Tonight, the Democratic presidential candidates gathered in Charleston, South Carolina for the first Democratic debate of 2016, and the last one before the Iowa caucuses. Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley took the stage while NBC's Lester Holt and Andrea Mitchell moderated. The last debate was focused largely around the issue of national security, but Sunday's debate was widely varied, with the moderators pressing candidates hard for answers to their questions.
Even before the debate officially began, the talk was about healthcare. It was initially rumored that Clinton would attack Sanders on his lack of clarity regarding healthcare, and in the hours leading up to the debate Sanders officially released his health care plan. Clinton's chief strategist Joel Benenson criticized Sanders' plan for not being detailed enough, calling it "more of press release than an actual plan."
Sanders also changed his position on a gun control issue, no longer being in support of immunity for gun manufacturers, and gun control was one of the first issues of the night, with Clinton attacking Sanders for his voting record on gun control. The discussion quickly moved to #BlackLivesMatter, where Sanders called for the demilitarization of police and said "whenever anybody is killed when in police custody, it should automatically trigger a U.S. Attorney General investigation."
When the debate swung around to healthcare, Clinton maintained that she did not want to undo any of the progress made by the Affordable Care Act. Meanwhile, Sanders reiterated that he helped write the ACA, and that his universal healthcare plan would complete the work. Sanders also repeatedly emphasized that the primary problem within healthcare and other political issues was the presence of big money in the American political system, arguing that Congress should be more responsive to the needs of the American people and not corporate donors.
Regarding their approaches on Syria and ISIS, all of the Democratic candidates agreed that putting troops on the ground in the region would be unwise. Questions about technology policy and digital surveillance were answered similarly, with candidates agreeing that it was critical that privacy rights are maintained for Americans.
The situation in Flint, Michigan was not addressed by any questions, with Clinton being the first candidate to bring it up during her closing statement. Sanders used his final statement to repeat his call for Governor Rick Snyder's resignation and to reiterate his campaign finance reform goals.
Sanders also had easily the most memorable moment of the debate, reacting to Clinton saying that he called President Barack Obama "weak," and "disappointing;" you can watch that above. The Iowa caucuses will be held on February 1, 2016.