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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Bernie addresses recent heart attack
Tuesday’s debate marked a return to the campaign trail for Sanders, who had a heart attack earlier this month. When asked about his health, Sanders said he was “healthy” and “feeling great,” and invited viewers to come to an upcoming rally in Queens, pledging a vigorous campaign moving forward. He thanked colleagues and supporters for well-wishes.
Do gun safety groups want mandatory buybacks? They’re split.
Beto O’Rourke accused Pete Buttigieg of disrespecting March for Our Lives, the activist group founded in the wake of the Parkland shooting, by calling mandatory buybacks a “shiny object” that distracts from other policies.
“That was a slap in the face to every single one of those groups and every single survivor of a mass casualty assault with a AR-14 and AK-47,” he said. “We must buy them back.”
O’Rourke is right that March for Our Lives backs mandatory buybacks, but major gun safety groups mostly oppose the approach or have minimized it. Giffords, another gun safety group, put out a polling memo for candidates warning that the issue “could be dangerous” when trying to win over voters who support other gun restrictions.
Giffords favors an alternate approach, which Warren mentioned: Requiring owners of existing assault weapons to register their weapons and accept new restrictions on their possession and sale, similar to automatic weapons.
“I want to use the method we used for example with machine guns,” Warren said. “We registered them, we put in a huge penalty if you didn’t register them, and a huge tax on them, and we let people turn them in.”
Castro gets applause for answer on tackling gun deaths
Castro was the first candidate to mention the Texas shooting in which a white police officer shot and killed a black woman, Atatiana Jefferson.
He got big applause for mentioning police shootings as gun violence and talking about growing up in Texas against the backdrop of gun violence.
"Police violence is also gun violence and we need to address that," he said.
Castro said he is against mandatory and voluntary gun buybacks but he did not directly address how he plans to stop violence committed by handguns versus assault weapons.
Jefferson, meanwhile, was like a disproportionate share of those who die in police shootings each year, black and unarmed.
Prior to Tuesday’s debate, Castro, a Texas native, Warren,Booker, Harris, Sanders, O’Rourke, Steyer and Yang all posted public statements on Twitter expressing outrage, sympathy for Jefferson’s family or calls for investigation and reform.
On Tuesday night, only Castro mentioned Jefferson by name.
Read NBC News' report on how the shooting — coming on the heels of the sentencing of a former Dallas police officer in the killing of her neighbor, Botham Jean — is fueling tensions with police in Forth Worth.
Halfway into the debate and nobody's attacked Biden yet
Biden, a popular target in previous debates, has yet to be targeted by another candidate so far in the fourth Democratic debate.
According to numbers from NBC News' debate attack tracker, Elizabeth Warren is the most-attacked candidate so far and Amy Klobuchar has delivered the most attacks.
The other candidates who haven't been attacked yet: Cory Booker, Julián Castro, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer.
Beto is light on details
Twice in a week, O’Rourke has touched upon major policy proposals that involve the Bill of Rights — both the First Amendment's right to religious freedom, and the Second Amendment's right to bear arms.
At last week’s LGBTQ presidential forum, O’Rourke said he would revoke tax exempt status from any religious organization that is discriminatory toward LGBTQ people.
“There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for anyone, or any institution, any organization in America, that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us,” O’Rourke said.
Such a move would likely affect the faithful of many religions — Muslims, Jews and Christians alike.
So when O’Rourke on Tuesday revived his proposal for a mandatory gun buyback for semiautomatic assault weapons like the AR-15, he couldn’t answer questions about how he would find these weapons, because the government does not track such sales — which other candidates didn’t let slide by.
Heated clash between O'Rourke and Buttigieg on guns
Fact check: Steyer claims 90 percent of Americans haven't had a raise in 40 years
Tom Steyer said that “90 percent of Americans have not had a raise for 40 years.”
This is not true.
According to a study by the Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan federal agency, wages across all income levels, even adjusted for inflation and taxes, rose from 1979 to 2015. The top 10 percent of wage earners, however, saw a greater increase in their wages than did all others, the study showed.
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.