Updated Oct 15, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Debate night: Democrats take shots at Warren in 4th debate

Bernie Sanders Biden and Warren

Sen. Bernie Sanders, Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The top 12 Democratic presidential candidates on Tuesday debated abortion, Big Tech, opioids from an Ohio stage for their fourth debate.

The big picture: Eyes have been on Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders for various reasons: Biden, coming to his son Hunter Biden's defense regarding Ukraine; Warren, carrying a target on her back as the lead candidate and Sanders on his energy level as he recovers from his heart attack.

  • Warren has become the frontrunner since September's debate in Houston and took the heat from many candidates for her plans, ranging from Medicare for All to anti-corruption, but she defended her stances.
  • Still, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) rejected the sparring, saying "tearing each other down because we have a different plan to me is unacceptable. I have seen this script before."


Candidates are divided on packing a court to protect Roe v. Wade's court ruling and how to stop states from passing laws that restrict abortions. South Bend, Ind, Mayor Pete Buttigieg suggested adding more judges to the Supreme Court as a way preserve Roe v. Wade.

  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii): "I support codifying Roe v. Wade while making sure that during the third trimester, abortion is not an option unless the life or severe health consequences of a woman are at risk."
  • Biden: "I would not get into court packing. ... I would make sure we move and insist that we pass, we codify Roe v. Wade. The public is already there."
  • Julián Castro: "The smarter move might be to look at term limits or having people cycle off from the appellate courts so that you would have a replenishment of perspective."

Breaking up Big Tech

Candidates ganged up on Warren's plans to tackle anti-corruption and monopolies.

What they're saying:

  • Andrew Yang: "There are absolutely excesses in technology and in some cases having them divest their business is the right move. But we also have to be realistic that competition doesn't solve all the problems."
  • Warren: "Look, I'm not willing to give up and let a handful of monopolists dominate our economy and our democracy. It's time to fight back."
  • Billionaire Tom Steyer: They either have to be broken up or regulated, and that's part of it. But we have to understand that Mr. Trump is going to be running on the economy."
  • Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke: “I don't think it is the role of a president or a candidate for the presidency to specifically call out which companies will be broken up.”
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: "We need a president who has the guts to appoint an attorney general who will take on these huge monopolies, protect small business and protect consumers by ending the price fixing that we see every day."


Like many states across the country, the opioid crisis has hit Ohio hard. The candidates’ consensus has been to attack the pharmaceutical companies and hold them responsible with possible jail time when tried.

What they’re saying:

  • Harris: "I do think of this as a matter of justice and accountability because they are nothing more than some high-level dope dealers."
  • Yang: "We have to recognize this is a disease of capitalism run amuck. There was a point when there were more opioid prescriptions in the state of Ohio than human beings in the state of Ohio."

Age in the Oval Office

Former President Jimmy Carter commented he would have never been able to take on the presidency at age of 80. Warren is 70, Sanders is 78 and Biden is 76 years old.

What they're saying:

  • Sanders: “We are going to be mounting a vigorous campaign all over this country. That is how I think I can reassure the American people.”
  • Biden: “I know what the job is. I've been engaged. Look, one of the reasons I'm running is because of my age and my experience."
  • Warren: "I will outwork, out-organize and outlast anyone, and that includes Donald Trump, Mike Pence, or whoever the Republicans get stuck with."

Gun control

Proposals range from mandatory buybacks for assault weapons to registering assault weapons and acting on legislation in the Senate.

What they're saying:

  • O’Rourke: "If someone does not turn in an AR-15 or AK-47, one of these weapons of war or brings it out in public to brandish and intimidate, then that weapon will be taken from them. But the expectation is that Americans will follow the law."
  • Buttigieg: "Congressman [O’Rourke] you just made it clear you are don't know how this is actually going to take weapons off the streets. If you can develop the plan further, I think we can have a debate about it. But we can't wait."
  • Booker: "It's frustrating when 77% of Americans agree on licensing. ... We're going need people to stand up and follow where people already are."
  • Klobuchar: “There are three bills right now on Mitch McConnell's desk, ... That's what we should be focusing on. And I don't want to screw this up.”
  • Warren: "The problem here that we need to focus on is, first, how widespread gun violence is."
  • Harris: "Congress has had years to act and failed because they do not have the courage. When I'm elected, I'll give them 100 days to pull their act together, put a bill on my desk for signature and if they don't, I will take executive action."
  • Biden: "The way to deal with those guns and those AR-15s and assault weapons ... You must register that weapon. When you register it, the likelihood of it being used diminishes exponentially."

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