EVENT ENDED

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

Yang presents equivalency between U.S. and Russia

Asked about how he would handle Putin and Russia, Yang raised some eyebrows by presenting an equivalency between Russia interfering in the U.S. election and the U.S. interfering in other foreign elections.

Klobuchar, the next candidate to speak, fired back, saying there's no equivalency between the two countries.

Democratic debate or 'Succession' finale?

Keep your friends close, and your frenemies ...

Fact check: Sanders on homelessness, the uninsured rate, student debt

Speaking out against billionaires in America, Sanders offered up data to make his point. Did he have his numbers right?

  • Are “half a million Americans sleeping out on the streets today?" Half a million people experienced at least one night of homelessness in 2018, according to federal data. Two-thirds were staying in homeless shelters or transitional housing, however, so the number actually sleeping on the physical streets was just shy of 200,000. 
  • Are "87 million people uninsured or underinsured?" According to one recent study, yes, though Census data differs somewhat. The Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation that advocates for improvements in health care, reported earlier this year detailing that 87 million people in 2018 were underinsured, uninsured, or insured but experienced a coverage gap during the year. The Census Bureau reported different data: 27.5 million Americans were uninsured in 2018, while another 10.6 million reported having health care for just part of the year. The Bureau did not measure underinsurance.
  • Do millions struggle with student debt? Yes, and those numbers are on the rise. 
  • Do three people own more wealth than the bottom half of American society? Yes, according to a recent study.

Klobuchar said the wealth tax is only one way to address inequality, though tax policy makes a difference

Klobuchar argued Tuesday night that calls from Warren to reduce wealth inequality with a 2 percent tax on those earning more than $50 million could be accomplished in other ways. "Your idea is not the only idea," she said. But experts have said Warren is right about the effects of the different tax rates paid by working Americans and those wealthy enough to live off of interest and investment gains.

The rate at which earnings on investments are taxed, also known as the capital gains tax, has always sat at a lower rate than taxes on wages earned at jobs. However, in 2018, more than 70 percent of capital gains tax benefits went to taxpayers with incomes over $1 million, according to an Urban Institute and Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center analysis.

The capital gains tax rate is such a key contributor to wealth inequality that of the household income growth realized in the United States since 1979, a disproportionate share went to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans, according to a second analysis from the same think tank. That’s those who earn little of their income at a job but instead collect the bulk of their money from interest on savings and investment growth. 

In 1979, the top 1 percent of American households took in about 9 percent of all income in the United States. By 2014, that figure had grown to 17 percent.

CORRECTION (Oct. 16, 2019): An earlier version of this post mischaracterized Klobuchar's remarks. She said Warren's wealth tax was "not the only idea" to reduce inequality; she did not say it was unrealistic.

The debate hashtag we needed

We interrupt your debate to bring on snapshots from the best hashtag of the night: #debatedogs.

Clash between two vets on stage

Gabbard and Buttigieg took off the gloves as their disagreement on U.S. wars abroad came into full focus. 

Gabbard repeated her call for an end to “regime change wars,” which is how she describes U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war. Trump last week announced that he was pulling around 1,000 troops out of the region.

But then Gabbard went further, describing economic and government sanctions against governments like Syria’s as a type of modern day “siege.” 

Buttigieg — the only other post-9/11 veteran on stage — came to a strong defense of U.S. involvement in Syria, describing the small contingent of U.S. forces as an influential deployment that keeps Americans safe.

He said when the options presented are “endless war” and “total isolation,” the result is the U.S. abandoning the world stage.

Social media not having it with Gabbard’s Syria response

Gabbard’s response on Syria — saying the U.S. should not have participated in a “regime change war” — is not playing well on social media, where many people pointed to Gabbard’s track record of apologizing for Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.

Where's Biden?

Booker: Attacks on each other don’t work

Biden is no longer the presumed frontrunner in the race after Warren overtook him in several polls a week ago, and it is playing out in real-time on the debate stage as every candidate is taking swings at Warren on various issues.

This has forced her to be defensive and vigorously defend her positions. Notably, Biden has not fielded an onslaught in the same way tonight. 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? Or do they want a more aggressive race so that the nominee is prepared for Trump’s brash, unrelenting attacks?