(CNN) — “Thank you, good night and may the force be with you,” is how Hillary Clinton wrapped up her closing statement in Saturday night’s Democratic debate.
Clinton, confident enough to wink at the new “Star Wars” movie, played up the differences between Democrats and Republicans, arguing that gains in gay rights, voting rights, funding for Planned Parenthood and more would be reversed if the GOP took the White House.
“This is a watershed election. I know how important it is that we have a Democrat succeed President Obama in the White House,” Clinton said at the ABC debate in New Hampshire.
Martin O’Malley, meanwhile, focused on his argument for generational change atop the Democratic Party, casting himself as a clean break from a divisive era of politics.
And Bernie Sanders told the story of his mother’s dream — moving out of their 3.5-room rent-controlled apartment in Brooklyn, New York, and into a home her family owned — as he focused on income inequality.
“This great country and our government belong to all of us, not just a handful of billionaires,” Sanders said.
Hillary Clinton, speaking at the third Democratic debate, defended her role in ousting Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi — a point Republican presidential rivals have hammered her on in recent months.
“I am not giving up on Libya and no one should,” Clinton said on Saturday night, later adding that she’s “not saying Libya is as far along as Tunisia.”
She has taken heat from Republicans for a comment about Obamacare.
Clinton characterized rising premiums and deductibles on the health insurance plans offered under President Barack Obama’s signature health care law as “glitches” in a law still being implemented — and actively undercut by Republican governors — which drew quick fire from her GOP opponents during the ABC debate in New Hampshire.
Clinton is being criticized for claiming that “finally we are where we need to be” in the fight against ISIS.
Her comment came as she touted her calls to arm moderate opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad — which Obama resisted during Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state.
Clinton hit Bernie Sanders for proposing a universal tax hike to foot the bill for his paid family-leave program — and Sanders shot back that “$1.61 (a week) is a pretty good investment.”
Clinton, at the Democratic presidential debate in New Hampshire, was criticizing Sanders for backing a proposal to impose a 0.2% payroll tax — deducted from checks much like Social Security and Medicare — to cover his plan.
She also made a firm commitment not to raise taxes on the middle class.
“That is off the table as far as I am concerned. That is a pledge that I am making,” Clinton said in the ABC debate.
She said that she’d cover the cost of paid family leave with higher taxes only on the wealthy.
Sanders, though, responded that his plan is backed broadly by Senate Democrats. And he said Clinton’s criticism of payroll taxes is out of step with Democratic giants such as President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who oversaw the creation of Social Security, and Lyndon B. Johnson, who shepherded Medicare into law.
“What the legislation is is $1.61 a week. Now you can say that’s a tax on the middle class. It will provide three months of paid family and medical leave,” Sanders said, arguing it was well worth it.
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders sparred over the future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad — and regime change more broadly — during Saturday night’s Democratic presidential debate.
Sanders said Clinton is “too much into regime change and too aggressive without knowing what the consequences may be.”
Clinton swung back in the ABC debate, saying that Sanders had voted for regime change in Libya. She said that she had advocated a process to pursue the political ouster of Assad, saying it should operate on the same track as the U.S. fight against ISIS.
She also warned against any policy that would allow Iran to increase its role in Syria, equating such a move to “asking the arsonist to come and pour more gas on the fire.”
But Sanders stated, “We have got to get our foreign policy and our priorities right. It is not Assad who is attacking the United States — it is ISIS.”
All three Democrats had sharp words for Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump in Saturday night’s debate.
“He is becoming ISIS’ best recruiter,” Hillary Clinton said, pointing to the billionaire businessman’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States.
“He thinks low wages are a good idea,” Bernie Sanders said, directing his remarks at attendees of Trump rallies.
And former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said that the United States “must never surrender our American values to racists, must never surrender them to the fascist pleas of billionaires with big mouths.”
The candidates once again struck different tones on gun rights — with Clinton saying more citizens purchasing firearms wouldn’t help matters and Sanders focusing on a search for “consensus” on gun regulations.
“Guns in and of themselves, in my opinion, will not make Americans safer. We lose 33,000 a year already to gun violence. Arming more people — to do what? — is not the appropriate response to terrorism,” Clinton said.
Sanders, though, pointed to his state — Vermont — and said more than half of its residents own guns.
“I’m not going to say that everybody’s in agreement — it’s a divided country on guns. But there is a broad consensus on gun safety regulation,” Sanders said, calling for background checks for potential gun owners and the closure of loopholes that allow easier purchases at gun shows.
O’Malley took a big swing at both candidates, saying that, “Secretary Clinton changes her position on this every election year, it seems.”
“What we need on this issue is not more polls. We need more principle,” O’Malley said.
The other candidates hit back — with Sanders interjecting, “Whoa, whoa, whoa.”
“We can do all the great speeches we want, but you ain’t gonna succeed” without broad-based support, Sanders said.
Bernie Sanders, at the start of the third Democratic debate, apologized to Hillary Clinton for his staff’s exploitation of a Democratic National Committee computer vendor’s glitch to access her campaign’s proprietary voter files.
“This is not the type of campaign that we run, and if I find anybody else involved in this, they will also be fired,” the Vermont senator said in response to Saturday evening’s first question from ABC.
Sanders did take several shots at Clinton before apologizing, however, saying that “I am not convinced that information from our campaign may not have ended up in her campaign.”
“Don’t know that,” he added, while touting an agreement for an independent investigation.
He also complained of “many press releases from the Clinton campaign of late.”
Clinton, though, ignored those shots and dismissed the issue.
“Now that, I think, you know, we’ve resolved your data, we’ve agreed on an independent inquiry, we should move on, because I don’t think the American people are all that interested in this — I think they’re more interested in what we have to say about all of the issues facing us,” the former secretary of state said.
After addressing the data issue, the candidates quickly pivoted to terrorism, and issue they also each touched on in their opening statements.
Clinton took a shot at Republican contenders, saying that “despite all their tough talk about terrorism, (they) continue to let people who are on the no-fly list buy guns.”
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley touted his recent visit to a Northern Virginia mosque and took a swing at Republican candidate Donald Trump, saying that the country must “must never surrender them to the fascist pleas of billionaires with big mouths.”
Sanders said he’s running for president because he wants a new foreign policy — “one that does not get us involved in perpetual warfare in the quagmire of the Middle East.”
But it was the data imbroglio that shaped the political environment in the hours leading up to the debate.
The encounter comes with Clinton in a dominant position after she survived House Republicans’ inquiries into her private email use during a hearing on the Benghazi attacks and Vice President Joe Biden’s decision not to make a late entry in the race. Sanders is fading from his summer high, struggling to broaden his appeal in a campaign increasingly focused on foreign policy, and O’Malley has failed to break out of the low single digits.
The timing seems unlikely to help Sanders, whose campaign is irked that the DNC slated it for a Saturday night, when viewership is lower than the weeknight bouts that have drawn massive audiences to the Republican debates.
Clinton, a 2-to-1 front-runner in most national polls, has largely avoided punching down at Sanders throughout the campaign, rarely mentioning him at campaign events and taking carefully calibrated swings at him on issues like gun control.
But the data breach left Clinton with a decision: give Sanders a pass, as he did with her use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state, or tear into the Vermont senator over it during the debate, which takes place in New Hampshire and will air nationally on ABC.
Sanders’ campaign seized on a glitch in a DNC-housed program to access Hillary Clinton’s proprietary data on early-state voters this week. In response, the DNC locked Sanders out of all voter data, including information gathered by his own campaign. So Sanders retaliated with a lawsuit seeking $600,000 per day. The two sides announced a settlement in the wee hours of Saturday morning, with Sanders’ access restored.
Clinton’s campaign sent signals Friday that the daggers are out.
Campaign manager Robby Mook called Sanders’ team’s actions “incredibly disappointing” on a call with reporters, playing up the significance of what Sanders’ campaign had accessed.
“This was a very egregious breach and our data was stolen. This was not an inadvertent glimpse into our data,” Mook said.
Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon similarly lashed into Sanders on CNN, saying the senator’s campaign acted “like kids in a candy store and “went hog wild” downloading data.
Clinton’s campaign on Saturday also attempted to drum up focus on the data breach story by publishing an open letter to the Sanders campaign that directs four questions at the senator.
Jennifer Palmieri, Clinton’s communication director, says that while the data breach has been “disturbing to our campaign and the volunteers who worked hard to build a strong organization,” it has also been “a distraction from the issues that the American people care about.”
Palmieri then went on to ask why the campaign said they didn’t store any data, despite logs showing that they may have, and why the campaign claimed the breach “was an accident” when the Sanders aides “conducted 25 targeted searches” within the Clinton data.