WESTERVILLE, Ohio – The top 12 Democratic presidential candidates squared off in battleground Ohio Tuesday night in what became the largest primary debate in American history.
The debate, hosted and moderated by CNN with The New York Times, was held at Otterbein University in Westerville, a northeast suburb of Columbus, Ohio and a swing voter hotspot.
In 2012, the reliably Republican suburb voted for Mitt Romney over President Barack Obama by seven points, but in 2016, Clinton carried the city by five.
Here are five highlights from Tuesday night’s debate.
1. Elizabeth Warren Comes Under Fire
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who has surged in the polls to rival former vice president Joe Biden for the race’s frontrunner status, took flak from all around the stage as candidates attempted to slow the senator’s momentum.
The most persistent attacks came from the “moderates” in the race, such as Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who exchanged jabs with the Massachusetts senator several times throughout the night, and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who had previewed his attacks with a release of a digital ad campaign hours before the debate going after Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders on health care.
Klobuchar and Buttigieg dragged Warren on the debate stage on health care. Warren continues to avoid saying whether her plan would require higher taxes on the middle class, which, experts say would be mathematically impossible even after imposing unimaginably high tax rates on the wealthy.
“This is why people here in the Midwest are so frustrated with Washington in general and Capitol Hill in particular,” Buttigieg claimed. “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 has put forward, is supposed to get put in.”
Mayor @PeteButtigieg grills @ewarren over her "Medicare For All" health care plan. #DemocraticDebate pic.twitter.com/FoPG449TbJ
— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) October 16, 2019
“I appreciate Elizabeth’s work. But again, the difference between a plan and a pipe dream is something you can actually get done,” Klobuchar said.
Amy Klobuchar on "Medicare for All:" "I appreciate Elizabeth's work. But again, the difference between a plan and a pipe dream is something you can actually get done" #DemDebate pic.twitter.com/m2yyF3jQbF
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) October 16, 2019
Warren, once again backed by socialist Sanders defending a similar proposal on stage, continued to claim that Americans would save money under government health plans in the long run.
“Costs will go down for hardworking, middle-class families,” Warren maintained when pressed on whether her plan would drive up taxes on the middle class. Sanders, on the other hand, admitted to needing to raise taxes on all people who pay them to fund the proposal.
2. Buttigieg to Beto: I Don’t Need Lessons From You About Courage
Buttigieg also clashed with former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke on stage when debating gun control.
When Buttigieg was asked about recently slamming O’Rourke’s idea of a mandatory gun “buyback” program as a “shiny object” getting in the way of passing real reform, Buttigieg doubled-down on the comments, criticizing O’Rourke’s plan as overly vague.
O’Rourke simply re-stated his case for needing the program without offering any new details and said Buttigieg was relying on polls and consultants to make his points, to which Buttigieg flashed back.
“The problem isn’t the polls. The problems is the policy. And I don’t need lessons from you on courage, political or personal,” Buttigieg said.
Amid a clash over Beto O'Rourke's proposed mandatory buy-backs of assault-style rifles, Pete Buttigieg tells O'Rourke, "The problem isn’t the polls, the problem is the policy. And I don’t need lessons from you on courage, political or personal." #DemDebate https://t.co/GnrM5echj6 pic.twitter.com/7nNDPqISqp
— CNN (@CNN) October 16, 2019
3. Kamala Harris Continues Crusade To Crush Trump’s Twitter
Sen. Kamala Harris continued to advocate for the suspension of President Donald Trump’s Twitter account during the evening’s discussion on regulating big tech and called out Warren for not supporting her in the battle to censor Trump’s feed.
“Here we have Donald Trump, who has 65 million Twitter followers and is using that platform as the president of the United States to openly intimidate witnesses, to threaten witnesses, to obstruct justice, and he and his account should be taken down,” Harris said.
“So, look, I don’t just want to push Donald Trump off Twitter. I want to push him out of the White House. That’s our job,” Warren responded.
#DemDebate: Sen. Kamala Harris takes on Sen. Elizabeth Warren for not wanting Twitter to ban the president’s account:
"When I called on Twitter to suspend Donald Trump's account… you did not agree, and I would urge you to join me." pic.twitter.com/m68c0uBiIC
— Jenn Franco KESQ (@jennfranconews) October 16, 2019
4. Biden Screams At Warren, Who Responds By Thanking Barack Obama
After Warren touted her role in creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under the Obama administration, Biden began screaming at Warren on stage, demanding credit for the passage of the bill creating the federal agency.
“I agreed with the great job she did, and I went on the floor and got you votes,” Biden asserted. “I got votes for that bill. I convinced people to vote for it. So let’s get those things straight, too.”
After a brief pause and applause, Warren responded by thanking President Barack Obama for playing a part in passing the bill, in a slight to Biden.
“I am deeply grateful to President Obama, who fought so hard to make sure that agency was passed into law,” Warren said.
"I am deeply grateful to President Obama who fought so hard to make sure that agency was passed into law," Sen. Elizabeth Warren said after Joe Biden tried to claim credit for helping win approval for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau #DemocraticDebate pic.twitter.com/6b4w5qgEQq
— TIME (@TIME) October 16, 2019
5. Bernie Sanders: I’m Feeling Great, And I’m Not On Marijuana
Before the moderators had asked about Sanders’s health Tuesday night following a recent heart attack earlier this month, Sanders anticipated the topic, telling Erin Burnett when trying to interject on a topic that his health was in top shape.
“I’m healthy, I’m feeling great,” Sanders said, trying to chime in on a discussion.
“Senator Sanders is in favor of medical marijuana,” Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey pointed out.
“I’m not on it tonight,” Sanders replied.
"I'm healthy, I'm feeling great," Bernie Sanders said at the #DemDebate. @CoryBooker interrupted to note that Sanders was in favor of medical marijuana. “I’m not on it tonight,” Sanders joked https://t.co/zpYbSiNLep pic.twitter.com/fIHnRzX0Xg
— Bloomberg (@business) October 16, 2019