With the number of candidates whittled down to three—Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’ Malley—audiences were privy to a more issue-focused exchange. Yes, this debate lacked some of the pandering and bellicose rhetoric that characterized the preceding ones but that did not make Saturday’s discourse any less interesting.
Let’s take a look at some highlights from the debate.
Sanders Apologizes For Data Breach
In the days prior to the debate, it was revealed that several of Sander’s aides exploited a glitch in the party’s database to view data and analysis compiled by the Clinton campaign. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) subsequently revoked Sander’s access to the party’s voter database. The information included the Clinton campaign’s voter turnout projections for the Iowa caucus, and the third debate as well as a piece of campaign strategy built upon the empirical data. One staffer, Josh Uretsky, was fired once the story made headlines.
Hours before the debate, the Clinton campaign claimed Sanders and his team had “stolen” the information. Sanders campaign fired back at Clinton for trying to “undermine” the candidacy of the Vermont senator.
Sanders also filed a lawsuit against the DNC for barring him from accessing his own data. The DNC capitulated, granting Sanders access to his voter database once again.
With this controversy garnering so much media attention, many assumed it would provide fodder for a fiery exchange between the presidential hopefuls—but not so.
The issue was tackled with surprising amicability.
Within the first ten minutes of the debate, Sanders offered an apology to Clinton for the breach.
“We should move on,” replied Clinton. “Because I don’t think the American people are all that interested in this.”
The Democratic nominees set their sights on Republican forerunner Donald Trump with O’Malley calling Trump a “fascist” within the first five minutes of the debate. Sanders accused Trump of manipulating and capitalizing on the fears of those Americans under financial constraints. It was Clinton, however, who offered the most scathing comments.
“He is becoming ISIS’s best recruiter,” said Clinton. “They are going to people showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists.” Despite the variance amongst the candidate’s views, Clinton argued that any and all of the Democratic nominees would be better for the presidency to take office than Trump.
O’Malley Takes A New Approach
O’Malley has been trailing his opponents in the polls by a considerable margin—even struggling to escape the single digits. It is exactly this underperformance that prompted the former governor of Maryland to adopt a more aggressive approach. O’Malley lambasted Clinton and Sanders for their policies, in particular Clinton for attitude toward banks and both candidates on gun control.
“ISIL training videos are telling lone wolfs the easiest way to buy a combat assault weapon in America is at a gun show, and it’s because of the flip-flopping political approach of Washington that both of my two colleagues on the stage have represented for the last 40 years,” he said.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa. Let’s calm down a little bit, Martin,” interrupted Sanders.
Agreeing with Sanders, Clinton urged O’Malley to “tell the truth.”
Corporate America “Ain’t Going to Like Me”—Sanders
Sanders made sure to trumpet those of his fiscal views that juxtaposed Clinton’s. Sanders criticized Clinton for being too supportive of Wall Street a claim corroborated by a Clinton comment that “everybody should” love her—including Corporate America. (It should be noted, however, that Clinton made sure to renounce any prospects of increasing the taxes of the working class.) ABC moderator David Muir asked Sanders how he would deal with corporate America as president, to which Sanders replied: “CEO’s of large multinationals may like Hillary. They ain’t going to like me and Wall Street is going to like me even less!”