On Sunday night January 17, 2016 night at 9:00pm, the day before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the three remaining Democratic presidential hopefuls — Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O’Malley — gathered in South Carolina for a debate hosted by NBC and moderated by two of the networks on-air personalities, Lester Holt and Andrea Mitchell. In case you missed the event, we’ve gathered up the best moments from the debate below:
Sanders on Polling and Donald Trump
Asked about his standing in the polls relative to Secretary Clinton, Sanders emphasized that momentum seems to be on the side of his campaign as primary season starts with Iowa and New Hampshire within the month, and that his campaign started out much farther behind Clinton’s than it is now. He also reminded voters that, in head-to-head match-ups against Donald Trump, he is currently favored by the general electorate over the New York billionaire.
The Iran Question
Iran has been a central part of the Republicans’ presidential debates, and not as much with Democrats, who succeeded under President Obama in establishing an agreement under which Iran would halt many aspects of its nuclear weapons production in concert with a lifting of international sanctions. The candidates’ caution around their answers on Iran signaled a support of the current agreement, and a resistance to the Republicans’ bellicosity on the issue.
Sanders on Clinton’s Ties to Wall Street
Asked about their potential differences over financial reforms (or, as Lester Holt put it, “what you would do about the banks”), Sanders and Clinton tried to define their own independence from the financial institutions that would seek to water down potential regulation. Sanders, sticking to his script, outlined the steps he’s taken to raise money primarily from small donors, and his refusal to accept money from supportive super PACs. Clinton, for her part, attacked Sanders for attacking President Obama’s regulatory record, a strange new file in her opposition research folder.
Sanders on Clinton on Lewinsky
Part of Bernie Sanders’ appeal to his younger, more idealistic portion of the Democratic base is his insistence on confronting political issues without getting bogged down in personal attacks. His campaign still maintains that he has never run a negative ad in his life, though issues like Bill Clinton’s infidelities while president might make for tempting bait. In the debate, when asked about Bill Clinton’s behavior Sanders stuck to his non-aggression script, telling Andrea Mitchell the question annoyed him.
O’Malley’s on Trump’s Faith-Bating
Martin O’Malley, on the whole, had a debate night similar to most of his nights so far: he was mostly ignored by moderators Lester Holt and Andrea Mitchell, and when he wasn’t, he spoke in the dry, monotone Baltimore accent that has endeared him to around five percent of Democratic voters. Still, he’s proved a consistent and substantive voice against the Islamaphobic attacks perpetrated by the trump campaign, as he was against last night.
Sanders on Police Reform
The #BlackLivesMatter movement has complicated Democrats’ relationship with the police this election season, especially with the large unions in which most officers are members, and which often support Democratic candidates. In laying out a specific plan to address police brutality that both respected officers’ jobs and their allegiance to the rule of law, Sanders may have found a winning formula.
Clinton on Putin
Asked about her relationship with Russia’s semi-authoritarian leader, Secretary Clinton hesitated briefly before describing the complicated relationship she developed with Putin during her years as Secretary of State. Clinton’s experience on the global stage is a major asset for her campaign, and her close relationships with world leaders a stark contrast with Sanders’ focus on domestic economic and social policy.