The fourth Democratic presidential debate was held Sunday night in South Carolina and featured presidential hopefuls Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.
The debate was the final opportunity for candidates to explain and defend their political messages before the first contests of 2016: the Feb. 1 Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary Feb. 9.
Sunday’s debate featured constant barbs thrown between front runners Clinton and Sanders while O’Malley, currently polling in the single digits, often had to fight to get a word in.
Chief among the topics discussed at last night’s debate were racial inequality, foreign policy, gun control, climate change, and healthcare.
“It is beyond my comprehension how we can elect a President of the United States, somebody like Trump, who believes that climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese,” Sanders said to laughter from the crowd.
Clinton used the debate as an opportunity to tie herself closely to the policies of the Barack Obama administration and to attack Sanders for his criticism of that administration.
“President Obama has led our country out of the Great Recession,” Clinton said. “Senator Sanders called him weak, disappointing.”
Clinton further tied herself to Obama via healthcare, calling the Affordable Care Act “one of the greatest accomplishments of President Obama, the Democratic Party and our country” and vehemently opposing Sanders’ plan to systematically change healthcare in this country.
“What a Medicare-for-all program does is finally provide in this country health care for every man, woman and child as a right,” Sanders said. “The truth is that Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman believed that health care should be available to all of our people.”
While many of the criticisms pointed at Sanders’ previous vote to protect legal gun sellers from prosecution, the self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist threw punches of his own.
Sanders took Clinton to task over the apparent conflict-of-interest surrounding her plans for Wall Street reform while receiving $600,000 in speaking fees from Goldman Sachs.
The most humorous portion of the debate, and likely the one that garnered the loudest applause for O’Malley, was when the former governor was asked whether there was anything he’d like to say that he hadn’t been able to during the debate.
“Thank you so much, but we’re going to have to get 20 minutes to do it,” O’Malley said after an eruption of applause and laughter.
The Democratic candidates will meet again Feb. 11 after the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary, before going into the Nevada and South Carolina primaries when, feasibly, the field will be narrowed down to two remaining candidates.