WESTERVILLE, Ohio —
Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts faced a sustained barrage of criticism from her Democratic rivals at a presidential debate in Ohio on Tuesday, tangling with a group of underdog moderates who assailed her liberal economic proposals, while former
Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. appeared to fade from the fray after parrying President Trump’s attacks on his family.
The debate confirmed that the primary race had entered a new phase, defined by Ms. Warren’s apparent strength and the increasing willingness of other Democrats to challenge her. She has risen toward the top of the polls while confronting limited resistance from her opponents, and in past debates she attracted a fraction of the hostility that Democrats trained on Mr. Biden.
That changed in a dramatic fashion on Tuesday, when a group of her rivals voiced sharp skepticism of Ms. Warren’s agenda or accused her of taking impractical stances on issues like health care and taxation.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., insistently charged Ms. Warren with evading a “yes-or-no” question on how she would pay for a “Medicare for all” health care system, while
Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota cast parts of Ms. Warren’s platform as a “pipe dream.”
Former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas branded Ms. Warren’s worldview as overly “punitive.”
Ms. Warren sought at every turn to dispense with her critics by casting them as lacking ambition or political grit. When she addressed criticism of her proposal to tax vast private fortunes, for instance, Ms. Warren suggested her opponents believed it was “more important to protect billionaires than it is to invest in an entire generation” but did not single out her rivals.
The debate unfolded in a drastically altered political landscape, with Mr. Trump facing impeachment and Mr. Biden in the center of a firestorm over his son’s overseas financial dealings. The candidates were prompted to cover a wide range of issues, including a number that had featured little or not at all in past debates — not just the impeachment of Mr. Trump, but the Turkish invasion of Syria, and the details of gun control policy and the taxation of great wealth.
The moderators began with a series of questions about impeachment to each of the 12 candidates — the largest field ever for a primary debate — affording them an opportunity to denounce Mr. Trump. And Mr. Biden was quickly asked about his son Hunter Biden’s overseas financial work,
delivering a narrow, repetitive answer in which he said neither he nor his son had done anything wrong.
Foreign policy played a greater role on Tuesday evening than in any other debate, pushed to the political foreground by the renewed outbreak of war and humanitarian catastrophe in Syria. The Democrats chiefly
trained their attention on Mr. Trump’s role in instigating the crisis there: For instance,
Julián Castro, the former housing secretary, condemned Mr. Trump for “caging kids on the border and letting ISIS prisoners run free” in Syria.
With Mr. Biden a diminished force, Mr. Buttigieg and Ms. Klobuchar appeared determined to present themselves as strong alternatives for voters in the middle. Both emphasized their Midwestern credentials, and Mr. Buttigieg invoked his experience as a military veteran in several wide-ranging answers on foreign policy.
Their new aggressiveness represented a shorter-term calculation about halting Ms. Warren’s increasing strength in Iowa. With Ms. Warren gaining there, Ms. Klobuchar and Mr. Buttigieg plainly decided to target her in an effort to appeal to the state’s moderate voters, who so far have lined up with Mr. Biden.
With a powerfully funded campaign and an expanding field operation in Iowa, Mr. Buttigieg may be uniquely well positioned to assert himself there.
In an intense argument that reflected their changing fortunes in the race, Mr. Biden briefly went on the offensive against Ms. Warren toward the end of the debate, describing her health care plans as “vague” and
demanding in a raised voice that she give him some credit for her signature accomplishment, the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau after the 2008 financial crisis. Ms. Warren expressed gratitude for the help she had received — not from Mr. Biden but from former President Barack Obama.
But Ms. Warren was on the defensive for much of the evening and most of all on the issue of single-payer health care, when she again declined to specify precisely how she would fund a sweeping system of government-backed insurance. Unlike
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Ms. Warren has not acknowledged in plain terms that a “Medicare for all” plan would quite likely have to substitute broad-based taxes for private insurance premiums and other costs.
“I will not sign a bill into law that does not lower costs for middle-class families,” Ms. Warren said, declining to elaborate.
Ms. Klobuchar, in her most assertive debate performance yet,
chided Ms. Warren for not explaining to voters “where we’re going to send the invoice” for single-payer care.
“At least Bernie’s being honest here,” Ms. Klobuchar said.
Listen to ‘The Daily’: The Moderates Strike Back: The 4th Democratic DebateCandidates asserted themselves by attacking Elizabeth Warren, not Joe Biden, revealing a shifting balance of power in the Democratic field.
Listen to ‘The Daily’: The Moderates Strike Back: The 4th Democratic Debate
Hosted by Michael Barbaro, produced by Clare Toeniskoetter, Alexandra Leigh Young and Luke Vander Ploeg, and edited by Lisa Tobin and Marc Georges
Candidates asserted themselves by attacking Elizabeth Warren, not Joe Biden, revealing a shifting balance of power in the Democratic field.
All right, once you go in, you have to narrate a little bit. Like, we are blah, blah, blah.marc lacey
All right.monika evstatieva
Do you want to say where we’re going?marc lacey
Yeah. So we’re now on the campus of Otterbein University, and we’re entering the Rike Center. It’s an athletic facility that has been turned into a huge debate stage. So we’re going to go into a rehearsal right now — a sort of mock debate the evening before the debate.speaker
— one stage. So let’s bring them out. From Delaware, former Vice President Joe Biden.
From Massachusetts, Senator Elizabeth Warren.marc lacey
So you have these podiums, 12 podiums. And right now, there are Otterbein University students who are acting as the candidates. And I’m going to be sitting over there at that desk. And there’s someone who is sitting at my chair, acting like me. So I’m going to go and replace that. Hey, how are you? How are you? Yeah, so these are theater students who are acting like the candidates.[music playing][cheering]speaker 1
This is the CNN-New York Times Democratic presidential debate. I’m Anderson Cooper, moderating tonight’s debate along with CNN’s Erin Burnett and New York Times National editor, Marc Lacey. With that, let’s begin.speaker 2
Congresswoman Gabbard, is Broadway in your future?michael barbaro
From The New York Times, I’m Michael Barbaro. This is “The Daily.”[theme music]michael barbaro
Today: Last night in Ohio, for the first time in more than a decade, The New York Times co-hosted a presidential debate.marc lacey
So I’ve never done one of these debates before, but you two are pros.michael barbaro
My colleague Mark Lacey, the National editor at The Times, moderated it with CNN’s Anderson Cooper —anderson cooper
I don’t actually get nervous a lot about things, because I’m sort of dead inside. But — and I’m a WASP so I always learned to push all my emotions deep down inside. But it’s definitely a heightened state on that stage. I mean, you —michael barbaro
— and Erin Burnett.erin burnett
Each person wants to break through, right? I mean, this is their moment. And for some people, they want to get on the next stage, right? So they have to break through.michael barbaro
It was also the first debate since Democrats have started pursuing an impeachment inquiry into the president — one that centers around his efforts to pressure Ukraine into investigating the leading Democratic candidate onstage last night, Joe Biden.
It’s Wednesday, October 16.music
(SINGING) But baby, don’t get it twisted.lisa tobin
Why aren’t we talking to Maggie and Alex?monika evstatieva
— so to speak —michael barbaro
I’m confused.monika evstatieva
Still hold it to your —alexander burns
Hello?alexandra leigh young
Are you guys there? Monica?alexander burns
You’ve got Alex Burns.monika evstatieva
Please say yes.alexandra leigh young
Oh, Alex Burns!alexander burns
Alex Burns. Hello.alexander burns
Alex, can you hear me?maggie haberman
Good morning.maggie haberman
Right. Yes, it is.michael barbaro
[LAUGHS] Yes, it is.maggie haberman
Good morning.michael barbaro
So believe it or not, with you being in Ohio, me in Washington, and this team of editors and producers in New York, this is not exactly a flawless technical operation at 12:35 a.m.alexander burns
I have faith in your crack team.michael barbaro
[LAUGHS] I have faith too. It’s really the technology I’m beginning to question.alexander burns
Hmm. O.K., let’s do this. Alex, if you were going to summarize tonight in a sentence, what would it be?alexander burns
I think this was the night where you really saw the moderate candidates on stage find their thirst for combat. And I think, interestingly, you saw that displayed not by folks like Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar going after Joe Biden, the leading moderate candidate at this point in the race, but you saw it happen by them going after Elizabeth Warren to try to sort of prove their centrist credentials by challenging the left.michael barbaro
Right. The front-runner who’s not actually quite the front-runner. I checked the polls right before the debate and by all accounts, statistically speaking, that is Joe Biden.alexander burns
In an average of national polls, Joe Biden has a slight lead over Elizabeth Warren still in this race. But every other candidate in the race can read those trend lines just like we can. She is moving steadily up. He is moving steadily down. And the picture is even more pronounced in the early voting states, like Iowa and New Hampshire. So if you are a Pete Buttigieg or an Amy Klobuchar and you have staked your candidacy on a breakthrough in the Midwest, it is a bigger issue for you to get past Joe Biden and present yourself as a clear, compelling alternative to Elizabeth Warren than it is to go at Joe Biden directly.michael barbaro
O.K., so let’s talk about how that actually played out.archived recording (anderson cooper)
This is the CNN-New York Times Democratic presidential debate.maggie haberman
So all 12 candidates are on stage. The debate begins.archived recording (anderson cooper)
Since the last debate, House Democrats have officially launched an impeachment inquiry against President Trump, which all the candidates on this stage support.maggie haberman
The first question inevitably is about impeachment. This is the first debate since the impeachment inquiry began.archived recording (anderson cooper)
But the question is, with the election only one year away, why shouldn’t it be the voters who determine the president’s fate?archived recording (elizabeth warren)
Because sometimes there are issues that are bigger than politics, and I think that’s the case with this impeachment inquiry.maggie haberman
And you had all 12 candidates in agreement —archived recording (bernie sanders)
I think that the House will find him guilty of — worthy of impeachment.maggie haberman
— that they believe that Donald Trump should be impeached.archived recording (joe biden)
They would have no choice — no choice — but to begin an impeachment proceeding, which gives them more power to seek more information.maggie haberman
This is a big change from where things were within this Democratic field even a month ago.archived recording (amy klobuchar)
We have a constitutional duty to pursue this impeachment.maggie haberman
And everybody was in unison. They didn’t all necessarily agree that he should be removed from office, but they did agree that he should be impeached.archived recording (kamala harris)
Our framers imagined this moment — a moment where we would have a corrupt president.michael barbaro
Right. It seemed like every candidate used some version of the phrase “Donald Trump is the most corrupt president in the history of the country.” It was almost verbatim.archived recording (joe biden)
This president is the most corrupt president in modern history —archived recording (bernie sanders)
In my judgment, Trump is the most corrupt president —archived recording (tom steyer)
— most corrupt president in the country. And that only the voice —maggie haberman
And look, these candidates have generally tried to avoid having these debates be specifically just about Donald Trump. This was among the most Donald Trump-heavy first 10 minutes of a debate that I can recall.archived recording (beto o'rourke)
As president, he lied to investigators, obstructed justice, fired James Comey, head of the F.B.I., tried to fire Mueller, head of the —maggie haberman
But instead of using that moment as a way for any of them to sort of use a back door to criticize Joe Biden over the issue related to his son and the work his son had done in Ukraine while Biden was vice president, they all very pointedly, clearly, did not want to join President Trump’s attacks on Joe Biden.michael barbaro
None of them brought it up on their own as the debate went on. The rest of the night was really absent any issue related to Biden except for a question from the moderators.archived recording (anderson cooper)
Mr. Vice President, President Trump has falsely accused your son of doing something wrong while serving on a company board in Ukraine. If it’s not O.K. for a president’s family to be involved in foreign businesses, why was it O.K. for your son when you were vice president? Vice President Biden?archived recording (joe biden)
Look, my son did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong. I carried out the policy of the United States government.michael barbaro
And everyone seemed quite ready to avoid it and just move on.alexander burns
Right. And I think that that reflects a couple of things, right?archived recording (anderson cooper)
Senator Sanders, your response?archived recording (bernie sanders)
Let me make a point. I think —alexander burns
The moderators sort of teed up Bernie Sanders, if he wanted to go after Biden on the Hunter Ukraine issue.archived recording (bernie sanders)
I hope that he is impeached. But I think what would be a disaster, if the American people believe that all we were doing is taking on Trump and we’re forgetting that 87 million Americans are uninsured or under-insured.alexander burns
Bernie just totally did not take the bait, and neither did anybody else. And part of that is I think a sense among other Democrats that going at the Hunter issue, you really, really risk sort of triggering sympathy for Biden and looking like you are taking Trump’s side in a fight. And I think maybe as big or a bigger part of it is this calculation by a lot of the candidates on stage who want Joe Biden’s supporters to move over to their camp. That the way to do that is not by attacking Joe Biden and that you kind of got to trust that Biden is going to continue sinking in this race just by the force of gravity and his own limitations as a candidate and present yourself as a compelling alternative for people who are looking for a more moderate or a more conventional set of qualifications. And they do that by going after Elizabeth Warren.archived recording (elizabeth warren)
— after that.archived recording (marc lacey)
Senator Warren, to be clear, Senator Sanders acknowledges he’s going to raise taxes on the middle class to pay for “Medicare for all.” You’ve endorsed his plan. Should you acknowledge it too?maggie haberman
And you saw that right away with a question about Medicare for all, which she has been facing repeated questions about and people trying to pin her down.michael barbaro
Right. There’s first an effort by our colleague, Marc Lacey, to twice pin her down on whether or not her Medicare for all plan would require a tax increase for middle-class voters. She doesn’t really answer the yes or no question.archived recording (elizabeth warren)
So the way I see this, it is about what kinds of costs middle-class families are going to face. So let me be clear on this. Costs will go up for the wealthy. They will go up for big corporations. And for middle-class families, they will go down. I will not —michael barbaro
Then Pete Buttigieg tries to get her to answer it and on and on. And she’s just kind of resolutely unwilling to say yes or no.alexander burns
And it’s not even really sort of an ideological attack on her, right? You saw Pete Buttigieg pushing her just to sort of be straight on this question.archived recording (pete buttigieg)
Well, we heard it tonight. A yes or no question that didn’t get a yes or no answer. Look, this is why people here in the Midwest are so frustrated with Washington in general and Capitol Hill in particular. Your signature, Senator, is to have a plan for everything — except this. No plan has been laid out —alexander burns
It’s almost sort of a character attack as much as anything else. She loves talking about the mechanics of policy and where revenue will come from and where it will go and how regulations work and how it will change the way companies are structured. And the fact that this is the one place where she won’t say what we heard Bernie Sanders say —archived recording (bernie sanders)
Under the Medicare for all bill that I wrote, premiums are gone, co-payments are gone, deductibles are gone, all out-of-pocket expenses are gone. But I do think it is appropriate to acknowledge that taxes will go up. They’re going to go up.alexander burns
It would be a super sort of Warren-y answer, except she just doesn’t want to give it.michael barbaro
And why exactly won’t she answer it, Maggie?maggie haberman
Well, she won’t answer it because there’s not a great answer to the question. Usually when there is not a great answer to the question, you’ll see a politician do what she is doing, which is evade steadfastly.archived recording (marc lacey)
Senator — Senator Warren, will you acknowledge what the senator just said about taxes going up?archived recording (elizabeth warren)
So my view on this and what I have committed to is costs will go down for hardworking middle-class families. I will not embrace a plan like Medicare for all who can afford it that will leave behind —maggie haberman
The answer is most likely to be that there will be a tax hike, and that’s not an answer that she wants to be holding herself to right now. I also think that she’s probably leaving herself a little bit of room — emphasis on a little — for a general election on how she might answer this question of a pay-for for this plan. Her opponent, potentially, Donald Trump, is thrilled seeing her talk about this, because Trump and his advisers believe this is going to be an area where they can really push her and try to shove her closer toward the socialist label that he’s been trying to affix to most Democrats.michael barbaro
And Alex, what did you think was the most notable exchange inside of this first round of efforts by the moderate Democrats on this stage to come after Elizabeth Warren?alexander burns
Look, I thought it was the combination of Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar both speaking about Warren in terms of honesty.archived recording (pete buttigieg)
Your signature, Senator, is to have a plan for everything — except this. No plan has been laid out to explain how a multi-trillion dollar hole in this Medicare for all plan that Senator Warren is putting forward is supposed to get filled in. And the thing is —alexander burns
You heard Klobuchar, who has been so careful so far in this race to be very collegial with her Senate colleagues.archived recording (amy klobuchar)
At least Bernie’s being honest here and saying how he’s going to pay for this and that taxes are going to go up. And I’m sorry, Elizabeth, but you have not said that. And I think we owe it to the American people to tell them where we’re going to send the invoice.alexander burns
You heard her essentially describe Warren’s plans as a pipe dream.archived recording (amy klobuchar)
The difference between a plan and a pipe dream is something that you can actually get done. And we can get this public option done, and we can take on the pharmaceutical companies and bring down the prices. But what really bothers —alexander burns
This is really harsh stuff, right? This is the kind of criticism that you have heard at other points in the race directed at Joe Biden.maggie haberman
One thing, too, that I was struck by in Klobuchar’s answer is she more than once said that essentially, to Warren, your way of doing things is not the only way.archived recording (amy klobuchar)
And I want to win those states that we lost last time, and I have bold ideas to get us there. And I think just because they’re different than Elizabeth’s doesn’t mean they’re bold. But we can’t —michael barbaro
And does that reflect some kind of larger sentiment among these moderate candidates about Warren and about the way that she campaigns?alexander burns
I think it reflects a resentment among some of the more moderate candidates of the way Warren argues sometimes explicitly, sometimes a little bit more subtly, that if you don’t approach policy the same way she does, it’s because you don’t have political guts. You don’t have grit. You’re not willing to fight —archived recording (elizabeth warren)
— fight back. I put out nearly 50 plans on how we can fight back and how we can rebuild an America that works. And a part of that is we’ve —archived recording (marc lacey)
Thank you, Senator.archived recording (elizabeth warren)
— got to stop —alexander burns
For somebody like Amy Klobuchar, she sees how you get stuff done in government differently. She doesn’t think it makes her a coward. She thinks it sort of just reflects a different set of political values.michael barbaro
So what’s the next notable exchange?archived recording (marc lacey)
Thank you, Congressman.archived recording (erin burnett)
Income inequality is growing in the United States at an alarming rate.alexander burns
You have this even messier multi-candidate pile-on around Warren’s proposal for a tax on huge private fortunes.archived recording (erin burnett)
Mr. Steyer, you are the lone billionaire on this stage.alexander burns
That it sort of begins with this exchange involving Bernie Sanders and Tom Steyer, the only billionaire on stage, where —archived recording (erin burnett)
What’s your plan for closing the income gap?alexander burns
— I think there’s an attempt by the moderators to try to draw out Steyer in a way that would maybe stir some tension on stage. And he basically says, look —archived recording (tom steyer)
Senator Sanders is right. There have been 40 years where corporations have bought this government, and those 40 years have meant a 40-year attack on the rights of working people and specifically on organized labor.alexander burns
— wealth concentration is a problem. Then the spotlight moves back to some of those moderates we talked about before.archived recording (pete buttigieg)
This is time to realize that we’re paying attention to the wrong things. We’re paying attention —archived recording (erin burnett)
Thank you, Mayor —archived recording (pete buttigieg)
— to who sounded better on a debate stage —archived recording (erin burnett)
Thank you, Mayor Buttigieg.archived recording (pete buttigieg)
— debate stage or in a committee hearing —archived recording (erin burnett)
Senator Klobuchar — Senator Klobuchar —archived recording (pete buttigieg)
— versus what it’s actually going to take to get something done.archived recording (amy klobuchar)
I want to give a reality che —archived recording (erin burnett)
Will a wealth tax work?archived recording (amy klobuchar)
It could work. I am open to it. But I want to give a reality check here to Elizabeth, because no one on this stage wants to protect billionaires. Not even the billionaire wants to protect billionaires.alexander burns
You hear Amy Klobuchar not attacking the idea of a wealth tax — she says that she’s open to the idea — but again criticizing Warren for this sense that Warren thinks her ideas are the only good ideas.archived recording (amy klobuchar)
Your idea is not the only idea. And when I look at this, I think about Donald Trump, the guy that, after that tax bill passed, went to Mar-a-Lago, got together with his cronies, and said, guess what, you guys all got a lot richer.alexander burns
Nobody is actually challenging the substance of her policy idea here. And in fact, you hear people across the ideological spectrum in the party either endorsing a wealth tax or at least indicating their openness to a wealth tax.archived recording (beto o'rourke)
I think it’s part of the solution, but I think we need to be focused on lifting people up. And sometimes I think that Senator Warren is more focused on being punitive or pitting some part of the country against the other.alexander burns
So to me, this part is more of a primal scream of frustration towards Elizabeth Warren than a really concerted policy challenge.michael barbaro
And when you say primal scream of frustration, I’m guessing you don’t just mean the fact that they think she talks about her ideas as if they are the best and the only good ideas, but perhaps because she’s just doing really well?alexander burns
She is doing really well, right? That if you look back to where this race was when Beto O’Rourke got into it, right, back in the late winter or early spring, he was one of the leading candidates. Elizabeth Warren was at the back of the polls and struggling to sort of find two dimes to rub together for her campaign, right? Now she is one of the biggest fundraisers in the field. He is at the back of the pack, struggling to survive. And you do see — you saw it earlier in the race with Joe Biden. You see it now with Elizabeth Warren. People who are polling towards the back of the pack, trying to have some kind of impact in this race, go after the front-runner.archived recording (erin burnett)
Thank you, Senator Booker.archived recording (anderson cooper)
We’ve got to take a quick break. We’ve got to take a quick break right now. The CNN-New York Times debate live from Otterbein University in Ohio. We’ll be right back after this. [APPLAUSE]michael barbaro
We’ll be right back.archived recording (anderson cooper)
And welcome back to the CNN-New York Times Democratic presidential debate live from Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio. I want to turn now to foreign policy. President Trump ordered —michael barbaro
So as this debate went on, it felt like we saw the first substantive conversation on foreign policy that I can remember from these Democratic debates, in part, I think, because of the urgency of the situation that’s playing out in Syria. I wonder if it felt that way to both of you.archived recording (anderson cooper)
Vice President Biden, we —maggie haberman
It didn’t feel that substantive to me, candidly. It felt urgent, and it felt emotional.archived recording (pete buttigieg)
We saw the spectacle, the horrifying sight of a woman with the lifeless body of her child in her arms, asking what the hell happened to American leadership.maggie haberman
What I think was striking about it is that Joe Biden, who was vice president, seemed to really struggle in his answer to this question about what he would do and what he thought was necessary.archived recording (joe biden)
What I would do is I would be making it real clear to Assad that, in fact, where — he’s going to have a problem, because Turkey is the real problem here. And I would be having a real locked-down conversation with Erdogan and letting him know that he’s going to pay a heavy price for what he has done. Now. Pay that price.maggie haberman
I think that Biden still sounded as if he wasn’t quite sure what to do. And I really thought going into this debate that this was going to be an issue that Biden was going to score lots of points on, because it’s right in his wheelhouse.michael barbaro
Right. It’s one of the ways that Biden has tried to distinguish himself, by pointing to his experience and his gravitas, especially around matters like foreign policy and military conflict.archived recording (joe biden)
I think I may be — doesn’t make me any better or worse, but may be the only person who spent extensive time alone with Putin as well as with Erdogan.alexander burns
Right. You heard him make that argument quite explicitly, that he’s the one person on stage who needs no on-the-job training, that he has dealt with Putin, he has dealt with Erdogan directly. What he struggles with, as Maggie was saying, is communicating that in a way that conveys a sense of command and reassurance to the people who are watching the debate. I did think there were at least the germs of a bigger ideological argument about foreign policy.archived recording (elizabeth warren)
So look, I think that we ought to get out of the Middle East. I don’t think we should have troops in the Middle East, but we have to do it the right way, the smart way. What this —alexander burns
You did hear a pretty stark difference between Biden, on the one hand, who, not in a terribly articulate way, talked about keeping American troops in Syria in some fashion, and Elizabeth Warren saying quite directly that she wants to get rid of those troops, just not in the way Donald Trump has gone about doing it.archived recording (elizabeth warren)
We need to get —archived recording (anderson cooper)
Thank you.archived recording (elizabeth warren)
— out, but we need to do this through a negotiated solution. There is no —archived recording (anderson cooper)
Yeah. Thank you, Senator.archived recording (elizabeth warren)
— military solution —archived recording (anderson cooper)
Mayor Buttigieg?archived recording (elizabeth warren)
— in this region.michael barbaro
And Alex, does that ideological breakdown, when it comes to how the United States should use military forces, does that fall along familiar domestic debate ideological fault lines? Or is it different?alexander burns
It doesn’t map precisely onto the same fault lines as domestic policy, economic policy, health care. But I do think that the more populist wing of the party represented by Warren and Sanders and a couple other people intermittently onstage is much more skeptical of the idea of the United States being involved in foreign wars, of having permanent troop presence overseas. And it is something, Michael, as you obviously recall, that the president played to quite effectively in 2016, is this idea that there actua — there may be a consensus in Washington for the United States to play this kind of role in foreign countries, but in the rest of America, there’s a lot of exhaustion and a lot of skepticism. And that’s part of what I think was so challenging for Biden in this moment, right? That just talking about restoring the bipartisan foreign policy consensus isn’t necessarily super compelling to base primary voters, at least the ones who are voting on foreign policy.archived recording (anderson cooper)
As some of you have indicated, the differences between all of you on this stage are tiny compared to the differences between you and President Trump. There are, however, fundamental differences between many of you on this stage. Vice President Biden, just on either side of you, Senator Warren is calling for big structural change, Senator Sanders is calling for a political revolution.michael barbaro
So toward the end of the debate, the moderators asked this question that sort of seems to be pointed directly at this central tension that’s been playing out on stage.archived recording (anderson cooper)
Will their visions attract the kind of voters that the Democrats need to beat Donald Trump?archived recording (joe biden)
Well, I think their vision is attracting a lot of people.michael barbaro
I wonder what you make of the answers to that question.alexander burns
Well, first, I think it’s really striking that the question needed to be asked in this specific way in order to draw Biden into conflict with Warren and Sanders. In past debates, he’s been so eager to go after them on a whole range of policies. In this debate, there were big sections of the night where he seemed to really fade from the foreground of this thing. And the moderators really sort of summon him to rise to this moment as a champion of the center in this race.archived recording (joe biden)
I’m going to say something that is probably going to offend some people here, but I’m the only one on this stage that’s gotten anything really big done.alexander burns
He does it by describing himself as the only person on the stage who’s ever gotten big things done. He talks about the Violence Against Women Act. He talks about the Affordable Care Act. And he runs pretty quickly into quite a challenging confrontation with both Bernie Sanders and Warren.archived recording (elizabeth warren)
You know, following the financial crash of 2008, I had an idea for a consumer agency that would keep giant banks from cheating people. And all of the Washington —maggie haberman
What ended up happening was Warren starts talking about her accomplishments. She talks about what she did after the 2008 fiscal crisis. She talks about her time at the C.F.P.B. She talks about what she wants to do.archived recording (elizabeth warren)
If we want to get something done in America, we have to get out there and fight —archived recording (anderson cooper)
Thank you, Senator.archived recording (elizabeth warren)
— for the things that touch people’s lives.archived recording (anderson cooper)
Mayor —archived recording (joe biden)
I agree —maggie haberman
But you had Biden try to come back at Warren as she’s talking about what she did. He says, “I got you votes.”archived recording (joe biden)
I got votes for that bill. I convinced people to vote for it. So let’s get those things straight too.maggie haberman
She sort of lets him finish. And there’s a pause, and you can see her almost drawing breath.archived recording (elizabeth warren)
I am deeply grateful to President Obama who fought so hard to make sure that agency was passed into law. And I am deeply —maggie haberman
It’s a real dagger, because it’s a reminder that so much of what Joe Biden has done in this race has been talking about Obama’s record. Biden doesn’t handle that well —archived recording (elizabeth warren)
But understand —archived recording (joe biden)
You did a hell of a job at your job.archived recording (elizabeth warren)
Thank you. But understand this —maggie haberman
— gets unhappy about it and pushes back that you did well in the role that you were in, meaning at the C.F.P.B. And there was just silence in the debate hall when he did it. It underscored what I think has been a theme for Biden in this race and certainly throughout the night when he was present onstage, which is it had this aura of don’t you understand that this is my turn, this is what I’m due? And it reminded me so much of what we would see with Hillary Clinton in 2016.alexander burns
I think it was also just a total mismanagement by Biden of the dynamics of interacting with an emerging female front-runner in this race. That there was really no need, if you look at the record that he is standing on, for him to then try to sort of take a piece of her signature achievement, the creation of this new regulatory agency. And I think it was a reflection of her sort of lack of interest in escalating a fight with him, her sort of view that it didn’t make sense for her to sort of get into an extended fight with Joe Biden, that she didn’t come back at him harder on that front. It was a real role reversal from what we’ve seen in the race previously, where Joe Biden sort of goes from being the hunted to being the hunter as he sort of loses some traction at the top of this race.archived recording (joe biden)
And so the question is, who is best prepared? We all have good ideas. The question is, who’s going to be able to get it done? How can you get it done? And I’m not suggesting they can’t, but I’m suggesting that that’s what we should look at. And part of that requires you not being vague. Tell people what it’s going to cost, how are you going to do it, and why you’re going to do it. That’s the way to get it done. Presidents are supposed to be able to persuade.archived recording (anderson cooper)
Just to clarify —michael barbaro
Alex, given the sensitive moment that Joe Biden is in right now with the president’s attacks on him and his son, is there an argument to be made that the best thing that could happen to Biden during this debate was kind of exactly what did happen? That he got to kind of hide away a little bit while all the moderates went after somebody else, Elizabeth Warren?alexander burns
I think you can make the case that the best-case scenario for Biden at this point is to sort of protect the base that he has right now, hold steady, and trust the rest of the field to stay fractured. And if that’s the best case for him, then maybe that’s what he did tonight. I think it’s a really, really risky strategy, because it counts on everybody else being ineffective at appealing to the voters who are currently supporting you. So I think you could look at this as a low-risk debate for Biden, where he probably didn’t do damage to himself actively. I think you could also see it as a real missed opportunity for a guy who does have unmatched foreign policy credentials on that stage, who has been victimized by the president in a way that has launched impeachment proceedings against President Trump —michael barbaro
— and who didn’t sort of wrap all that together and create a bigger moment for his campaign.maggie haberman
I totally agree.michael barbaro
Maggie, Alex, thank you. Good night, slash, good morning. We’ll talk soon.[music]alexander burns
Thanks, Michael.maggie haberman
Thanks, Michael.[music]michael barbaro
We’ll be right back.michael barbaro
Are you on deadline?michael schmidt
Well, I’m looking for someone to tell me what else I need to know today.michael schmidt
Um —michael schmidt
On Tuesday, George Kent, a senior State Department adviser on Ukraine, went up to Capitol Hill to testify in the impeachment proceedings. In Kent’s testimony, he says that the White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, told him not to worry about Ukraine policy. Obviously, a little weird for a State Department official who specializes in Ukraine policy.michael barbaro
The message being, like, we’ve got Ukraine over here at the White House. You at the State Department, that’s not your issue anymore.michael schmidt
Yet another odd way that the administration was handling its policy towards Ukraine. In the middle of this testimony, Giuliani himself puts out a letter that says that he is not going to comply with a subpoena from the House. The impeachment investigators want to talk to him. Giuliani says, nope, not coming. This is a sham, and he’s not going to participate.michael barbaro
What else?archived recording (amy robach)
If your last name wasn’t Biden, do you think you would have been asked to be on the board of Burisma?archived recording (hunter biden)
I don’t know. I don’t know. Probably not. I don’t think that there’s a lot of things that would have happened in my life that — if my last name wasn’t Biden.michael schmidt
The other thing you need to know is that Joe Biden’s son Hunter gave an interview with ABC News this morning in which he took on the attacks that Trump has leveled at him about Ukraine.michael barbaro
And Giuliani.michael schmidt
Correct, and Giuliani. And he basically said, was it the best thing that I sat on the board of this energy company in Ukraine? Probably not. But he says that these allegations that Giuliani and Trump have thrown at him and thrown at his father about how his dad intervened to help the energy company, it’s all nonsense. There’s nothing to it.archived recording (hunter biden)
You know what? I’m a human. And you know what? Did I make a mistake? Well, maybe in the grand scheme of things, yeah. But did I make a mistake based upon some un — ethical lapse? Absolutely not.michael barbaro
That’s it for “The Daily.” From the Washington bureau of The Times, I’m Michael Barbaro.michael schmidt
See you tomorrow.
Ms. Warren was squeezed, at times, from the left as well: While Mr. Sanders never broke their informal nonaggression pact, he agreed with several of the moderates that it was “appropriate” to enumerate the financial trade-offs involved in single-payer health care, including taxes on Americans that would be “substantially less than what they were paying for premiums and out-of-pocket expenses.”
And while Mr. Sanders,
who had a heart attack this month, was forced to address new concerns about his health, his campaign aides confirmed during the debate that he had secured an endorsement
from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York that could inject new energy into his candidacy.
But there were also the germs of a broader discussion of the role of the United States in the Middle East: In an intense exchange between the two military veterans onstage,
Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii said that it was not only Mr. Trump who had “the blood of the Kurds on his hands,” but also politicians in both parties and news media organizations that had cheered for “regime change war.”
Her remarks drew forceful pushback from Mr. Buttigieg, who said Ms. Gabbard was “dead wrong,” arguing that “the slaughter going on in Syria is not a consequence of American presence — it is a consequence of a withdrawal and a betrayal by this president of American allies and American values.”
While Mr. Biden and Ms. Warren did not clash directly over foreign policy, they diverged in a stark fashion over the situation in Syria. Mr. Biden said he would want to keep American troops there and convey to the Turkish government that it would pay a “heavy price” for its invasion. Ms. Warren said she opposed Mr. Trump’s handling of the situation but believed the United States should “get out of the Middle East.” (Aides to Ms. Warren said she was referring to the withdrawal of troops from combat.)
Throughout the debate, which was sponsored by CNN and The New York Times, Mr. Biden played a far less central role than he did in the past, stepping to the foreground for exchanges over foreign policy but otherwise taking a more passive approach. His most important moment of the night may have come early on, when he was pressed by a moderator to explain why his son had not crossed any ethical lines by doing business in Ukraine while his father was overseeing diplomacy there for the Obama administration.
Mr. Biden said several times that he and his son had done “nothing wrong,” and alluded repeatedly to
an interview Hunter Biden gave to ABC News, in which he said it had been an error in judgment to sit on the board of a Ukrainian gas company while the elder Mr. Biden was vice president. Mr. Trump has accused the Bidens of corruption, often in false or exaggerated terms, and his efforts to enlist the government of Ukraine in tarring Mr. Biden instigated an impeachment inquiry.
“This is about Trump’s corruption,” Mr. Biden said. “That’s what we should be focusing on.”
None of Mr. Biden’s Democratic rivals chose to press the subject, reflecting both the political sensitivity of issues touching on Mr. Biden’s family and also a calculation, by his most immediate rivals, that Mr. Biden is likely to continue sinking in the race without a further onslaught from fellow Democrats. While a number of candidates are hoping to peel away moderate voters from Mr. Biden, they tried to do so on Tuesday by challenging the left rather than by blasting the leading candidate of the center.
Defending his political stature, Mr. Biden at one point described himself as “the only one on this stage who has gotten anything really big done,” and cited his work on the Violence Against Women Act and the Obama administration’s health care law.
That argument drew a fierce response from Mr. Sanders, who said Mr. Biden had also achieved far less laudable feats, like the passage of the NAFTA trade deal and a law tightening the federal bankruptcy code. “You got the disastrous war in Iraq done,” Mr. Sanders added.
And Ms. Warren, too, took issue with Mr. Biden’s claim, pointing to her role as the architect of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — an agency, she said, that represented “structural change in our economy.” In a moment of crackling tension, Mr. Biden raised his voice and urged Ms. Warren to give him credit, too, for the birth of the agency.
“I went onto the floor and got you votes,” he said.
Ms. Warren retorted by saying she was “deeply grateful for President Obama, who fought so hard to make sure that agency was passed into law,” as well as for others in the administration who did the same.
Just as striking as the offensives by Ms. Klobuchar and Mr. Buttigieg were the more passive showings by Senators
Cory Booker of New Jersey and
Kamala Harris — both of whom were counting on a strong outing.
Mr. Booker repeatedly said the focus of the debate should be on Mr. Trump. He denounced the moderators’ questions about Mr. Biden’s son. “The only person sitting at home enjoying that was Donald Trump,” Mr. Booker said.
And he even defended the fitness of the septuagenarian candidates onstage — Mr. Biden, Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren — by noting that Mr. Trump would be the least healthy candidate running in 2020. Ms. Harris also mostly trained her fire on the president, at one point using her new catch line: “Dude gotta go.”
The only moment when Ms. Harris showed any appetite for tangling with the other candidates was when she demanded to know why Ms. Warren would not join her in urging Twitter to remove the president’s account.
Ms. Harris seemed more focused on trying to build support with women, as
she spoke most forcefully about the importance of defending abortion rights. “It is her body, it is her right, it is her decision,” she said.
After presenting her message at the previous three debates with only intermittent challenges from her rivals, Ms. Warren was met with cutting criticism of her signature populist flourishes.
“I want to give a reality check to Elizabeth,” said Ms. Klobuchar, before alluding to another candidate onstage, the hedge fund executive
Tom Steyer. “No one on this stage wants to protect billionaires. Not even the billionaire wants to protect billionaires. We just have different approaches.”
Mr. Buttigieg was just as pointed, repeatedly casting Ms. Warren as a “Washington politician,” but he and Ms. Klobuchar were not alone. Even lagging candidates such as Mr. O’Rourke and
Andrew Yang, a former tech entrepreneur, took on Ms. Warren, all but confirming her front-runner status.
And while she was eager to articulate her progressive vision here, Ms. Warren seemed just as cognizant that she must broaden her coalition beyond her core base of upscale liberal whites. She repeatedly cited her support for adding funding to historically black colleges and mentioned her brothers, who still live in her native Oklahoma and two of whom are Republicans.
Mr. Sanders was not as ubiquitous a presence as he had been at past debates, but he drew applause by pre-empting a question about his health. “I’m healthy, I’m feeling great,” he said before vowing “a vigorous campaign.”
That, Mr. Sanders said, “is how I think I can reassure the American people.”