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

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. 

Democratic presidential hopefuls Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, from left, and former Vice President Joe Biden chat during a break in the fourth Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by The New York Times and CNN at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio on Oct. 15, 2019.Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images

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’RourkeSteyer 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.