Good evening, and welcome to NPI’s live coverage of the fourth Democratic presidential debate of the 2016 cycle. I will be watching and sharing impressions of the debate as it progresses. The debate is being broadcast by MSNBC.
If you don’t have cable, you can livestream the debate online.
Courtesy of MSNBC, here’s how you can participate:
- The debate will air live on MSNBC, beginning at 6 PM Pacific
- You can also watch the live stream of the debate online on MSNBC.com.
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- If you live in New England, you can submit questions through our local partners at New Hampshire Union Leader and NECN.
There are two candidates left seeking the Democratic nomination for President of the United States: Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
This fifth overall debate will be the first one with just Clinton and Sanders. As with Clinton and Obama eight years ago, there will be two candidates at two podiums… and that’s it. Tonight’s debate will be the only one held between the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary next Tuesday.
Originally, this debate was not on the schedule put together by the Democratic Party, but the DNC yielded to the campaigns’ desire for more debates.
Rachel Maddow and Chuck Todd will be the moderators.
6:02 PM: The candidates have taken their places onstage!
6:03 PM: Sanders opens first, and wastes no time assailing the rigged economy that Wall Street has constructed.
6:05 PM: In her opening statement, Clinton acknowledges economic injustice and income inequality, but adds we have other problems we need to deal with, like systemic racism in our criminal justice system.
6:06 PM: Chuck Todd asks Clinton whether Sanders’ proposals are too ambitious. Clinton says, “I want to build on the progress we’ve made. I don’t want to rip away the security that people have.” It should be noted: Even in the wake of the Patient Protection Act, not not everyone has healthcare, Madam Secretary…
6:07 PM: “I haven’t quite run for President before,” Sanders quips, before beginning to answer Chuck Todd’s question regarding the scale of his proposals. “I do not accept the belief that the United States of America can’t stand up to the ripoffs of the pharmaceutical industry,” he declares.
6:09 PM: This debate has been incredibly lively and fun to watch.
6:13 PM: Clinton’s on a tear here, suggesting that under Sanders’ definition, everyone from Joe Biden to Paul Wellstone wouldn’t qualify as a progressive. Clinton may think she’s being clever, but we doubt Sanders would say that a single vote or policy position disqualifies someone from being a progressive.
6:15 PM: We need to stand up to the big money, and when we do that, we can transform America, Sanders says.
6:18 PM: “I know a lot of hard-fighting progressive in the Democratic Party… and that’s what we ought to be celebrating, Clinton says.
6:19 PM: Sanders says he agrees with Clinton about focusing on a positive vision for the country… and goes on to say, “I am proud to be the only candidate up here that does not have a Super PAC.”
6:21 PM: “I am running for President as a Democrat,” Sanders says, earning big applause for saying that we need a fifty-state strategy.
6:22 PM: Clinton jabs at Sanders by noting she has the support of Governor Howard Dean (the originator of the fifty state strategy) and two other Vermont governors. (Vermont is Sanders’ home state.)
6:23 PM: Asked about Clinton’s endorsements, Sanders points out his campaign is of, by, and for the people, with an average donation of around $27, and has drawn tens of thousands of people to events all around the country.
6:26 PM: “I think it’s time to end the very artful smear that your campaign has been carrying out,” Clinton says, concluding a rant about Sanders’ comments regarding who and what represent.
6:31 PM: Bernie and Hillary are now tussling over deregulating Wall Street.
6:33 PM: Heading to our first commercial break. “We’ve touched a nerve,” Rachel Maddow notes.
6:35 PM: We’re back. Chuck Todd is asking about the presidential primary financing system. Sanders says he’s not using it because it doesn’t work well.
6:38 PM: Have you have been too dismissive of voter concerns over your ties to Wall Street? Rachel Maddow asks Hillary Clinton.
6:39 PM: “I went to Wall Street before the crash,” Clinton says, suggesting that she warned them their behavior was setting America up for disaster.
6:41 PM: Not one Wall Street executive has been prosecuted for wrongdoing pertaining to the onset of the Great Recession and the country’s economic collapse, Sanders notes, drawing massive applause.
6:42 PM: Sanders invokes Elizabeth Warren’s name and argues we do need a modern Glass-Steagall Act, and goes on to invoke the name of trustbuster Teddy Roosevelt. “Time to break them up,” Sanders says of the big banks.
6:45 PM: Sanders and Clinton have been doing their best to practice message discipline in this debate, returning repeatedly to their main themes.
6:46 PM: “Are you willing to release the transcripts of your paid speeches?” Chuck Todd asks. On the defensive, Clinton says she’ll look into it.
6:48 PM: “The business model of Wall Street is fraud,” Sanders declares, assailing the powerful financial industry for its really awful, no good, destructive behavior.
6:51 PM: We’re taking another commercial break.
6:56 PM: We’re back, and switching gears to foreign policy. First question is about our level of commitment to fighting the Islamic State. Clinton says she’s comfortable with President Obama’s strategy. “I support special forces, I support trainers, I support air strikes,” she says.
6:59 PM: Sanders takes the opportunity to point out that he differed with Clinton about whether invading Iraq was a good idea. (He voted against the invasion, she voted to authorize Bush to go in.)
7:02 PM: Asked what they would do with respect to troop levels in Afghanistan, Sanders and Clinton basically say they’d have to evaluate what’s needed.
7:04 PM: Chuck Todd asks Sanders to articulate what his foreign policy doctrine is, and he replies by talking about his belief that the United States should work cooperatively with other nations to solve world problems, including terrorism.
7:13 PM: Asked by Chuck Todd what nation-states he would be most worried about (seriously, Chuck? You want him to rank a list of countries?) Sanders says he’s very concerned about North Korea because it’s so isolated.
7:15 PM: Clinton says she’s absolutely against privatizing the VA (our veterans healthcare system), crediting Sanders for his work to improve care for our returning veterans, and Sanders agrees: we need to keep our public VA system.
7:18 PM: Heading to break. When we get back, we’ll be talking Social Security… supposedly. It might not be the first thing the moderators ask about.
7:24 PM: The first question is actually about the Iowa caucuses. Chuck Todd asks Sanders if he agrees with the Des Moines Register about the need for an audit. Sanders says he does, but says we shouldn’t blow the situation out of proportion, noting not that many delegates overall are at stake, and that his campaign and Clinton’s would likely end up with about the same number of delegates after any recount, “at the end of the day.”
7:35 PM: Rachel and Chuck have been asking a bunch of questions about electability which don’t break any new ground. Why are we wasting time going over old controversies like Hillary’s emails and the Sanders/DNC VoteBuilder dispute?
7:36 PM: Another commercial break? We never talked about Social Security…
7:40 PM: We’re back. Hillary Clinton was just asked if she still supports the death penalty. She says she does, with caveats. (Boooo… it should be abolished.) Sanders explains why he’s for abolition: “In a world of so much violence and killing, I just don’t believe that government itself should be part of the killing.”
7:43 PM: Rachel Maddow asks Clinton and Sanders about the Flint water crisis. Clinton says she would go in immediately over state objections to address the emergency. She says she’s going to Flint next week to get a briefing.
7:45 PM: Sanders says he doesn’t go around asking for the resignations of governors every day, but that he believes that Snyder should resign. “One wonders if this had been a white suburban community, what kind of response there would have been,” Sanders says to applause.
7:46 PM: Chuck Todd asks Clinton about her record on trade and whether Democrats can expect her to become supportive of TPP if she’s elected.
7:47 PM: Clinton notes she voted against CAFTA while a senator during the Bush error, and says that she reserved judgment on the TPP until it had been negotiated. Now that the text is final, she says she is opposed.
7:48 PM: “I believe in fair trade which works for the middle class,” Sanders says, when asked about his position on trade. “The current trade agreements were written by corporate America, for corporate America.”
7:50 PM: Chuck Todd says they’re going to fit in one more break.
7:51 PM: It’s worth pausing to note what topics have not been the focus of questions during this fifth Democratic debate. Here is a partial list:
- Education (and subissues like high-stakes testing)
- Transportation (and subissues like Amtrak funding)
- Technology (and subissues like encryption)
- Environmental protection (and subissues like fighting the climate crisis)
- Media concentration (and subissues like ownership rules)
- Women’s health (and subissues like attacks on Planned Parenthood clinics)
7:54 PM: We’re back. Chuck Todd asks Clinton what she would focus on first: gun reform, immigration reform, or addressing the climate crisis. Clinton rejects the premise of the question, saying she would work to plant the seeds of everything that our country needs to have happen.
7:58 PM: Sanders points out that we’re just not going to get much done on any issue until we do something about money in politics, overturning bad U.S. Supreme Court decisions like
Citizens Corporations United.
8:04 PM: Sanders has the line of the night: “On our worst days I think it is fair to say that we are one hundred times better than any Republican candidate.”
8:06 PM: We’re on to closing statements. Clinton is sticking to her theme of being a progressive who gets things done. Sanders is reminding everyone that the system is corrupt and broken, and we need a political revolution to change it.
8:08 PM: We’re done. What a great debate! It was engaging, it was feisty, it was fun to watch. As has already been said on Twitter, it could be said that Clinton has the polish, while Sanders has the passion. What made this debate particularly exciting and interesting was that it was just Clinton and Sanders together on stage, going at it, without overzealous moderators interrupting at every turn.