachment is saying something that viewers didn’t just already hear.

Asked about the possibility of impeachment distracting her party and Congress, Ms. Klobuchar said, “We can do two things at once.” She added a quick reference to farmers in Iowa, where she is staking her campaign.

“I’d like to hear from him about how coddling up to Vladimir Putin makes America great again,” Ms. Klobuchar said.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg went after Republicans for opposing impeachment.

“A president 10 years or 100 years from now will look back at this moment and either draw the conclusion that no one is above the law or that a president can get away with anything,” he said, echoing a line that Ms. Warren said a few minutes earlier.

Mr. Buttigieg, as he has in past debates, invoked the morals of not just Mr. Trump but congressional Republicans, who he said should also be supporting impeachment.

Representative Tulsi Gabbard, the lone House member onstage, struck a different tone, expressing concern about the division an impeachment would cause and echoed a talking point that Mr. Trump’s allies have used: that Democrats have wanted to impeach Mr. Trump from the start.

“He won that election in 2016,” Ms. Gabbard said.

The 12 Democratic candidates are now taking the stage, shaking hands and smiling and waving to the audience. Mr. Biden was first, followed by Ms. Warren, who shook his hand and said, “Hi Joe.” Mr. Sanders was next, waving to the hall and shaking the hands of his two top rivals. Ms. Harris took the stage and gave Mr. Sanders a gentle pat on the back. When former Representative Beto O’Rourke entered he shook the hands of everyone onstage. Seven other candidates filed in, waving to the audience one after another.

Even more than in past debates, there are a lot of eyes on Mr. Sanders, who had a heart attack exactly two weeks ago, and who is returning to the campaign trail with tonight’s debate. Many Democrats are also watching Mr. Biden closely to see how he handles any questions about his son Hunter Biden’s work for overseas companies.

Each of the 12 candidates onstage tonight will be looking for standout moments. But if history is a guide, avoiding the wrong kind of standout moment may be even more important. However superficial it may be, a gaffe at a debate can destroy a campaign, as New York Times political reporters explored in a video today. Just look at Rick Perry’s “oops” moment in 2011, when he forgot the name of the third government agency he promised to eliminate as president, or Gerald Ford misspeaking in 1976 and saying Russia did not have influence in Eastern Europe. That moment was especially devastating for Ford because it played directly into an image many voters already had of him.

Occasionally, candidates can give themselves a boost or take out an opponent in one fell swoop. But more often, even the most well-placed attack will hurt the target more than it helps the attacker. Take Chris Christie, who went after Marco Rubio in 2016 for using canned lines. Mr. Rubio was badly wounded, but the Christie campaign went nowhere. It’s one more piece of evidence that when the points are tallied at the end of the night, voters may be swayed more by who lost than who won.

Much of the discussion here in Ohio Tuesday has been about the interview that ABC broadcast this morning of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son, Hunter Biden. The younger Biden acknowledged “poor judgment” in working for a Ukrainian energy company while his father was vice president, but said he had done nothing wrong.

The interview drew predictable wrath from Republicans aligned with President Trump — many of whom are the children of powerful officials even though they denigrated the Bidens with charges of nepotism. But so far Mr. Biden’s fellow Democrats have steered clear of the issue.

When the topic comes up during tonight’s debate, expect Mr. Biden’s onstage rivals to jump to his defense. Mr. Buttigieg did so Sunday, saying Hunter Biden was being held to “different standards” than the Trump children, who are engaged in their own international business dealings. Mr. Biden responded by calling Mr. Buttigieg “a good man.”

There will likely be more of that sentiment tonight. Democratic voters have shown little tolerance for their candidates echoing Mr. Trump’s attacks — nobody running has questioned Ms. Warren’s claims of Native American heritage. So when the inevitable moderator question about Mr. Biden’s son happens tonight, it may serve as a kumbaya moment.

Dozens of Ohio’s Democratic leaders have gathered in and around the state capital in advance of the debate, and they are thinking well past tonight: Can the party’s eventual presidential nominee carry the state next year?

This is a state that has long prized its status as one of the premier presidential battlegrounds: Every winning candidate since 1960, has carried Ohio. But the truth is, Ohio has long been slightly more conservative than what approximates the national median. And as the two parties increasingly realign along educational lines, this heavily working-class state has become even more red.

For evidence, look no further than President Trump’s eight-point victory over Hillary Clinton in Ohio in 2016 — a margin that was higher than in some states where Mrs. Clinton did not stump in the final weekend of the election, as she did in Ohio. Publicly, of course, Ohio’s leading Democrats insist that they can put the state back in their column in 2020. Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who considered seeking the nomination, emailed a memo to the media this week extolling the state’s “crucial role on the national stage,” reciting the state’s history as a bellwether with the not-so-subtle header: “As Goes Ohio.”

Yet in private conversations, Ohio Democrats are less confident about their prospects next year. They acknowledge other states will be more competitive and important to their nominee. However, these same Democrats are quick to add that they may reclaim the state if — and it’s a big if — they have the right nominee.

It is, in other words, the same debate Democrats are having nationally. Except here, in a state that has produced seven presidents and claims paternity over electing even more, it’s personal.

While there are a handful of candidates for whom October is likely their last appearance at a national debate, given the Democratic National Committee’s higher polling requirements in November and beyond, one man will be making his national debut: Tom Steyer.

Mr. Steyer, the billionaire businessman who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, is nonetheless a familiar face to millions of Americans because of his self-funded advertising campaigns: first his blitz calling for the impeachment of Mr. Trump and, more recently, his aggressive campaigning in the early-voting states, where he is by far the largest television advertiser.

Mr. Steyer could surprise some viewers. While he comes from the wealthy class that Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren have staked their campaigns railing against, Mr. Steyer actually aligns with those two leading liberals on many issues, including support for a “wealth tax” on the assets of the superrich. He is running as an outsider and is passionate in particular about climate change, a space less filled since Gov. Jay Inslee dropped out of the race.

One particular thing to watch for: Mr. Steyer has a favorite red plaid tie that has made even his friends and allies groan about occasionally. The Christmas-like color scheme could make a distinct first impression in October.

Maggie Astor, Thomas Kaplan, Jonathan Martin, Sydney Ember, Katie Glueck and Kevin McKenna contributed reporting.

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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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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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Trump and Impeachment: The Elephant in the Room at Tonight’s Debate

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WASHINGTON — Tuesday night’s Democratic debate will play out with some unusual background noise coming from Washington: whistles being blown by multiple people.

Former ambassadors, top foreign policy aides and once-loyal campaign donors are disregarding orders from the White House to ignore congressional subpoenas, trudging up to Capitol Hill for marathon sessions of closed-door testimony about President Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine for political help.

Former Trump aides are comparing each other to lethal weapons, and shadowy associates who did business for Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer are being indicted on campaign finance charges.

To what degree this drumbeat of dissension and disorder shapes the discussion at the debate is one of the big questions facing the 12 candidates who will be onstage. This is the first debate since Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared the formal beginning of an impeachment inquiry last month.

It’s a lot of drama to compete with — it was revealed Monday night that John R. Bolton, the former national security adviser, compared Rudolph W. Giuliani to a “hand grenade,” after all — especially when the point of Tuesday’s debate is to compete with one another for the Democratic nomination.

Add to the mix the fact that one candidate, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., was the target of the president’s efforts to press a foreign power for political dirt, and will be under pressure to respond to the inquiry on Tuesday night.

Even if the political chaos surrounding Mr. Trump looms over the program, the candidates should do their best to ignore it, according to some political strategists in both parties.

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

“The best thing the candidates could do is to compartmentalize it,” said Brian Fallon, who was the press secretary for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. “There’s very little opportunity for separation among the candidates, based on how they talk about Trump.”

Brendan Buck, a past adviser to former Speaker Paul D. Ryan, said a debate where everyone agrees that Mr. Trump deserves to be impeached is a snooze and a wasted opportunity.

“Other than Biden having his opportunity to say his piece, they’re generally better off leaving this debate to Nancy Pelosi,” Mr. Buck said. The impeachment probe, he said, “isn’t terribly tangible to people’s lives.”

Nor is it how most Americans would like to see Mr. Trump leave office. A recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found that 58 percent of Americans think Mr. Trump’s fate should be decided by voters next November, compared to 37 percent who think it should be decided by the impeachment process. (Even so, 52 percent of respondents in that poll approved of the decision to begin the impeachment inquiry.)

The focus on impeachment may make it difficult for lower-polling candidates like Beto O’Rourke, the former Texas congressman, or Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey to break through. But Democrats said that over all, the inquiry would be a huge gift to whoever emerged as the party’s nominee.

“It’s creating a permanent black cloud that will ultimately help the Democratic nominee,” Mr. Fallon said, pointing to the earned media coverage of impeachment as a way for Democrats to close the messaging gap with the Trump campaign, which is vastly outspending them online.

“It’s defining him in a way none of the individual campaigns could do during a primary,” Mr. Fallon said. “They should all be thanking their lucky stars.”

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