The fourth Democrat primary debate Tuesday night saw Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Andrew Yang, Julián Castro, Beto O’Rourke, Tom Steyer, and Tulsi Gabbard assemble in Ohio to field questions about range of issues.
During the debate, moderated by CNN’s Erin Burnett and Anderson Cooper, and the New York Times’ Marc Lacey, the 12 candidates sparred over topics like the Trump impeachment inquiry, health care, gun control, and reproductive rights. And also tried to wound a new apparent front-runner, demanded more attention for some ignored issues, discussed the age and health of some of the oldest people ever to run for the presidency… and pleaded for civility.
Read on for the 4 biggest takeways from the fourth Democratic Debate.
Candidates go after Elizabeth Warren
After recent polling showed Elizabeth Warren as a new likely front-runner, candidates at Tuesday’s debate set their sights on the Massachusetts senator in much the same way they piled on Joe Biden in previous debates. Particularly Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, who went on the offensive against Warren during a discussion of health care and Medicare for All.
After Warren responded to a question from the New York Times’ Marc Lacey about the middle class would be taxed by her Medicare for All plan, Buttigieg scrutinized her response.
“We heard it tonight: A ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question that didn’t get a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer,” Buttigieg said. “Your signature is to have a plan for everything. Except for this: No plan has been laid out to explain how a multi trillion hole … is supposed to get filled in.”
Later, Klobuchar attempted to use Warren’s previous “Republican talking points” attack against her, saying: “I’m tired of hearing, whenever I talk about this, that these are Republican talking points. You are making Republican talking points right in this room,” Klobuchar said to Warren. “The difference between a plan and a pipe dream is something that you can actually get done.”
Towards the end of the debate, Biden argued Warren and Sanders (who is also polling very well) were “vague” and that he was the “only one on stage” who had “gotten anything really big done.”
“The question is, who is best prepared? We all have good ideas. The question is who is going to be able to get it done? How can you get it done?” That’s what we should look at that, and part of that requires you not being vague.” When Anderson Cooper asked Biden to clarify who he was referring to, Biden gestured toward Warren and Sanders and said they were both being vague about Medicare for All.
Biden and Warren later had jabs for one another over the creation of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau as Warren spoke about her role in establishing the bureau.
“I agreed with the great job she did. And I went 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,” Biden interjected.
Warren responded by giving more of the credit to Biden’s former boss. “I am deeply grateful to President Obama 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,” she said.
“You did a hell of a job in your job,” Biden said.
“Thank you,” Warren responded.
Kamala Harris and Cory Booker steer focus to women’s reproductive rights early in debate
During the discussion about health care, Kamala Harris diverged from the question asked of her to point out how women’s reproductive rights hadn’t been brought up before in the prior debates.
“It is not an exaggeration to say women will die — women of color, poor women,” Harris said. “People need to keep their hands off of women’s bodies and let women make the decisions about their lives.”
Minutes later, Booker referred back to Harris’s statement and pointed out how two Planned Parenthood clinics in Ohio, where the debate was located, were shut down last month.
“God bless Kamala, but women shouldn’t be the only ones taking up this fight [about reproductive rights],” Booker said. “Women are people and people deserve to control their own bodies.”
Cory Booker calls on candidates to stop personal attacks
During a night when candidates went after one another politically and personally (at one point, Pete Buttigieg told Beto O’Rourke, “I don’t need lessons from you on courage, whether personal or political”), Cory Booker called the attacks “unacceptable.”
“We’ve got one shot to make Donald Trump a one-term president,” Booker warned. “And how we talk about each other in this debate actually really matters.”
“I’ve had the privilege of working with or being friends with everybody on this stage and tearing each other down because we have a different plan to me is unacceptable,” he added. “I have seen this script before. It didn’t work in 2016 and it will be a disaster for us in 2020.”
Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren defend their physical health and age
Sanders made his return to the debate stage following his hospitalization and surgery for a heart attack. “I’m healthy, I’m feeling great,” Sanders said, before saying that his campaign would be “mounting a vigorous campaign all over the country.”
Burnett then asked Warren how she could reassure voters of her physical fitness for the presidency, given that if she were elected, she’d be the oldest president inaugurated. (The same would be true for Biden, Sanders, and Trump, all of whom are years older than Warren.)
“I will outwork, out-organize, and outlast anyone — and that includes Donald Trump, Mike Pence, or whoever the Republicans get stuck with,” Warren said, obliquely referring to the possibility of Trump being removed from office by impeachment.