The Democratic debate got heated Sunday as Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders vied for advantage in the Iowa caucuses and distant third Martin O’Malley struggled to be heard.
The candidates clashed over guns, health care and Wall Street, and these were the six hardest hits:
1. Clinton slams Sanders for voting “with the NRA”
In the first minutes of the debate, held just blocks from church where nine were shot and killed in June, Clinton slammed Sanders for voting with the NRA and gun lobby “numerous times.” She fired off a list of votes.
“He has voted with the NRA, with the gun lobby numerous times. He voted against the Brady Bill five times. He voted for what we call the Charleston Loophole. He voted for immunity from gunmakers and sellers which the NRA said was the most important piece of gun legislation in 20 years,” Clinton said.
Sanders insisted he had a “D-minus” voting rating from the National Rifle Association and said Clinton’s criticisms have been “very disingenuous.”
2. Clinton and Sanders battle over healthcare
Clinton argued Sanders would essentially dismantle Obama’s healthcare plan.
“We finally have a path to universal healthcare, we’ve accomplished so much already. I don’t want to see us start over again with a contentious debate. I want us to defend and build the Affordable Care Act and improve it.”
Clinton said that Sanders’ recently proposed Medicare-for-all plan would trigger a new fight with Republicans over health care.
“I certainly respect Sen. Sanders’ intentions,” Clinton said, but added, “when you’re talking about health care, the details really matter.”
Sanders shot back that Clinton’s claims were “nonsense.”
“I’m on the committee that wrote the Affordable Care Act. … I voted for it. But right now what we have to deal with is that 29 million people still have no health insurance. We are paying the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs and still getting ripped off,” Sanders said.
But Clinton got the soundbite moment.
“Are we talking about the plan you introduced tonight or the plan you introduced nine times in Congress?” Clinton shot back.
3. Sanders knocks Clinton’s Wall Street ties
Sanders attacked Clinton for taking speaking fees from Goldman Sachs.
“Goldman Sachs was recently fined $5 billion,” Sanders said. “Goldman Sachs has given this country two secretaries of the treasury. The leader of Goldman Sachs is a billionaire who comes to Congress who tells us to cut Social Security. You’ve received over $600,000 in speaking fees from Goldman Sachs in one year,” Sanders said.
Clinton shot back criticizing him for calling Obama “weak” and “disappointing.” She recalled that in 2011, Sanders’ called for a primary challenge against the president.
“He’s criticized President Obama for taking money from Wall Street,” Clinton said.
4. Sanders says he won’t dwell on Clinton, but calls his behavior “deplorable”
Sanders was asked about former president Bill Clinton’s sexual misconduct, and said he found the inquiry annoying because he wants to focus on the issues. But he still worked in a jab.
“Yes, his behavior was deplorable,” Sanders said. “Have I ever once said a word about that issue? No, I have not.”
5. Sanders and O’Malley slam Trump
“All of us have denounced Trump’s attempts to divide this country: the anti-Latino rhetoric, the racist rhetoric, the anti-Muslim rhetoric,” said Sanders.
“If Donald Trump wants to start a registry in our country of people by faith, he can start with me, and I will sign up as one who is totally opposed to his fascist appeals that wants to vilify American Muslims,” said O’Malley.
6. Clinton calls Putin a bully
Asked how she would describe her personal relationship with Vladimir Putin, Clinton said: “Ah, it’s… interesting.”
“We’ve had some very tough dealings with one another,” Clinton went on. “He’s someone you have to continually stand up to because like many bullies, he is somebody who will take as much as he possibly can unless you do.”