NBC News' live blog tracked the fifth Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential election cycle, co-hosted by MSNBC and The Washington Post.
With the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump taking center stage,the 2020 candidates clashed over their visions to replace him. South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg escaped unscathed after it was expected he'd draw heavy fire as the newly minted front-runner, while former Vice President Joe Biden stumbled with gaffes on women, marijuana and race.
Booker reflects on how Rep. John Lewis inspired him to run
Who talked the most at the debate? Here's how the night flowed in under 15 seconds
10 candidates, 10 different ways of closing
The 10 candidates on stage hit different notes in their closing statements.
Booker used his to pay homage to his hero, Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and to deliver a plea for support, because he hasn’t yet qualified for the next debate, on Dec. 19.
“Keep me on this stage,” he said.
Gabbard spoke of respect, while Steyer said he was pushing for “structural change in Washington.” Yang stressed making the U.S., and the world, a better place for “our kids.”
Klobuchar, citing Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s impeachment testimony yesterday, said “in this country, you can tell the truth and you’ll be fine,” before saying her presidency would represent an “economic check,” a “patriotism check,” a “values check” and a “decency check” on the Trump administration.
Harris made her closing about how “we’re in a fight” for the rule of law, democracy and the U.S. system of justice. Buttigieg referred to former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson as a pinnacle example of how “local leaders have shown great leadership” before pledging to “launch the era that must come after Trump” — one he said will be marked “not by exclusion, but by belonging.”
Sanders talked about being the son of an immigrant and vowed to “fight against all forms of discrimination,” while Warren’s entire statement revolved around fighting corruption.
The government, she said, “works for the top, and no one else,” she said.
Biden, the last to speak, fired off a series of platitudes, each with increasing volume.
He said the U.S. should lead the world “not by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.” He urged people to “take back this country and lead the world again.”
And he closed by yelling, “Get up and take it back.”
Fact-checking the fifth Democratic debate in Atlanta live
Do Harris' statistics on the gender pay gap hold up? Are Tulsi Gabbard's claims about past presidents and 'regime change wars' true? Did Amy Klobuchar really pass more than 100 bills?
Here are the claims from the 10 candidates on stage that hold up — and the ones that don't.
Final tally: Joe Biden was the most-attacked candidate in this debate
Biden was attacked the most on the debate stage tonight, with six attacks. Yang wasn't attacked at all.
Other noteworthy targets: Democratic candidates attacked Donald Trump 40 times, Mitch McConnell 2 times, Wall Street and corporations 7 times, and the “ultra-rich” 4 times.
Behind the scenes: Booker huddles with civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis
Buttigieg and Gabbard clash
The two veterans sparred over judgment and inexperience after Gabbard suggested that Buttigieg wanted to use the U.S. military to fight drug cartels in Mexico, a claim he denied — calling it “outlandish.” She called it careless and that she has extensive military and foreign policy experience.
He then shot back by saying he might not have extensive experience in Washington but he has enough judgment that he “would not have sat down with a murderous dictator,” referring to Bashar al Assad.
Stacey on the mind
Stacey Abrams, the 2018 Democratic nominee for Georgia governor, came up twice in tonight’s debate: both Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker mentioned her in the context of voter suppression.
Abrams, the former Georgia House minority leader, was a voting rights advocate and claimed that her 2018 loss to Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, by less than 2 percent was, in part, due to widespread voter suppression in the state. Just before the 2018 election, the state purged a half million voters from its lists.
And no wonder. The state recently announced it would purge another 300,000 people from its voter lists — one of the voter suppression tactics Abrams claimed cost her the governorship.
Rough end of debate for Biden
The last 30 minutes of Wednesday’s debate did not go well for Biden.
It began when he said that “we have to keep punching at” misconduct toward women, like sexual harassment and violence. An odd choice of words to discuss how to treat women, and one that was met with mockery online.
Then he was victim of tonight’s standout moment: when Booker went after Biden for saying he would not legalize marijuana.
“I thought you might have been high when you said it,” Booker said, drawing huge applause from the audience.
Biden clarified that he thinks the drug should be decriminalized and all criminal records related to marijuana charges should be expunged, but that he thinks that the drug’s long-term impact need to be studied more.
Then, Biden followed up by saying he comes “out of the black community in terms of my support,” highlighting his high polling numbers among black voters. He then noted having the support of former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, D-Ill., the first black woman elected to the Senate. But instead said he was supported by the “only” black woman ever elected to the Senate.
Harris, the second black women elected to the Senate, jumped on the error.
“Nope,” she interjected, laughing at the comment.