The Democratic presidential hopefuls brought their A game on Friday’s MSNBC-hosted forum at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina, moderated by Rachel Maddow.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders all made their case on a two-hour live televised event aimed at wooing Southern voters, particularly in South Carolina, a key early voting state.
Because the MSNBC interviews were not part of the official Democratic National Committee’s 2016 presidential primary debates, candidates did not interact with each other, but were rather interviewed back-to-back, which made for a much tamer event than the first Democratic debate in Las Vegas last month.
Still there were some interesting moments throughout the night:
1. Martin O’Malley doesn’t have a plan to get his poll numbers up
Maddow pressed him about the subject, asking whether he even had a chance to win his party’s nomination when he lags so far behind Sanders and Clinton in the polls.
“You’re in low single digits everywhere, and that’s after months of campaigning,” Maddow said. “Does your campaign need to be shaken up?”
But O’Malley didn’t said he wasn’t too worried. “When I ran for mayor of Baltimore I only had 88 days to go and I was the whopping first choice of 7 percent of my neighbors. So I kind of like a tough fight. And I believe that we’re actually on course. ”
2. Rachel Maddow’s nonpolitical questions were just as lame as those in previous debates
The host had each candidate choose from a deck of cards containing more informal questions. We learned that O’Malley would rather fish than hunt, and that Sanders thinks the biggest misconception about him is that he’s grumpy. “People think I’m too serious but I think what people don’t see is that I have seven wonderful grandchildren who are the joy of my life,” he told Maddow.
Clinton sidestepped what current Republican candidate she’d choose as a running mate if forced to look outside her party — saying that naming anyone would only hurt their chances. Finally, she allowed, “There are Republicans I could pick, just none of them.”
3. Sanders defended his more conservative stance on gun rights
Asked why he voted against banning guns on Amtrak trains, Sanders noted, “You can put unloaded guns into the baggage department of a plane. In other words, it’s not people carrying a gun on the train. It is putting them in baggage. You’ve got hunters who are going from Vermont to the Midwest, and they put their weapons unloaded in the cargo part. That’s the reason for it.”
“If we are going to make progress on this issue — and I know Hillary Clinton has kind of misstated my view — as a nation, we are going to have to stop shouting at each other, and we’re going to have to come together,” he said.
4. Clinton denied she was more hawkish on military matters that Barack Obama
“I want us to use diplomacy which is why I spent 18 months putting together the sanctions against Iran so that we could force them to the negotiating table,” Clinton told Maddow. “That is how I would approach these issues.”
5. Clinton says she wouldn’t swap places with husband
After showing a picture of Bill and Hillary Clinton as a young couple, Maddow asked the former first lady if she had the opportunity would she tell that young Hillary Clinton to go first and run for elected office before Bill.
“No,” Clinton replied. “That was not in her mind.”