Key takeaways from the Democratic presidential candidate debate

Key takeaways from the Democratic presidential candidate debate

The contradictory - but effective - approach from the gay candidate during the debate in Westerville, Ohio, was seen in particular toward the end when Joseph Biden and Elizabeth Warren were quarreling.

Anyone who tuned into the debate Tuesday night, however, would think that Sen.

The fourth debate in the race to find a Democratic challenger to Trump in the November 2020 election on Tuesday night will also match Biden and the MA senator Elizabeth Warren for the first time since Warren surged into a virtual tie with the former vice-president in many Democratic opinion polls. Warren was making a version of her central argument in the race: that it's better to push for big, structural ideas than to settle for more supposedly-achievable but incremental change.

An even more fraught exchange came late in the debate and pitted the two front-runners against each other after Biden asserted that he was "the only one on this stage who has gotten anything really big done", and ticked off a list of legislative accomplishments from his long Senate career.

Democratic presidential candidates, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, from left, businessman Tom Steyer, Sen.

Sen. Kamala Harris pressed Warren to join her in calling on Twitter to suspend President Trump's account. "Think about what the president can do to unify a new American majority for some of the boldest things that we've attempted in my lifetime".

Warren answered, a little later, that it was high time for Democrats to "stand up" to various profiteers in the health care industry.

This time, there was more feistiness from the low-polling middle-way candidates - particularly Sen.

Pete Buttigieg, the South Bend, Ind., mayor who is trying to position himself as more moderate in tone and policy, launched a digital ad earlier in the day challenging Sanders and Warren on "Medicare for all".

As she had in previous debates, Warren refused to get into specifics about how she would pay for the single-payer plan that Sanders has introduced as legislation, and which Warren has endorsed.

The offensive on Warren began with Medicare for All, the single-payer government health insurance system she and Sanders have embraced.

I know all of that is true, but she was asked about taxes. Warren retorted that Buttigieg only wants "Medicare for all who can afford it". Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke told Warren it didn't seem like she wanted to lift people up and she is "more focused on being punitive". Buttigieg clearly thought it was wise to go big, but considering that his already meager base of support consists of people who think he seems like a nice young man, it could backfire.

The spotlight illuminated both her strengths and vulnerabilities: Her responses showcased the intellectual prowess that has helped fuel her rise, but also featured the ideological edge and sometimes condescending tone that critics fear could alienate swing voters. So far, only eight of the 12 candidates participating in OH would qualify, according to a CNN analysis. You may not like her politics, but that's a statement we can all agree with.

Speaking of which, Politico's Ryan Lizza suggests that Buttigieg's attack on Warren's honesty might come from the fact that he employs the same advisers who urged that strategy when Barack Obama faced Hillary Clinton on health care 12 years ago: You won't rattle her on facts, so go after her on character. Those three encapsulate the progressive (Warren, Sanders) versus moderate/incremental wings (Biden) of the party.

Biden had until recently been leading in the polls. "You take away the honor of our soldiers, you might as well go after their body armor next". On that front, Biden did fine, emphasizing that he was in the right here and turning the tables by focusing on Trump's corruption, an easy enough sell to anyone still living in the real world.

CNN anchor Anderson Cooper asked, "If it's not OK for a president's family to be involved in foreign businesses, why was it OK for your son when you were vice president?"

Sanders had a very good night, landing some solid lines, but mostly by looking energetic, healthy, and like his old self, despite suffering a heart attack earlier this month. Nineteen contenders remain in the Democratic race overall.

Tuesday's debate was the fourth in a string of almost-monthly get-togethers for the Democratic challengers seeking to win the party's nomination to face Trump.

I am seriously looking forward to the next debate, when the DNC raises the threshold for candidates to participate-amazingly, it did not do that between September and October, which is how we went from 10 to 12 candidates, majority unelectable, at a time when we should have been descending into single digits, and serious discussion.

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