Democratic Presidential Candidates Face Off in Fourth Debate

Twelve Democratic candidates sparred during the fourth 2020 presidential debate. (Photo by CNN and The New York Times)

WESTERVILLE, Ohio (CN) – Twelve presidential candidates met on the campus of Otterbein University for the fourth Democratic debate Tuesday, where they voiced their support for impeachment and their disdain for President Donald Trump. 

The first half of the largest presidential primary debate in history focused on the impeachment question and, citing patriotism and duty, all 12 candidates said they believed the president should be impeached. 

The candidate currently with the most momentum in the polls, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, answered first, saying that impeachment is imperative to save the presidency from Trump and for the future. 

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, coming off a forced break from his campaign following a heart attack on Oct. 1, looked and sounded strong as he told the audience that impeachment should be quick and expeditious.

Asked if Democrats have been careful enough in their pursuit of the impeachment of Trump, former Vice President Joe Biden answered in the affirmative and said that Democrats have been given no choice but to go forward with an impeachment inquiry. 

When asked about Trump’s attempt to “get dirt” from Ukraine on him and his son, Hunter, Biden said the president was “going after me because he knows, if I get the nomination, I will beat him like a drum.”

Pete Buttigieg agreed with Warren, telling the audience that the need for impeachment is “about the presidency itself, because a president 10 years or 100 years from now will look back at this moment and draw the conclusion that no one is above the law or that a president can get away with anything.” 

Beto O’Rourke said impeachment was a matter of patriotism. 

“If we do not hold him to account, if there is not justice, not only have we failed this moment, our Constitution and our country, but we have failed everyone who has sacrificed and laid their lives down on the line.”

The remainder of the debate centered on health care and the economy, and Elizabeth Warren’s opponents attacked her plans to address those issues. 

Warren led in speaking time in Tuesday’s, talking for almost 23 minutes more than Biden, who came in second. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, O’Rourke, Sanders and Buttigieg were close behind Biden and California Senator Kamala Harris, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, former U.S. Housing Secretary Julian Castro, Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard, Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer all had their chance to speak, too.  

The attention on Warren during the debate made it clear that her momentum in the polls has propelled her to a frontrunner position for the Democratic race. 

Buttigieg and Klobuchar attacked Warren’s refusal to say she would raise taxes on the middle class to pay for Medicare for All. 

The difference between a plan and a pipe dream is something that you can actually get done,” Klobuchar argued.

Sanders intervened, telling them that “as somebody who wrote the damn bill,” taxes would go up, but health care premiums, co-payments, deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses would disappear. 

Klobuchar and Biden both argued that Obamacare done right would work. Buttigieg told the audience that people want a choice: “Medicare for all who want it.”

The debate veered into foreign policy, touching on the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria followed by Turkey’s invasion of Syria to attack the Kurds. The candidates all rebuked Trump for leaving the Kurds, who have been U.S. allies. 

The two candidates who served in the Middle East, Buttigieg and Gabbard, disagreed on the dynamics in the region. Gabbard, who served in Iraq with the U.S. Army, questioned the country’s need to be involved in “regime change.” 

Buttigieg, who served in Afghanistan in Naval intelligence said that “what we were doing in Syria was keeping our word.” 

“I would have a hard time today looking an Afghan civilian or soldier in the eye after what just happened over there,” he said. “It is undermining the honor of our soldiers. You take away the honor of our soldiers, you might as well go after their body armor next.”

Biden, who until tonight had been the target of most of the attacks from his fellow Democrats, was left comparatively unscathed. 

“If it’s not okay for a president’s family to be involved in foreign businesses, why was it okay for your son when you were vice president,” moderator Anderson Cooper asked Biden about his son’s work as director of a Ukrainian energy company.  

“My son did nothing wrong, I did nothing wrong,” Biden replied.

Later, while discussing her role in establishing the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, Warren sparred with Biden. 

“I agreed with the great job she did,” Biden said. “And I went on the floor and got you votes. I got voted for that bill. I convinced people to vote for it. So let’s get those things straight too.”

Warren credited Barack Obama, rather than Biden.

“I am deeply grateful to President Obama who fought so hard to make sure that agency was passed into law, and I am deeply grateful to every single person who fought for it and who helped pass it into law,” she said.

“You did a hell of a job in your job,” Biden said.

“Thank you,” Warren responded.

Buttigieg and O’Rourke had their own tense interaction over the topic of gun confiscation. O’Rourke plans to take away AR-15-type weapons away and initiating gun buybacks. 

Buttigieg argued that the government must act quickly, and that red flags and “purity tests” take too long, but O’Rourke took jabs at Buttigieg’s proposals, which he said are based on polling data. 

“I don’t need lessons from you on courage – political or personal,” Buttigieg replied.

Booker urged the candidates to dial it down, reminding them that they are all on the same side.

“I worry about how we talk to each other and about each other,” he said.

The night ended with the candidates sharing friendships they have with individuals who do not share their political and personal views.

The next Democratic primary debate will be held Nov. 20 in Atlanta. The contribution and polling criteria are higher for the fifth debate, with candidates required to reach 3% in four Democratic National Committee-approved polls and have 165,000 unique donors. They have until Nov.13 to meet this threshold. Only eight candidates have qualified so far.

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