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Westlake Legal Group > Sanders, Bernard

Bernie Sanders Almost Won Iowa in 2016. He Knows He Can’t Slip Now.

MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa — On a trip to Iowa in June, Senator Bernie Sanders confided in aides about a central gamble of his second bid for the White House.

As nearly two dozen other presidential candidates and their supporters were heading to an Iowa Democratic Party dinner, the first major event of the 2020 election cycle, Mr. Sanders was on his way to march with striking fast-food workers. While such populist gestures have defined Mr. Sanders’s life in politics, he was taking a risk in favoring grass-roots organizing over the party politicking usually essential to winning the Iowa caucuses, as he acknowledged in a car ride to the protest.

“This is going to be hard,” he said, according to an aide who was present. “But,” he said, using a profanity for emphasis, “this is the only way we’re going to do it.”

Every top Democratic candidate has been making calculations to try to win Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucus, and, lately, many have been staking their candidacies to a big result on Feb. 3. But Mr. Sanders stands out in several ways: He nearly won Iowa in 2016 against Hillary Clinton and, some allies say, he cannot afford to be anything less than a close runner-up again.

He is returning to the state this week after suffering a heart attack that stirred questions about his campaign’s viability. He has the most money in the race but also faces tough competition for liberal voters from a leading Iowa candidate, Senator Elizabeth Warren.

And, as his solidarity with the fast-food workers showed, he is trying to strengthen his base of voters by dedicating time and resources to wooing workers, young people, Latinos and others in Iowa, rather than focusing on winning over more party leaders. It is something of a shift from 2016, when Mr. Sanders and his allies were a greater presence at Democratic Party dinners and events to try to compete with Mrs. Clinton.

Increasingly, Mr. Sanders and his allies are making it clear that he is determined to win Iowa, even as he faces an uphill battle with about 100 days to go before the caucuses.

“I’m here this evening to ask for your help,” he said at a town hall-style event in Marshalltown on Thursday. “I don’t have to tell anybody in this room that Iowa plays a very disproportionately large role in the political process.”

Mr. Sanders continues to lag Ms. Warren and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. in polls. As candidates like Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., nip at his heels, his campaign has zeroed in on Iowa, viewing it as critical to his chances of winning the Democratic nomination, according to several people familiar with his strategy. Some advisers say a strong showing in Iowa — especially if he finishes ahead of Ms. Warren — would be enough to catapult him through New Hampshire and into Nevada and Super Tuesday.

“Iowa has to be a top priority for the campaign — we need to do very well in the state,” said Representative Ro Khanna, one of Mr. Sanders’s national campaign co-chairs.

“I hope he can go there every week,” Mr. Khanna said. “He needs to be in Iowa as much as possible.”

Westlake Legal Group democratic-polls-promo-1560481207024-articleLarge-v10 Bernie Sanders Almost Won Iowa in 2016. He Knows He Can’t Slip Now. Warren, Elizabeth Sanders, Bernard Primaries and Caucuses Presidential Election of 2020 Iowa

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To that end, his campaign has recently reallocated resources to the state, including spending $1.3 million to air its first television ad this month. It has built out its Iowa team, naming a key communications aide as its deputy state director. The campaign has also expanded its ground operation, with 13 field offices and more than 110 paid staffers.

Mr. Sanders returned Thursday for a two-day, five-event swing, and plans to be back next week to lead a “march to end corporate greed.” According to aides, his campaign is also discussing a trip to the state with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who recently endorsed him.

Mr. Sanders, however, has competition: Nearly all of the top-tier candidates have also signaled that Iowa is a top priority.

Mr. Biden’s campaign has publicly sought to lower expectations but he has been to the state three times this month and is planning another four-day swing there next week. Ms. Warren, whose campaign was among the first to establish a presence in the state, has 19 field offices. Mr. Buttigieg recently completed an Iowa bus tour. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota has made 21 trips to the state, including her own post-debate bus tour, and has visited 55 of the state’s 99 counties. Senator Kamala Harris vowed to visit the state every week in October.

The sudden flurry of attention represents a change from earlier this year, when White House hopefuls appeared to be embracing a more national campaign strategy that took them beyond Iowa and other early nominating states. The growth of social media, the changes to the electoral calendar and the increasing diversity of the Democratic electorate combined to make it seem like Iowa, a predominantly white state, might lose its sway in the primary process.

“Usually there’s a ramp-up period in past presidential cycles,” said Sean Bagniewski, the Democratic chair in Polk County, about the focus on Iowa. “This year, it was like a thunderclap.”

The stakes in Iowa for Mr. Sanders have personal and psychological dimensions. After his surprising performance in the caucuses in 2016, some aides said the state has taken on an almost mystical quality. A weak result could also indicate that he does not have the same influence with progressive voters as he used to.

Despite a series of disappointing polls in the state — a Suffolk University/USA Today poll released this week showed him in fourth place — allies are confident he is still in a position to do well.

Like it did in 2016, the Sanders campaign is betting on an extensive ground game that relies heavily on a vast network of volunteers that they hope will motivate other supporters to turn out on caucus night — including people who do not typically participate in the political process.

His aides believe that the technique, known as distributed organizing, will help motivate unlikely or first-time caucusgoers, especially those who were too young to participate in the last presidential caucuses; Latino voters, whose turnout rate in the caucuses is typically low; and working-class voters. The campaign sees high potential for victory particularly in and around college towns, like Ames and Iowa City, and in rural areas.

To solidify his base of support, he has spent hours rallying on college campuses in an effort to capture the support of young voters. He has courted labor support particularly in counties along the Mississippi River. And he has held multiple “Unidos con Bernie” events with Latino voters.

With $33.7 million cash on hand at the beginning of October, he will likely have plenty of money to spend in the state going forward on staffing and advertising. (On Friday, his campaign plans to go on air with an upbeat new television ad, about climate and green jobs in Iowa.)

Aides are sensitive to any comparison of the Sanders campaign of 2020 to the Sanders campaign of 2016: Unlike then, when voters only had to choose between him and Mrs. Clinton, they now have a wealth of options. To win in Iowa this cycle, he need only secure a larger percentage of the vote than his opponents.

But he has struggled to expand his support in the state, and there are some signs it may be diminishing: According to a poll last month from The Des Moines Register and CNN, only 25 percent of those who say they caucused for Mr. Sanders in 2016 said they would do so again, while 32 percent said they would support Ms. Warren and 12 percent said they would support Mr. Buttigieg.

In recent months, Mr. Sanders has begun holding smaller town hall-style events that give audience members the opportunity to share their own deeply personal stories. Advisers hope the events will inspire voters to work together to change what Mr. Sanders views as a broken system. (The campaign recently cut a television ad from one of these town halls in Iowa that featured a woman telling a horrific story about medical debt.)

Mr. Sanders is staking his success on supporters like Morgan Baethke, 58, of Indianola, Iowa, who was one of about 100 people who came to hear him speak in Marshalltown, the first stop on a two-day “end corporate greed” tour.

Mr. Baethke, who works in retail, said he tries to convince other voters to caucus for Mr. Sanders by knocking on doors and participating in parades and festivals.

But he also revealed a fundamental tension endemic to the Sanders campaign’s organizing strategy: He said that he prefers to speak to voters in a neighboring county rather than his own.

“I don’t feel comfortable in my home county looking at customers who I deal with during the day, going to their house in the evening, knocking on their door and saying, ‘Would you support Bernie Sanders?,’” he said.

Katie Glueck contributed reporting from Muscatine, Iowa, and Thomas Kaplan from Waterloo.

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Trump Campaign Floods Web With Ads, Raking In Cash as Democrats Struggle

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On any given day, the Trump campaign is plastering ads all over Facebook, YouTube and the millions of sites served by Google, hitting the kind of incendiary themes — immigrant invaders, the corrupt media — that play best on platforms where algorithms favor outrage and political campaigns are free to disregard facts.

Even seemingly ominous developments for Mr. Trump become fodder for his campaign. When news broke last month that congressional Democrats were opening an impeachment inquiry, the campaign responded with an advertising blitz aimed at firing up the president’s base.

The campaign slapped together an “Impeachment Poll” (sample question: “Do you agree that President Trump has done nothing wrong?”). It invited supporters to join the Official Impeachment Defense Task Force (“All you need to do is DONATE NOW!”). It produced a slick video laying out the debunked conspiracy theory about former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Ukraine that is now at the center of the impeachment battle (“Learn the truth. Watch Now!”).

The onslaught overwhelmed the limited Democratic response. Mr. Biden’s campaign put up the stiffest resistance: It demanded Facebook take down the ad, only to be rebuffed. It then proceeded with plans to slash its online advertising budget in favor of more television ads.

That campaigns are now being fought largely online is hardly a revelation, yet only one political party seems to have gotten the message. While the Trump campaign has put its digital operation firmly at the center of the president’s re-election effort, Democrats are struggling to internalize the lessons of the 2016 race and adapt to a political landscape shaped by social media.

Mr. Trump’s first campaign took far better advantage of Facebook and other platforms that reward narrowly targeted — and, arguably, nastier — messages. And while the president is now embattled on multiple fronts and disfavored by a majority of Americans in most polls, he has one big advantage: His 2020 campaign, flush with cash, is poised to dominate online again, according to experts on both ends of the political spectrum, independent researchers and tech executives. The difference between the parties’ digital efforts, they said, runs far deeper than the distinction between an incumbent’s general-election operation and challengers’ primary campaigns.

The Trump team has spent the past three years building out its web operation. As a sign of its priorities, the 2016 digital director, Brad Parscale, is now leading the entire campaign. He is at the helm of what experts described as a sophisticated digital marketing effort, one that befits a relentlessly self-promoting candidate who honed his image, and broadcast it into national consciousness, on reality television.

The campaign under Mr. Parscale is focused on pushing its product — Mr. Trump — by churning out targeted ads, aggressively testing the content and collecting data to further refine its messages. It is selling hats, shirts and other gear, a strategy that yields yet more data, along with cash and, of course, walking campaign billboards.

“We see much less of that kind of experimentation with the Democratic candidates,” said Laura Edelson, a researcher at New York University who tracks political advertising on Facebook. “They’re running fewer ads. We don’t see the wide array of targeting.”

The Trump campaign, she said, “is like a supercar racing a little Volkswagen Bug.”

The Democrats would be the Volkswagen. The are largely running what other experts and political operatives compared to brand-loyalty campaigns, trying to sway moderates and offend as few people as possible, despite mounting research that suggests persuasion ads have little to no impact on voters in a general election.

The candidates, to be sure, are collectively spending more on Facebook and Google than on television and are trying to target their ads — Mr. Biden’s tend to be seen by those born before 1975, for instance, while Senator Bernie Sanders’s are aimed at those born later. But without the same level of message testing and data collection, the Democrats’ efforts are not nearly as robust as Mr. Trump’s.

[Read more on how Democrats are using Facebook to reach specific voters.]

Democratic digital operatives say the problem is a party dominated by an aging professional political class that is too timid in the face of a fiercely partisan Republican machine. The Biden campaign’s decision to tack from digital to television, they say, is only the most glaring example of a party hung up on the kind of broad-based advertising that played well in the television age but fares poorly on social media.

The digital director of a prominent Democratic presidential campaign recounted how he was shut down by an older consultant when pressing for shorter, pithier ads that could drive clicks. “We don’t need any of your cinéma vérité clickbait,” the consultant snapped, according to the digital director, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid risking his job.

Other digital consultants and campaign officials told similar stories, and complained that the Democratic establishment was too focused on winning over imagined moderates, instead of doing what the Trump campaign has done: firing up its base.

“It’s true that anodyne messaging doesn’t turn anyone off. But it doesn’t turn them on either,” said Elizabeth Spiers, who runs the Insurrection, a progressive digital strategy and polling firm.

Republicans are “not messaging around unity and civility, because those things don’t mobilize people,” Ms. Spiers said, adding that while everyone may want to live in a less divided country, “nobody takes time off work, gets in their car and drives to the polls to vote specifically for that.”

Far more than any other platform, Facebook is the focus for digital campaign spending, and it is in many ways even friendlier turf for Mr. Trump’s campaign than in 2016.

Since then, many younger, more liberal users have abandoned the platform in favor of Instagram, Snapchat and various private messaging apps, while older users — the type most likely to vote Republican — are still flocking to Facebook in droves. People over 65 now make up Facebook’s fastest-growing population in the United States, doubling their use of the platform since 2011, according to Gallup.

In a speech this year in Romania, Mr. Parscale recalled telling his team before the 2016 election that Facebook would allow the campaign to reach the “lost, forgotten people of America” with messages tailored to their interests.

“Millions of Americans, older people, are on the internet, watching pictures of their kids because they all moved to cities,” Mr. Parscale said. “If we can connect to them, we can change this election.”

Facebook also favors the kind of emotionally charged content that Mr. Trump’s campaign has proved adept at creating. Campaigns buy Facebook ads through an automated auction system, with each ad receiving an “engagement rate ranking” based on its predicted likelihood of being clicked, shared or commented on. The divisive themes of Mr. Trump’s campaign tend to generate more engagement than Democrats’ calmer, more policy-focused appeals. Often, the more incendiary the campaign, the further its dollars go.

Provocative ads also get shared more often, creating an organic boost that vaults them even further ahead of less inflammatory messages.

“There’s an algorithmic bias that inherently benefits hate and negativity and anger,” said Shomik Dutta, a digital strategist and a founder of Higher Ground Labs, an incubator for Democratic start-ups. “If anger has an algorithmic bias, then Donald Trump is the captain of that ship.”

A Facebook spokeswoman disputed the notion that ads got more visibility just because they were negative, and noted that users were able to flag offending ads for possible removal.

The company, since the 2016 election, has invested heavily to prevent Russian-style interference campaigns. It has built up its security and fact-checking teams, staffed a “war room” during key elections and changed its rules to crack down on misinformation and false news.

But it has left a critical loophole: Facebook’s fact-checking rules do not apply to political ads, letting candidates spread false or misleading claims. That has allowed Mr. Trump’s campaign to show ads that traditional TV networks have declined to air.

One recent video from the Trump campaign said that Mr. Biden had offered Ukraine $1 billion in aid if it killed an investigation into a company tied to his son. The video’s claims had already been debunked, and CNN refused to play it. But Facebook rejected the Biden campaign’s demand to take the ad down, arguing that it did not violate its policies.

At last count, the video has been viewed on the social network more than five million times.

In the wake of the 2016 election, some on the left sought an explanation for Mr. Trump’s victory in the idea that his campaign had used shadowy digital techniques inspired by military-style psychological warfare — a “Weaponized AI Propaganda Machine,” as one article described it — created by the defunct political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. The theories around Cambridge Analytica have never been fully demonstrated, however, and there is a far less nefarious explanation: The Trump campaign simply made better use of standard commercial marketing tools, particularly Facebook’s own high-powered targeting products.

An internal Facebook report written after the 2016 election noted that both the Trump and Clinton campaigns spent heavily on Facebook — $44 million for Mr. Trump versus $28 million for Hillary Clinton. “But Trump’s FB campaigns were more complex,” the memo said, and were better at using Facebook to bring in donations and find new voters. For instance, roughly 84 percent of the Trump ads focused on getting voters to take an action, such as donating, the report said. Only about half of Mrs. Clinton’s did.

At the same time, the Trump campaign sought to tailor its ads more precisely to specific voters, the report said, with a typical Trump message targeted at 2.5 million people, compared with eight million for the Clinton campaign. And the Trump team simply made more unique ads — 5.9 million versus 66,000.

“We were making hundreds of thousands” of variations on similar ads, Mr. Parscale told “60 Minutes” last year. “Changing language, words, colors.”

The idea, he said, was to find “what is it that makes it go, ‘Poof! I’m going to stop and look.’”

For the left, the Trump campaign’s mastery of social media in 2016 represented a sharp reversal. From the blogs of the mid-aughts to Netroots Nation, the digital activists who helped propel Barack Obama to victory in 2008 and 2012, the left was seen as the dominant digital force. The Democrats had an array of tech-savvy campaign veterans who were adept at data mining and digital organizing, and had overseen the creation of a handful of well-resourced digital consulting firms.

Starting with the 2016 primaries, the Trump campaign reversed the trend. While the more traditionally minded Republican operatives signed on to work for the party’s more traditional candidates, such as Jeb Bush, the Trump campaign found itself reliant on “the outliers, and a lot of them truly believed in digital,” said Zac Moffatt, chief executive of Targeted Victory, a Republican digital strategy firm. “It was a changing of the guard, strategically.”

The Republicans’ 2020 operation — with more than $150 million in cash on hand, according to the latest filings — appears to have picked up where it left off.

The Trump campaign’s intense testing of ads is one example. It posts dozens of variations of almost every ad to figure which plays best. Do voters respond better to a blue button or a green one? Are they more likely to click if its says “donate” or “contribute”? Will they more readily cough up cash for an impeachment defense fund or an impeachment defense task force?

The president’s re-election effort is also making use of strategies common in the e-commerce world, such as “zero touch” merchandise sales. T-shirts, posters and other paraphernalia are printed on demand and sent directly to buyers, with the campaign not required to make bulk orders or risk unsold inventory. Sales of these items amount to a lucrative source of campaign fund-raising, and the zero-touch technique allows the campaign to move fast — it was able to start selling T-shirts that say “get over it” a day after the president’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, told reporters to do just than when it came to Ukraine.

Perhaps most important, the Trump campaign is spending to make sure people see its ads, emails, texts, tweets and other content. In the week the impeachment inquiry was announced, for instance, the campaign spent nearly $2.3 million on Facebook and Google ads, according to data compiled by Acronym, a progressive digital strategy organization that tracks campaign spending. That is roughly four to five times what it spent on those platforms in previous weeks, and about half of what most Democratic front-runners have spent on Facebook and Google advertising over the entire course of their campaigns.

The president’s team has also invested heavily in YouTube, buying ads and counterprogramming his opponents. In June, during the first Democratic primary debates, the Trump campaign bought the YouTube “masthead” — a large ad that runs at the top of the site’s home page and can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per day — to ensure that debate viewers would see it.

The Trump campaign “is always re-upping their ad buy. As soon as an ad runs out, another one goes in,” Ms. Edelson said, adding, “No one is waiting for next month’s marketing budget to kick in.”

Democrats are struggling to match more than the sheer volume of content coming out of the Trump campaign. Interviews with Democratic consultants and experts revealed a party deeply hesitant to match the Trump campaign’s intense and often angry partisan approach.

Most of the Democratic Party is “not even fighting last year’s war — the war that they’re fighting is 2012,” said David Goldstein, chief executive of Tovo Labs, a progressive digital consulting firm.

Mr. Goldstein offered an instructive anecdote from the 2018 midterm elections. That spring, Tovo signed on to do online fund-raising for Andrew Gillum, the Democratic candidate for governor in Florida. Tovo wanted to build on the work it had done the year before in Alabama, where it claimed to have depressed Republican turnout by running ads that showcased conservatives who opposed the far-right Senate candidate Roy Moore. The ads did not say they were being run by supporters of the eventual Democratic winner, Doug Jones.

Mr. Goldstein hoped to bring the same edge to Mr. Gillum’s campaign and came up with ads that “were really aggressive.”

“We wanted to provoke people,” he said.

One was a particularly buffoonish caricature of Mr. Trump holding the world in his palm. “As Florida goes in 2018, so goes the White House in 2020,” read the tagline.

The ad was aimed at far-left voters deemed most likely to be motivated by the prospect of pushing Mr. Trump from office, and the response rate was high, Mr. Goldstein said. But a few days after it went up, the campaign manager saw it and “freaked out.”

“This is entirely unacceptable,” the campaign manager, Brendan McPhillips, wrote in an email on April 6, 2018.

In Mr. Goldstein’s telling, the campaign manager feared offending voters whom Mr. Gillum hoped to sway. Mr. McPhillips was not mollified when Tovo explained that the ad was targeted only at voters thought to be deeply anti-Trump. He wanted ads that were focused on his candidate, not produced to elicit an emotional response with images the campaign considered crass.

Mr. McPhillips ordered Tovo to immediately stop running the ads. He said Tovo could only use images approved by the campaign. Tovo left soon thereafter.

The approved images — “standard glamour shots of the candidate” — would work for a newspaper ad or television spot, Mr. Goldstein said, but were not “going to drive clicks and provoke people to take action.”

Mr. Gillum narrowly lost the race.

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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.

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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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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.

Video

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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Which Candidates Will Win Tonight’s Democratic Debate? Six Experts Offer Tips.

As part of our 2020 debate coverage, we are asking political debate coaches and experts to tell us what each candidate needs to do to win, and what advice they would give those onstage. Then we will ask the experts afterward how the candidates did.

Our panel

  • Karen Dunn, debate adviser to the Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama campaigns

  • Aaron Kall, director of debate, University of Michigan

  • Meredith Kelly, communications director for Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s campaign

  • Brett O’Donnell, debate coach for George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney

  • Geoff Potter, debate director for Gov. Jay Inslee’s campaign

  • Karen Finney, senior spokeswoman for Mrs. Clinton’s 2016 campaign

Oct. 15 Lineup

Westlake Legal Group gabbard Which Candidates Will Win Tonight’s Democratic Debate? Six Experts Offer Tips. Warren, Elizabeth Sanders, Bernard Primaries and Caucuses Presidential Election of 2020 Debates (Political) Biden, Joseph R Jr

Tulsi Gabbard

Westlake Legal Group steyer Which Candidates Will Win Tonight’s Democratic Debate? Six Experts Offer Tips. Warren, Elizabeth Sanders, Bernard Primaries and Caucuses Presidential Election of 2020 Debates (Political) Biden, Joseph R Jr

Tom Steyer

Westlake Legal Group booker Which Candidates Will Win Tonight’s Democratic Debate? Six Experts Offer Tips. Warren, Elizabeth Sanders, Bernard Primaries and Caucuses Presidential Election of 2020 Debates (Political) Biden, Joseph R Jr

Cory Booker

Westlake Legal Group harris Which Candidates Will Win Tonight’s Democratic Debate? Six Experts Offer Tips. Warren, Elizabeth Sanders, Bernard Primaries and Caucuses Presidential Election of 2020 Debates (Political) Biden, Joseph R Jr

Kamala Harris

Westlake Legal Group sanders Which Candidates Will Win Tonight’s Democratic Debate? Six Experts Offer Tips. Warren, Elizabeth Sanders, Bernard Primaries and Caucuses Presidential Election of 2020 Debates (Political) Biden, Joseph R Jr

Bernie Sanders

Westlake Legal Group biden Which Candidates Will Win Tonight’s Democratic Debate? Six Experts Offer Tips. Warren, Elizabeth Sanders, Bernard Primaries and Caucuses Presidential Election of 2020 Debates (Political) Biden, Joseph R Jr

Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Westlake Legal Group warren Which Candidates Will Win Tonight’s Democratic Debate? Six Experts Offer Tips. Warren, Elizabeth Sanders, Bernard Primaries and Caucuses Presidential Election of 2020 Debates (Political) Biden, Joseph R Jr

Elizabeth Warren

Westlake Legal Group buttigieg Which Candidates Will Win Tonight’s Democratic Debate? Six Experts Offer Tips. Warren, Elizabeth Sanders, Bernard Primaries and Caucuses Presidential Election of 2020 Debates (Political) Biden, Joseph R Jr

Pete Buttigieg

Westlake Legal Group yang Which Candidates Will Win Tonight’s Democratic Debate? Six Experts Offer Tips. Warren, Elizabeth Sanders, Bernard Primaries and Caucuses Presidential Election of 2020 Debates (Political) Biden, Joseph R Jr

Andrew Yang

Westlake Legal Group orourke Which Candidates Will Win Tonight’s Democratic Debate? Six Experts Offer Tips. Warren, Elizabeth Sanders, Bernard Primaries and Caucuses Presidential Election of 2020 Debates (Political) Biden, Joseph R Jr

Beto O’Rourke

Westlake Legal Group klobucha Which Candidates Will Win Tonight’s Democratic Debate? Six Experts Offer Tips. Warren, Elizabeth Sanders, Bernard Primaries and Caucuses Presidential Election of 2020 Debates (Political) Biden, Joseph R Jr

Amy Klobuchar

Westlake Legal Group castro Which Candidates Will Win Tonight’s Democratic Debate? Six Experts Offer Tips. Warren, Elizabeth Sanders, Bernard Primaries and Caucuses Presidential Election of 2020 Debates (Political) Biden, Joseph R Jr

Julián Castro

Candidates will appear in this order on the stage, from left to right.

KELLY The former vice president should aggressively set the record straight armed with facts and outside validators, and make clear that Trump’s motivation is simple: He’s scared of running against Biden and is trying to pick a different nominee. Biden should then quickly pivot back to what voters love and believe about him: that he’s fighting for working families and has a record of delivering on issues like health care, while Donald Trump has failed these very same workers and families. A kitchen table contrast with Biden is deadly for Trump.

O’DONNELL Biden needs to answer the question of how his son got the position in Ukraine carefully, but stay on offense if he is to escape having this rub off on him more than it has. If the press drills down, and he appears weak, then others might pile on or use it to frame Biden as part of the past they’re attempting to move on from. His hope has to be to keep pivoting this to impeachment.

POTTER Warren has managed to win the inside track on the “change” message in a primary where voters’ top concern is beating Donald Trump, and this debate is a chance to tie those threads together through the lens of corruption. While a process-heavy discussion of impeachment will likely be unhelpful to her, Warren could do herself a world of good by packaging the known facts surrounding Ukraine as an easy-to-understand tale of Washington influence-peddling.

FINNEY Clearly the vision Warren is campaigning on is more popular than is being given credit, but she still has to keep making the case that her ideas can win in a general election. Her strategy ought to be to continue to convince voters that she can be the commander-in-chief, steward of our economy, and that these ideas can win.

DUNN Follow the old rule of show, don’t tell. Senator Sanders demonstrates that he is all vim and vigor by acting that way and not talking about it. Expect him to try and act the same as he has in every previous debate.

KELLY First of all, I hope that Senator Sanders is healthy and fully recovers soon. But this is a real issue. Certainly, he’ll need to show energy throughout the three-hour debate and make a strong case for himself, remaining engaged throughout. But ultimately, he is 78 years old and had a heart attack. I don’t think there’s a tactical silver bullet for the debate stage that can change those facts or demonstrate that he’s healthy enough to be president of the United States.

O’DONNELL The November debate will be too late to have a break out moment. He has to have a moment early in this debate where he commands the stage and gets the narrative moving in his direction. The problem for him has been identity and message. He needs to find both. All the money in the world can’t buy that. He also needs to have a moment where he shows competitive advantage over one of the front-runners — Warren or Biden — by taking them on over an issue where he has a real different message. He should not waste time arguing with Beto O’Rourke over guns. So if he doesn’t differentiate himself, he’ll be on the stage for the rest of the debates, but will be out of the media conversation and out of contention.

POTTER Her success depends on getting multiple opportunities to deliver sharp, simple-to-understand critiques of President Trump. Harris’s greatest success on the debate stage came from creating the impression she would badly outclass Trump in a general election debate, but she has generally been unable to build on that. Her campaign’s goal should be to remind voters of her unique skills in this area, perhaps on an under-addressed issue such as reproductive rights.

O’DONNELL His only lane is a pragmatist, more moderate approach to policy. He can never beat Warren and Sanders on their agenda, so trying to position himself more in line with Biden has to be his approach. What does that mean for the debate? He has to take on Sanders or Warren and prove that his approach is better and take on Biden and prove he would be a better president than Biden.

DUNN Senator Klobuchar has already been performing very, very well — but it is not moving the needle. That’s a hard position to be in. Her best bet is to draw contrast with Senator Warren and try to use Warren’s momentum to build her own.

KALL He should try to take credit for the impeachment inquiry since he spent so much time and money on this process. He was at the forefront of this initiative before most, but he can’t let this issue singularly define his candidacy and debate talking points.

FINNEY He tried to have these breakout moments at each of the debates. He ought to try to have a breakout moment that is not about attacking someone else but is about making the case that he is the right person for this moment. We still haven’t seen that from him.

KALL He needs to show the audience that he can do more than deliver quippy sound bytes and engage in campaign giveaway gimmicks. He’s been successful in directly attacking President Trump, but the debate is a good opportunity for him to soberly lay out his agenda and political philosophies more clearly.

POTTER I would not be surprised to see O’Rourke try to generate a sense of “us-against-the-world” among his supporters and decrying traditional political expectations that point toward an early exit. Beto O’Rourke is best when he’s in the role of the rebel with a cause and needs to leave Ohio with voters believing his voice is urgent and necessary once more.

FINNEY She needs to act like a Democrat! I say this as someone who at onetime was a fan of hers years ago when she first was elected to Congress. I don’t even recognize this person. Instead of whining and complaining, tell us what you are for. Don’t just attack others.

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Democrats’ Bolder Stand on Labor Reflects Nation’s Ideological Shift

Westlake Legal Group 11labor1-facebookJumbo Democrats’ Bolder Stand on Labor Reflects Nation’s Ideological Shift United States Economy Sanders, Bernard Presidential Election of 2020 Organized Labor Labor and Jobs Democratic Party Collective Bargaining

When Bernie Sanders ran for president in 2016, his campaign was strikingly pro-labor. He proposed a $15-an-hour minimum wage, which was much further than most mainstream Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, were willing to go. He denounced a trans-Pacific trade deal that was anathema to many unions. He endorsed an organizing method, known as card check, that would allow workers to unionize without holding a secret-ballot election.

Yet by the standards of the race for the 2020 Democratic nomination, the Bernie Sanders of four years ago was something of a piker. At least half the candidates who will appear in next week’s presidential debate — including Mr. Sanders — have labor platforms that are more ambitious than his 2016 version.

Several candidates have pledged to ban noncompete agreements, which hold down wages for workers, and mandatory-arbitration clauses, which prohibit lawsuits against employers. They would effectively require many companies to treat independent contractors as employees, making the workers eligible for the minimum wage and unemployment insurance. They would enact a number of measures that would help workers unionize and strike, like allowing them to lead boycotts of an employer’s customers, which is currently illegal.

“For the first time we see really robust agendas in labor and employment policy that are about unions and also about really high labor standards,” said Lawrence Mishel, the former president of the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank. “Politicians have been willing to say some of this stuff, but they haven’t been public about it.”

Perhaps the most ambitious proposal is an idea known as sectoral bargaining, in which workers would bargain with employers on an industrywide basis rather than employer by employer. Sectoral bargaining, which is common in Europe, would make it possible to increase wages and benefits for millions of workers in relatively short order, even for those who aren’t union members. It would also give employers an incentive to create better-paying jobs because doing so would no longer bestow a major cost advantage on competitors.

Under a sectoral bargaining system, unions or worker groups would have to show support from a certain share of workers in order to begin negotiating on their behalf — for example, by getting 15 or 20 percent of workers in an industry to sign cards. At that point, a federal agency like the Labor Department would convene the bargaining, with employer groups on one side and the worker groups on the other. The agency would review any resulting agreement, which, once approved, would become binding on all employers in the industry.

In recent months, Mr. Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, along with Pete Buttigieg, Cory Booker and Beto O’Rourke, have released labor plans that would either enact sectoral bargaining or take significant strides in that direction by allowing workers to negotiate with multiple employers at once.

That such a range of Democratic candidates have signed on to far-reaching labor proposals reflects the ways that lackluster wage growth, economic insecurity and widening inequality are upending politics and shattering a longstanding policy consensus.

In the early stages of the economic recovery a decade ago, most workers were primarily concerned with avoiding unemployment, said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster who has conducted research on voters’ economic concerns. But as the expansion has plodded on, the focus has shifted from having any job to having a good job, which workers see as rare.

“You’re really trying to do something about what jobs pay,” Ms. Lake said.

With people increasingly open to more radical tools for accomplishing this, joining a union can seem downright middle of the road. According to recent polling by Pew Research Center, 42 percent of Americans view socialism favorably, up from 29 percent in 2010. During roughly that same time, support for unions has climbed significantly, from less than half to about two-thirds of Americans.

The increased openness to unions and collective bargaining has dovetailed with a palpable shift in expert opinion. For decades, economists tended to play down the importance of unions, attributing much of the increase in income inequality to a growing demand for skilled workers that resulted from automation and the spread of information technology. Some otherwise liberal economists were skeptical or even hostile to unions, seeing them as cartels that drove up wages for their members at the cost of reducing employment.

“I learned this in graduate school in macro — anti-union stuff from people who were highly inclined toward government redistribution,” said the economist and columnist Noah Smith, who earned his Ph.D. at the University of Michigan and has written about economists’ suspicion of unions. “There was this definite anti-union bias among liberals in the economics profession.”

But in recent years, many economists have begun to reconsider those views. Partly this reflects a broader ideological shift in the country away from the market-friendly policy approach of the 1980s and ’90s, which has lost credibility as inequality has widened. “We as social scientists live in a society where clearly the general social and political environment affects the questions we ask,” said Arindrajit Dube, a labor economist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

And partly this reflects a proliferation of research, which some of the campaigns have specifically cited, showing that employers have considerable power to hold down wages below the level the market would set.

Whatever the case, there appears to be a growing consensus among center-left economists that unions are a critical check on the tendency of capital to vacuum up the gains from economic growth. A recent paper by economists at Princeton and Columbia showed that unions raised wages for low-skilled workers in the decades in which inequality was narrowing and concluded that unions have “had a significant, equalizing effect on the income distribution.” A recent paper by the centrist Hamilton Project concluded that “unions lift wages, reduce inequality, and shape how work is organized.”

And then there is the growing consensus among union experts, including labor leaders, that improving workers’ standards of living after decades of declining unionization requires a much more ambitious approach than the movement previously embraced.

Before the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections, the politically powerful Service Employees International Union told candidates that they would have to present a detailed health care proposal to be considered for its endorsement. This year, the union asked candidates seeking its support to produce specific plans to help underpaid workers act collectively and urged them to incorporate industrywide bargaining as a key pillar.

Other union experts have helped to deliver this message behind the scenes. Larry Cohen, a former president of the Communications Workers of America and a top volunteer adviser to Mr. Sanders in 2016 and now, said that he has been touting the importance of sectoral bargaining to Mr. Sanders in recent years. “The last time I talked to him about this was right before he decided to run,” said Mr. Cohen, who looked closely at sectoral bargaining systems in Norway and Argentina while traveling to those countries after the last election. “He was genuinely excited by it.”

Mr. Cohen has also been involved in an effort by two faculty members at Harvard Law School, known as the Clean Slate for Worker Power project, to convene dozens of labor experts, activists and organizers to reimagine labor law from the ground up. The group won’t publish its recommendations until January, but in the meantime it has worked to disseminate ideas like sectoral bargaining across the campaigns. Sharon Block and Benjamin Sachs, the Harvard faculty members involved, have weighed in with several campaigns that have embraced this approach, according to aides to Ms. Warren, Mr. Buttigieg, Mr. O’Rourke and Mr. Booker.

Ms. Block, a former Obama administration official and congressional staff member who is a veteran of legislative efforts to make unionizing and collective bargaining easier, said experience had taught her that advancing labor interests through provisions like card check doesn’t work: Such measures tend to be too small to matter substantively, and they fail to generate political excitement among those who would benefit.

“The folks who don’t want this to happen will fight just as hard whether it’s small or big,” Ms. Block said. “But doing something bigger makes moving legislation easier because you have the potential to have a much bigger constituency behind it.”

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What Jane Sanders Is Telling Bernie Sanders About His 2020 Bid

Westlake Legal Group 09berniejane-facebookJumbo-v2 What Jane Sanders Is Telling Bernie Sanders About His 2020 Bid Sanders, Levi Sanders, Jane O'Meara Sanders, Bernard Presidential Election of 2020 Heart BURLINGTON, Vt.

BURLINGTON, Vt. — When it comes time to make critical decisions regarding his presidential campaign, Senator Bernie Sanders often relies on a committee of two: himself and his wife, Jane Sanders.

It was Ms. Sanders who provided a medical update after her husband was hospitalized in Las Vegas last week and had two stents inserted into an artery — issuing a statement and speaking to reporters outside the hospital. When doctors confirmed to her on Thursday that Mr. Sanders had suffered a heart attack, she said, it was her decision to wait until he was discharged the next day to release that information.

And when it was time to say publicly that Mr. Sanders would be easing the pace of his campaigning after his heart attack, Ms. Sanders — who has effectively been running the campaign’s external communications in Vermont this week — stood beside him to explain the reason: His closest advisers, “especially me,” had told him to slow down.

Ms. Sanders has played a central role in her husband’s political life for decades, acting as his confidante and his closest adviser. Yet as Mr. Sanders weighs the future of his candidacy, never has it been clearer that the two of them are primarily making the calls for his campaign.

“He’ll often say, ‘Let’s talk to Jane,’” said Representative Ro Khanna of California, one of Mr. Sanders’s national campaign co-chairs.

“She’s the one person Senator Sanders listens to above everybody else — by an order of magnitude,” Mr. Khanna said. “There’s no one whose political judgment he trusts more.”

In a rare interview on Wednesday at their home in Burlington, Ms. Sanders said it would be “egotistical” to call herself Mr. Sanders’s top adviser but allowed that she was “very much a close adviser.” Above all, she said, she was “his wife.”

“We share a life, and his life is of public service,” she said. “So I need to be part of that in order to have a wonderful marriage. It’s necessary for us to work together because he works a lot.”

Mr. Sanders said in an interview with NBC News Wednesday that he learned he had suffered a heart attack on the night he entered the hospital last week with chest pains. Ms. Sanders, in the interview with The New York Times shortly afterward, said she only learned of it two days later, last Thursday.

Ms. Sanders said the decision not to reveal her husband’s heart attack until the next day was motivated by another crisis in her family occurring at the same time: the sudden cancer diagnosis of her daughter-in-law, Rainè Riggs, the wife of Mr. Sanders’s son, Levi Sanders. Ms. Riggs died this weekend, at age 46.

“I heard it on Thursday,” Ms. Sanders said, referring to her husband’s heart attack. “But frankly, I wasn’t thinking about the campaign.”

Ms. Sanders’s significant role in her husband’s presidential run recalls the close involvement of other political spouses, including Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton and Nancy Reagan. They had other trusted aides, and Ms. Sanders said her husband does too, listing Jeff Weaver, his 2016 campaign manager who has been by his side for decades; Faiz Shakir, his 2020 campaign manager; and Ari Rabin-Havt, a deputy campaign manager.

But if most politicians typically rely on their spouses as part of a larger group of consultants and close friends, Mr. Sanders maintains only a small inner circle and has long leaned primarily on his wife, who operates as something of a co-strategist for the Sanders brand.

“Where Jane goes, Bernie goes,” said Michael Ceraso, a high-ranking aide on Mr. Sanders’s 2016 campaign in New Hampshire and California. “She is his engine.”

She is also fiercely protective of her husband’s image.

When Mr. Sanders had elective hernia surgery in 2015, for example, her preference was not to tell the media, according to a Democrat familiar with the conversations at the time. But other advisers convinced her and Mr. Sanders that if they did not disclose the operation and it was later revealed, their secrecy would create a firestorm in the press. Much like with his heart attack last month, the campaign initially only released a statement with spare details.

The Sanders partnership formed soon after the two met at a political event during his first campaign for mayor in 1981. When he was in City Hall, she ran his youth office. They married in 1988.

When Mr. Sanders was elected to Congress in 1990, Jane Sanders served as his unpaid chief of staff, vetting potential staff members and writing dozens of pieces of legislation. She helped him form the Congressional Progressive Caucus in 1991, worked on his re-election ads and liaised with reporters.

Those who have worked with Mr. Sanders say his wife has extraordinary influence over his decisions. If they want him to sign off on something, one way to ensure it happens is to get her buy-in first.

That level of trust has made her one of Mr. Sanders’s most important assets. During the 2016 campaign, she was credited with helping to humanize her husband, who can come across as gruff and impersonal, offering a tour of their Burlington home and even showing reporters pictures of their wedding day from a photo album.

But she has also complicated his presidential bid: A federal investigation into her role in a 2010 land deal as president of a Vermont college threatened to undercut his populist appeal. (Ms. Sanders’s lawyer said last year that he had been told the investigation had been closed.)

She also started a public policy group, the Sanders Institute, that attracted scrutiny because her son served as executive director and drew a salary of $100,000 last year. She suspended its operations in March soon after Mr. Sanders announced his run.

And at times, her influence has also frustrated advisers.

Some people familiar with the campaign said she would get annoyed when it appeared that decisions were being made without her input, often prompting her to try to reassert control.

When Mr. Sanders’s aides were finalizing plans for the campaign announcement earlier this year, for instance, Ms. Sanders questioned whether it was wise to start the race in Brooklyn: Some observers, she warned, might note that Hillary Clinton had located her campaign headquarters in Brooklyn in 2016.

Her concern perplexed some Sanders advisers who wondered why that was relevant, according to one Democratic official familiar with the discussion, making the case that it was important to set the announcement in the city where Mr. Sanders and President Trump both grew up, to draw a contrast between their values. (Mr. Sanders ultimately did kick off his candidacy in Brooklyn, with a big rally that drew thousands of supporters.)

Mr. Shakir, the campaign manager, said he never heard Ms. Sanders express any concern about the announcement decision.

In another instance, Ms. Sanders was unhappy with one of the commercials Mr. Sanders’s consulting team devised for his campaign kickoff earlier this year, people familiar with the matter said. Without discussing their plans with the consultants, the Sanders’ decided that he would record a different, more unadorned advertisement from a Burlington studio — and he ultimately shared that version widely with supporters. But the move prompted the advisers, who played a central role in his 2016 bid, to abruptly quit the campaign.

People who know her say Ms. Sanders’s intense involvement stems both from her commitment to changing the world with progressive ideas and from her deep love for her husband.

“It’s a critical relationship for both of them,” said Jim Rader, a Sanders confidant who officiated their wedding. “I think she’s just been a very crucial part of obviously his personal life, but also his professional life.”

In the interview, Ms. Sanders said she was most concerned now about getting Mr. Sanders back in good health, including changing his diet to incorporate more vegetables, especially while on the campaign trail. And though she admitted to being worried after his heart scare, she said it had not prompted them to consider dropping out of the race.

“That’s been his entire life — fighting for the average working people in this country, and this is not the time to stop when it feels like things can really change,” she said.

“If it was more serious,” she added, “I’m sure we would have thought about it.”

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Is Age Only a Number, Even When You’re Running for President?

For months, Senator Bernie Sanders brushed off questions about his age, offering a simple, six-word mantra to those who doubt he’s energetic enough to run for president: “Follow me around the campaign trail.”

But in the hours before the chest pains that led to an emergency procedure in a Las Vegas hospital, Mr. Sanders, 78, uttered a different, perhaps more telling, series of six words.

“Get me a chair up here,” he said, turning to his deputy campaign manager on Tuesday, before sitting down in front of the crowd of 250 gathered for a fund-raiser in a Persian restaurant. “It’s been a long day here.”

For months, Democrats have watched as a trio of septuagenarians commanded a majority of support in their crowded primary field: Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., 76, Senator Elizabeth Warren, 70, and Mr. Sanders, have consistently led in the contest to face President Trump, 73, next year.

Presidential campaigns always reflect the hopes and fears — or, as political strategists call them, the “kitchen table conversations” — of the voters who cast the ballots. And this year, along with health care costs and college affordability, stagnant wages and immigration, the contest also reflects another issue, one that strikes at the heart of a country where the highest share of the electorate will be older than 65 since at least 1970: How old is too old?

Voters, who have watched candidates through debate stages and state party dinners, on sweaty stages and speed-walking across the state fair, corn dog in hand, do not generally want to say there is a ceiling. No one is too old to be doing this. They just are not sure they would want to be keeping up such a rigorous schedule in their 70s. Would you?

Gerontologists and other experts in aging say there is simply no way to definitively address the question of an upper age limit on the rigors of the presidency.

“There’s no answer. It’s unknowable,” said Dr. Mark Lachs, co-chief of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian. “It’s true that rates of physical and cognitive impairment are age dependent but there’s all kind of variability.”

The averages paint a sobering picture: The average life expectancy in the United States is just under 79, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even as Americans live longer than ever before, about 85 percent of older adults have at least one chronic disease, and more than three-quarters have at least two.

But despite the statistics, one person’s 70 can be another’s 60, Dr. Lachs said. And being 70 years old, he added, is not at all what it used to be.

“The yardstick gets moved every decade because the country is aging and medical care becomes better,” he said. “Age should not be a disqualification for the presidency.”

That’s a message some voters happily believe, as they confront the realities of aging in their own lives. The number of Americans who plan to retire after age 66 has steadily ticked up over the past quarter century, with a quarter saying they do not plan to retire at all.

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Ms. Warren speaking at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa.CreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

“Seventy is the new fifty,” said Halliestine Zimmerman, a retired accountant from Greenville, S.C., who celebrated her 70th birthday in June, a week before Ms. Warren did. “You don’t really think I am at the end of my life span, you think more you are in the middle. I know what it is I want out of my life, and you know how to get it.”

Ms. Zimmerman’s husband, whose age she would only give as “70 plus,” had a triple bypass several years ago and today he regularly plays tennis.

“He’s doing fantastic, so a stent doesn’t bother me at all,” she said, of Mr. Sanders. “I don’t think he will stop campaigning, I don’t think he should — remember a lot of people don’t make it to his age.”

But others worry that an older commander-in-chief would share the declines they have experienced in their own physical and mental abilities over the years.

Discussions of aging have been all-but-inescapable on the campaign trail. Since he entered the race, Mr. Biden has been dogged by questions about his physical fitness and condition — concerns he has tried to alleviate by bounding through parade routes and shaking dozens of hands in steamy summer weather. Mr. Sanders keeps a blistering campaign schedule that often includes multiple events in multiple cities each day. And supporters of Ms. Warren gush about her vitality, bragging about the hundreds of selfies she takes with supporters after each appearance.

“I was just amazed that when you first came out here, Senator Warren, that you ran up those steps the way that you did, and all this energy and stamina that you have,” Nikita L. Jackson, a Rock Hill, S.C., city councilwoman, said as she praised Ms. Warren to a crowd at a town hall event on Saturday.

None of the Democratic candidates have been particularly eager to delve into the details of their health. Aides to Mr. Sanders released a brief statement noting that he “was found to have a blockage in one artery and two stents were successfully inserted,” a fairly common procedure in the United States. Like his rivals, Mr. Sanders has not yet released his medical records, though all three have vowed to do so before the Iowa caucuses in February.

With little actual medical information, even minor irregularities in how candidates appear have prompted a flurry of age-related speculation. When Mr. Sanders hit his head on the edge of a glass shower door, his campaign explained that he had received a cut requiring stitches but stressed that he did not fall. Mr. Biden appeared to be moving his mouth in a strange fashion during the last debate, which led to questions about whether he wore dentures. At Mr. Biden’s campaign events, voters question whether his verbal missteps can be attributed to his age.

“He’s not as sharp as he might be,” said Carol Sobelson, 63, at a campaign event in Concord, N.H. “He’s done a lot for our country, he was a great vice president. He’s probably not my first choice.”

Health, or the perception of a candidate’s health, is unlikely to be off the table in a campaign against Mr. Trump. In 2016, his supporters spliced together video footage of Hillary Clinton coughing and Mr. Trump often questioned her stamina, particularly after she abruptly left a ceremony in New York honoring the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Already, Mr. Trump has started questioning Mr. Biden’s energy levels, nicknaming him “Sleepy Joe.”

Nearly all Democrats prefer candidates in their 40s through 60s, according to surveys. When asked about the ideal age for a president, just 3 percent said the 70s, according to polling released by Pew Research Center in May. Other polls have shown that Americans express more discomfort with a candidate in their 70s than one who is gay, Muslim or an independent.

The two Democratic nominees who have won the White House since 1992 — Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — made generational change a key part of their winning campaign message. Both were the youngest in their primary fields.

Katie Glueck and Sydney Ember contributed reporting from New York. Thomas Kaplan contributed reporting from Reno, Nev., and Jennifer Medina contributed reporting from Greenville, S.C.

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