After a neck-and-neck finish in Iowa and the shuttering of the O’Malley campaign, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders met in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on Thursday, February 4th, 2016 to debate one on one. The event, hosted by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and Chuck Todd — and hastily added to the Democratic debate schedule in response to protests from Sanders and O’Malley about the paucity of debates in comparison to the Republicans — gave Clinton and Sanders their first opportunity to debate directly, without the inclusion of the former Maryland governor. In case you missed the debate, we’ve rounded up the highlights below. To see the entire debate video, scroll to the bottom.
Clinton on Flint
As news of the water contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan captured the national attention, both Democratic candidates for president — especially Hillary Clinton — focused on the city as an example of the toxic effects of extreme fiscal austerity and urban neglect. Flint, which was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager (as opposed to an elected city council) when lead began leaching into tap water, was economically devastated in the wake of GM moving its factories out of the rust belt, and has joined cities like Detroit and Pittsburg as lingering victims of economic circumstance.
Head-to-Head on Goldman Sachs
Bernie Sanders has made a sport of painting Hillary Clinton as a lackey for Wall Street influence, and Clinton had her chance to strike back on Thursday. Calling Sanders’ focus on her speaking fees a “smear,” Clinton said that Sanders would necessarily accuse anyone of accepting speaking fees or raising money from corporations of being “on the take.” The audience in New Hampshire was divided (Sanders’ implications have struck a nerve), but Clinton’s spelling out the attacks could lead to a shift in strategy from the Sanders camp.
Bernie Sanders, who joined the Democratic Party just a few months ago, is in an interesting position to question Hillary Clinton’s commitments to progressivism as a political ideology and identifier. Clinton has achieved the heights of political success as a senator and secretary of state, but has done so essentially within the political framework set up by her husband: a “New Democrat” worldview, founded upon pragmatism and electability. As an outsider to the party and Socialist, Sanders has perhaps the strongest opportunity in recent political memory to shift the Democratic Party to the left.
Clinton on “Progress”
Still, Clinton can strike back on the charge that she isn’t “progressive enough”: she has a record of working within the mainstream. Clinton is betting that once the initial excitement surrounding Sanders’ candidacy fades, undecided voters will look to her for experience and effectiveness. For all of his success working at the edge of the Senate, ideologically, Sanders can’t hold a flame to the amount of legislative and geopolitical experience Clinton offers.
Sanders on Trade
The elevation of “trade deals” to the national attention can be partially attributed to Donald Trump, who’s spotlighted America’s interactions with China as a centerpiece of his populist campaign. Trump has admitted identifying with Sanders’ views on trade, and Sanders, for his part, isn’t neglecting the appeal of unfair trade deals as a populist platform point. Sanders was opposed to NAFTA and other free trade deals, including the recently-passed Trans-Pacific Partnership, the biggest such deal in history.
Clinton on Scandal
The Clintons have a penchant for attracting scandal, to say the least. Hillary Clinton has had to parry reminders of the attacks on America’s Libyan embassy and an email controversy surrounding her use of a personal server for State Department emails. Clinton addressed the controversies surrounding her political career Wednesday, painting them as part of a broader effort to sully her name and hurt her chances at the nomination.
Sanders on Public Financing of Campaigns
Bernie Sanders has become known for his refusal to accept the money of super PACs but never committed, in a campaign supposedly dedicated to fighting the influence of money in politics, to accepting public financing for his campaign. The system for receiving and utilizing presidential public financing is a long and complicated one, with plenty of restrictions over how candidates can use federal dollars. Sanders explained his choice to rely on small donations when asked about public financing in the debate.