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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.

For full politics coverage, download the NBC News app.

Live Blog

Elizabeth Warren vs. The Field

Elizabeth Warren has come under attack from fellow candidates in nearly every part of the debate, underscoring her recent rise in the polls and the threat other candidates feel as a result.

It’s a stark contrast from the previous three debates, when the candidates barely laid a glove on Warren, nor even really tried. 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) listens to South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg during the Democratic Presidential Debate on Oct. 15, 2019 in Westerville, Ohio.Win McNamee / Getty Images

But tonight, Warren has come under fire on Medicare for All from Pete Buttigieg and an enlivened Amy Klobuchar, who said Warren's plan was “making Republican talking points”; from Beto O’Rourke, who said Warren is “more focused on being punitive” toward the wealthy than “lifting people up"; and from Andrew Yang, who said Warren's wealth tax had “massive implementation problems” in other countries that tried it.

Booker: Attacks on one another don’t work

Biden is no longer the presumed front-runner in the race after Warren overtook him in several polls, and it is playing out in real time on the debate stage as every candidate is taking a swing at Warren over everything under the sun.

This has forced her to be defensive and to vigorously defend her positions. Notably, Biden has not fielded an onslaught in the same way. However, Booker came in after the last skirmish and urged his opponents to disagree without “tearing each other down” because it will only serve Republicans and Trump.

It raises questions for Democrats: Do they want a “nice” primary so that the nominee isn’t limping to the general election? Or do they want a more aggressive race so that the nominee is prepared for Trump’s brash, unrelenting attacks? 

Washington Post runs ad during New York Times debate

Who doesn’t love a bit of news media gamesmanship? The Washington Post, not a publication that runs a lot of TV ads, drops one during the CNN-New York Times debate.

We’ll be on the lookout for a Times ad during the upcoming MSNBC/WaPo debate.

Fact check: Biden suggests he didn't warn against 'demonizing' the wealthy

After moderator Erin Burnett said to Joe Biden, “You have warned against demonizing rich people,” Biden rejected he'd ever said such a thing. 

“Demonizing the wealthy? What I talked about was how you get things done and the way to get things done is take a look at the tax code right now," he shot back.

But Biden did warn against demonizing the wealthy — explicitly.

Biden said at a New York City fundraiser in June that “we may not want to demonize anybody who has made money,” because “rich people are just as patriotic as poor people,” according to numerous reports about the event. 

Zing!

Candidate attacks, by the numbers: One hour in

Former Vice President Joe Biden has been the focus of the field in the first three Democratic debates. But with Sen. Elizabeth Warren now edging him out in some polls, Tuesday night’s debaters appear to be shifting their attention to Warren, at least based on the first hour. Follow our tracker here

NBC's Ali Vitali explains one possible motivation behind Klobuchar's fiery performance

The debate on Twitter? It’s about Tom Steyer’s tie

Plenty of content on the debate stage, but the real debate is happening on Twitter — and it’s focused on Tom Steyer’s tie. Some like it. Meghan McCain? Not a fan.

Tom Steyer agrees with Bernie: Billionaires should be taxed out of existence

A question that CNN’s Erin Burnett asked Sanders about taxing billionaires out of existence under his plan to tackle income inequality took an unexpected turn when the lone billionaire on the stage — businessman Tom Steyer — agreed.

Steyer in his first debate appearance spoke directly to voters about the need for a wealth tax and strengthening worker and union rights.

“The corporations have bought our government,” he said, adding that it’s time to “break the power of these corporations.”

It’s important to note, however, Steyer has spent nearly $20 million on radio and TV ads ahead of the debate, which helped him qualify for it while other candidates did not. And he has spent almost $200 million to fund candidates and campaigns in the past, which helped him increase his name recognition.

Booker wants 'sectoral bargaining' for workers. What is that?

Booker name-checked a plan to encourage “sectoral bargaining” for workers in order to help boost the labor movement in America and raise wages. Under this system, workers would negotiate standards for their industry across the country, rather than just individual unions at individual companies negotiating with their management. 

A number of candidates, including Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, have signed onto the concept, which is used in some European countries. SEIU head Mary Kay Henry is in favor of the idea, which she sees as a way to counter a longtime decline in union membership.

Medical events still a driver of bankruptcy

Medical debt was often described as the leading cause of bankruptcy before the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, became law in 2010. 

By some estimates, including one in a series of often-mentioned papers published by then-Harvard University professor and bankruptcy expert Elizabeth Warren, found that before the Affordable Care Act, medical debt was responsible for about half of all bankruptcies in the United States. 

However, the number of people filing for bankruptcy due to a medical event has not declined, according to a paper published in February in the American Journal of Public Health. That study found that about two-thirds of all bankruptcies stemmed from medical problems and related costs. There is, however, other research which puts the share of bankruptcies caused by medical debt below 5 percent. Each of the studies used different data sets to reach their conclusions.