Democratic debate live updates: Candidates spar in October debate in Ohio

Image: Twelve candidates will take the stage in a Democratic presidential primary debate in Columbus, Ohio, on Oct. 15, 2019.
Twelve candidates will take the stage in a Democratic presidential primary debate in Columbus, Ohio, on Oct. 15, 2019.Adrian Lam / NBC News

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NBC News' live blog tracked the ups, downs and confrontations of the fourth Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential election cycle, co-hosted by CNN and The New York Times.

The largest group of candidates took the stage Tuesday night at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio. They included front-runners Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren; Sen. Bernie Sanders, who returned to the campaign after having a heart attack two weeks ago; billionaire activist Tom Steyer, who appeared in his first debate of the cycle; and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who missed the September go-round after failing to qualify.

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Live Blog

Fact check: Did Trump ask China to investigate Biden 'in exchange' for favorable trade terms?

Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke said that President Donald Trump asked China to involve itself in the 2020 election "in exchange for favorable trade terms in an upcoming trade deal."

While the president surely called on China to probe possible political rival Joe Biden's family amid ongoing trade talks — he did so on television this month — he hasn’t publicly hinged it on “favorable” trade terms. We have not seen a record of Trump's conversations with Chinese President Xi Jinping, but the president has denied asking Beijing to probe the Bidens.

Asked explicitly if he'd be "more willing to do a trade deal with the Chinese" if they investigated his political rival, the president said, "No, it has nothing to do with it.  No.  No. I want to do a trade deal with China, but only if it’s good for our country."

Yang gang, assemble!

In what has to be Yang’s most fiery moment in any of the recent debates, he jumped into a conversation and pushed Warren about what her plan will do for people at risk of losing their jobs to automation. 

He focused on truck driving, adding that it’s the most common job in Ohio. Warren offered an answer about making sure there’s a safety net as Americans age — and gets a nod of approval from Yang.

Klobuchar roasts Trump and Warren early

Klobuchar, one of the candidates in need of a breakout moment, landed punches twice in the opening stage of the debate on a pair of the hottest topics.

The first came as several candidates were asked to explain their positions on impeaching Trump. Klobuchar said Trump put his own interests before those of his country. Borrowing his slogan, she said pressuring Ukraine to investigate an opponent, his abandonment of the Kurds and his affinity for Russian President Vladimir Putin did not make America great but made Russia great.

Later, as Warren tried to avoid agreeing with Sanders that their Medicare for All plans would result in broad tax increases, Klobuchar cut through some of the policy noise. “At least Bernie’s being honest here,” she said. “I’m sorry Elizabeth but you have not said that … The difference between a plan and a pipe dream is something that you can actually get done.”

What’s the difference between Warren, Buttgieg, Biden on health care?

Warren and Buttigieg got into an extended exchange on health care, with Warren defending her Medicare for All plan and Buttigieg defending his alternative. 

Here’s how each plan works: Warren would move virtually all Americans to a more generous version of Medicare that has no premiums and few out-of-pocket costs. Once everyone was moved to the new plan, all comprehensive private insurance plans would be banned, although customers could purchase supplemental insurance that cover any items that Medicare does not. Estimates of the cost peg it at upwards of $32 trillion over 10 years, although proponents argue it will lower overall health care spending by eliminating overhead and negotiating lower payments to hospitals, doctors and pharmaceutical companies. 

Buttigieg’s approach is dubbed “Medicare For All Who Want It,” and would automatically enroll some uninsured in a Medicare-like plan and allow other Americans to either keep their existing private insurance or buy in to the Medicare plan with aid from federal subsidies based on their income. No one would pay more than 8.5 percent of their income in premiums. His plan would also cap the amount health providers are allowed to charge private insurers relative to Medicare. Buttigieg estimates the cost would be $1.5 trillion and be paid for with new taxes on corporations. 

Former Vice President Joe Biden has a relatively similar $750 billion plan that would also create a Medicare-like option and cap premiums with expanded subsidies, but make participation voluntary. 

You can read about all the candidates plans at our issue tracker.

Klobuchar promises to make drug giants pay for 'killing' Ohioans

Klobuchar won applause with a threat to force opioid manufacturers to pay for the people who have suffered from the consequences of drug addiction, including fatal overdoses.

The threat is likely to register in Ohio, which has the second highest rate of drug overdoses in the U.S., according to the National Institutes of Health.

Just this month, drug giant Johnson & Johnson reached a $20 million settlement with Ohio counties and avoided a potential federal trial, according to NBC News.

Booker time

Cory Booker gets a bit of time, and he thanks the moderators for it. He’s been just about silent in the debate so far. There are just too many candidates for some people not to slip through the cracks for long periods of time.

Fact check: Castro claims Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania have lost jobs

Early on Tuesday night, former HUD Secretary Julián Castro said that, "Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania, actually, in the latest jobs data, have lost jobs, not gained them."

This doesn’t appear to be true, at least when it comes to Michigan and Pennsylvania. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment — both the rate and the total number of persons who are unemployed — went down in Michigan from July 2019 to August 2019, the latest month for which state data is available.

In Pennsylvania, the unemployment rate remained the same from July 2019 to August 2019. The number of people who were unemployed increased from July 2019 to August 2019, but so did the number of people who were employed.

Castro is right about Ohio, however, where both the unemployment rate and the number of persons unemployed increased from July 2019 to August 2019.

Have you changed your mind about a Democratic candidate? Tell us.

As you're watching the Democratic debate tonight, share your anonymous Election Confession about the 2020 candidates. One just in about Amy Klobuchar:

Warren comes under fire

Warren has watched her stock rise in the polls as she faced little pushback from fellow Democratic presidential candidates on the trail and in the debates.

That changed Tuesday. Already, Buttigieg and Klobuchar took aim at her over Medicare for All, signaling a gloves-off approach is over.

Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks during the fourth Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by The New York Times and CNN in Westerville, Ohio on Oct. 15, 2019.Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images

Bernie revisits his favorite line

Sanders has said it before, and he said it again tonight: He wrote the damn bill. The bill, in this case, is a Medicare for All proposal

Buttigieg hits Warren on 'Medicare for All'

Buttigieg took the biggest shot at Warren that the Massachusetts senator has faced on a presidential debate stage so far. Warren was asked whether Medicare for All would raise taxes on the middle class, and she instead said that she would sign no bill that would raise costs on the middle class.

Buttigieg then shot back, “A yes-or-no question that didn’t get a yes-or-no answer,” and took aim at Warren for having a plan for everything but not addressing that question. Warren then hit back, taking aim at Buttigieg’s health care proposal.