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.
Alta Vista for life
Yang when asked about breaking up the big tech companies drops a bit of a burn on Bing, Microsoft’s search engine.
"There’s a reason why no one is using Bing today," he said. "I’m sorry Microsoft, it’s true."
Warren’s got a (fitness) plan
Biden flips the script on age: 'With it comes wisdom'
Biden would be the oldest person elected president, but when pressed about his age, instead of being defensive, he said it would be an asset.
“Because I’ve watched it, I know what the job is and I’ve been engaged,” the former vice president said. “I’m running because of my age.”
He said that his age comes with decades of legislative experience and the ability to command respect on the international stage. Biden said he would release his health records before the first primary vote, but questions regarding age are not likely to die down, especially as health concerns are on voters’ minds.
Widespread support for some gun control measures
Democrats are right that a majority of Americans support universal background checks, an assault weapons ban and a voluntary gun buyback program.
According to an August NBC/WSJ poll, 89 percent of Americans back universal background checks, while 75 percent support voluntary buybacks. Sixty-two percent back an assault weapons ban.
But there are some measures that Americans say go too far.
The same poll found that just 25 percent back a ban on handguns.
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.
It's Elizabeth Warren who now occupies the attention of the candidates.
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.
Later, Warren and Buttigieg came out against O’Rourke’s proposal.
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.
Democratic candidates all agree: Trump is a 'corrupt president'Oct. 16, 201900:57
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.
Buttigieg and Gabbard, both veterans, spar on Syria policyOct. 16, 201901:46
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.
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?
Gabbard: “Donald Trump has the blood of the Kurds on his hands”
Gabbard, a veteran, excoriated Trump when asked about his decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria, which made way for Turkish forces to attack Kurdish fighters — leading to a bipartisan outcry, charges of a humanitarian crisis and ISIS resurgence.
“Donald Trump has the blood of the Kurds on his hands," she said, noting that members of both parties are also to blame.
Gabbard, who has come under scrutiny for her position on Syria, called for the end to the “regime change war” there and to end the idea of using sanctions to punish countries. Gabbard also used the moment to take on her critics who have called her an apologist for the leader of Syria, Bashar al Assad.
How would Warren’s wealth tax work, and would anyone actually pay it?
The field debated whether to impose a wealth tax on ultra-rich households, with the conversation largely centered on a plan by Warren to — as she put it in the debate and in her speeches — charge “two cents” for every dollar billionaires own in assets and property, not just their annual earnings.
More specifically, she would charge a 2 percent annual tax on wealth for fortunes over $50 million and 3 percent on fortunes over $1 billion. She estimates it would raise $2.75 trillion over 10 years. Sen. Bernie Sanders recently put out a plan for a wealth tax as well that would raise taxes even higher on billion-plus fortunes, up to 8 percent, and raise $4.35 trillion.
Several other candidates said they were open to the idea, but Andrew Yang raised the criticism that similar taxes have been tried in Europe and were eventually repealed because they were difficult to implement. He’s correct that the number of nations with some form of wealth tax is on the decline — one OECD report found that number dropped from 12 to four between 1990 and 2017.
But it’s also not clear Warren’s plan wouldn’t raise a lot of money either. Economist Jonathan Gruber conducted a study of wealth taxes in Switzerland and found that, while reported wealth declined when taxes went up — a signal that the rich might be successful at finding new ways to avoid paying taxes — they still collected significant amounts.
"It doesn't mean it's a bad idea or it won’t raise money," Gruber told NBC News. "Elizabeth Warren's tax would raise money, it's a question of how much."
Biden gets first foreign policy question
Biden asked the first foreign policy question of the debate more than an hour in — this one focused on Trump’s recent decision to pull out troops in Syria, leading to a Turkish invasion. Biden offered strong criticism of Trump’s move.
"It has been the most shameful thing that any president has done in modern history in terms of foreign policy," he said.
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.
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.
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.
Yang’s presence felt
Yang’s supporters have complained that he has not received much attention in previous debates, but he’s been a big part of the first hour tonight. The automation question that was posed is a direct nod to his main plan, which is meant to establish a monthly payment to all Americans as a way to counteract the encroachment of robotics and artificial intelligence in a variety of industries.
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."
Trump asks China to investigate Bidens amid impeachment inquiryOct. 4, 201902:20
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.”
Klobuchar calls Warren's health care plan 'a pipe dream'Oct. 16, 201900:46
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.
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.
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.
Biden defends his son amid Ukraine controversy
Biden was asked about his son’s business dealings while he was vice president, but he seemed to dodge the question by making it about Trump’s alleged abuses of power and said that Trump is only attacking him because he’s the only one who can beat Trump in the general election.
Biden’s campaign has been struggling somewhat to counter the onslaught of allegations from Trump and his allies. But Biden said that he was satisfied with his son’s response to questions about his business dealings in which his son Hunter said he showed poor judgment and may have benefited from nepotism. Biden promised to avoid the appearance of conflict. However, none of his contenders appeared to have jumped in to attack him on the issue.
Buttigieg discusses what happens if Trump is impeached or voted out
Every candidate on stage reiterated their support for impeachment, but Buttigieg took his time to discuss what happens if Trump is impeached or voted out, saying it’s going to be more important to figure out how the country would move forward post-Trump. He noted that divisions in the country would be likely to worsen in the aftermath.
Polls show mixed bag on support for impeachment
As the debate kicked off with questions about impeachment, a series of recent polls have shown growing support for an impeachment inquiry by Congress, although Americans remain split about whether the president should be impeached and removed from office.
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released last week found that a majority of adults — 55 percent — say that there is either enough evidence to impeach Trump and remove him from office now (24 percent) or that Congress should keep pursuing the investigation (31 percent.) Another 39 percent say there is not enough evidence for a congressional inquiry.
But if asked to choose between just two options — removing him from office or allowing him to stay — it's a mixed bag.
Forty-three percent say Trump should be removed, while 49 percent say he should not be impeached and removed at this time.
Candidates agree that Trump is the most corrupt president
Right off the bat, four candidates came out swinging at Trump by calling him the most corrupt president in the country’s history: Sanders, Biden, Harris and Klobuchar.
These remarks, of course, come against the backdrop of the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry and 2020 Democrats’ belief that Trump needs to be held accountable for alleged abuses of power.
At debate, Democrats agree: Trump is a 'corrupt president'Oct. 16, 201900:57
Pat Sajack is out
“Wheel of Fortune” host and noted conservative Pat Sajack lasted about two minutes tonight.
Impeachment questions right off the bat
CNN’s Anderson Cooper launched the debate by asking the candidates, beginning with Sens. Warren and Sanders and former Vice President Biden, about impeachment — a topic almost entirely avoided during the first three Democratic debates. This comes after Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry into Trump’s actions with regard to Ukraine.
All of the candidates on stage have backed impeachment.
Warren gets the first question
CNN immediately starts with Warren. A nod to her emergence as the candidate on the upswing?
Candidates arrive on stage
Can impeachment power already sizable debate ratings?
The first three Democratic debates all drew sizable audiences, providing evidence of heightened public interest more than a year ahead of the 2020 election.
And that was before impeachment.
Now, with the president facing growing pressure from Democrats, the party's 2020 candidates will be closely watched for their thoughts on the impeachment inquiry — a potential boost for CNN's ratings.
Public support for impeachment has been growing in the polls, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is reportedly floating a vote on the inquiry.
The high-water mark for a Democratic debate was set in June by the second night of the first debate, which drew 15.3 million viewers across NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo. That's still considerably lower than some 2016 Republican presidential debates featuring then-candidate Trump, one of which drew more than 24 million viewers.
Can Trump's influence drive the Dem ratings even higher? We'll see.
Sanders is ready to talk about his health scare
Tonight will be Sanders' return to the campaign trail since having a heart attack two weeks ago, and his campaign knows that scrutiny of the 78-year-old senator will be high. Expect Sanders to continue to be personal and reflective about his health scare, connecting it to his signature policy proposals, his campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, told NBC News.
As he did in a video posted to his Twitter account last week, Sanders is ready to "talk about how we come through these things stronger, with more resolve about the mission that we're all here on Earth to try to serve," Shakir said.
"In many ways, this is going to be the first coming out of Bernie Sanders in a big way right after his medical event," Shakir said. "That's going to be framing, I assume, how some people are watching the debate, but also informing Senator Sanders about the things he needs to do to reassure people that he is running a vigorous campaign and fighting aggressively for this nomination."
Team Biden on what to expect tonight
A Biden adviser outlined the candidate's approach to the debate.
"What you'll hear tonight from the VP is that first and foremost, we have to keep the focus on Donald Trump's unprecedented abuse of power," the adviser said. "Trump is trying to distract from the fact that he has turned his back on working families. But, Biden won’t be distracted from the issues that are impacting working families."
Biden will also emphasize his decades-long record in Washington, the adviser said.
"From the Violence Against Women Act to the Recovery Act, the Affordable Care Act, and fighting for working-class Americans, Joe Biden has delivered more tangible, progressive results than any candidate on that stage, and that's exactly what he'd do as president to move our nation forward while healing the damage Donald Trump has wrought."
Hunter Biden, Sanders' health, and Syria
Health care and the economy dominated the first questions at the earlier debates, but Syria is likely to start tonight’s debate. Bernie Sanders' health scare and Hunter Biden's work for a Ukrainian energy company also are likely to come up. First Read has the storylines to watch.
Democratic candidates not pulling punches ahead of debate night
With the clock ticking closer to the Iowa caucuses, Democratic candidates are starting to get a bit chippy as they look to differentiate themselves from the rest of the field. In recent days, the candidates have sparred over the separation of church and state, gun control, health care and more, poking at divides that will likely be apparent on stage tonight.
Read more about the candidates' attacks on each other in the Meet the Press Blog.
A quick look at the polls
What a difference a month and a half makes.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren comes into Tuesday's debate with the momentum, with some polls putting her ahead of former Vice President Joe Biden.
Biden is currently leading in the Real Clear Politics national poll average, which puts together most major polls tracking the Democratic nomination. But Warren has made up a lot of ground since the last debate in mid-September, with the latest RCP average putting her only about six points behind Biden.
Warren overtook Biden in the average about a week ago, while polling close to Bernie Sanders at the time of the last debate.
As for the other nine candidates on stage, they've all remained reasonably flat, with Harris and Buttigieg trading fourth place back and forth in recent weeks.
Impeachment, Warren and what else to watch for
WASHINGTON — Warren's a target. Biden's on the defense. Impeachment. Read Jonathan Allen's take on the five things to watch as the two Democratic presidential front-runners look to cement their primacy and struggling candidates try to revive their campaigns.
Everything you need to know about the fourth debate
The field of candidates taking the stage the largest to date, including one fresh face and another returning after an absence. Where is the debate? What time does it start?
Here's everything you need to know.
Our livebloggers tonight will be NBC News Digital Politics reporters Allan Smith, Dartunorro Clark, Benjy Sarlin, Alex Seitz-Wald, and national political reporter Jonathan Allen; NBCBLK reporter Janell Ross; NBC OUT reporter Tim Fitzsimons; NBC News Digital senior tech editor Jason Abbruzzese, and the NBC News Political Unit's Mark Murray, Ben Kamisar and Carrie Dann.