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As Clinton and Sanders spar, Obama's name looms in Democratic debate

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Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders spar for two hours in Wisconsin, with Clinton going after Sanders on the cost of government and Sanders accusing Clinton of issuing a "low blow" for saying he has not supported President Obama.

Clinton mentions the president's name 21 times; Sanders brings up Obama nine times.

Obama's former campaign manager weighs in

Full video: Democratic debate

Presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton sparred in a debate moderated by PBS NewsHour co-anchors Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff.

It was the first time in history an all-women team moderated a presidential debate.

Who is closer to President Obama?

President Obama isn't running again, but he is still popular with Democrats -- and he thus loomed over the debate.

One of the most bitter clashes came when Hillary Clinton cited comments Bernie Sanders made hours earlier -- that Obama had failed to close the “leadership gap” to bring more people into the political system to pressure a recalcitrant Congress.

Clinton portrayed it as part of a pattern of Sanders' unfair critiques of Obama. She argued that the president had not received the credit he deserved for what he had accomplished.

“The kind of criticism that we’ve heard from Sen. Sanders about our president I expect from Republicans," she said. "I do not expect from someone running for the Democratic nomination to succeed President Obama."

Sanders called it a “low blow” and said that he and Obama are friends, but that he reserved the right to disagree with him at times.

“What I am concerned about is not disagreement on issues,” Clinton responded.

“Calling the president weak, calling him a disappointment, calling several times that he should have had a primary opponent when he ran for reelection in 2012, you know, I think that goes further than saying we have our disagreements.”

Sanders hissed in anger.

“One of us ran against Barack Obama," he said, pointing his finger at Clinton. "I was not that candidate."

Clinton and Sanders feud over who would be kinder to immigrants in the country illegally

Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders battled over who would be more friendly to immigrants in the country illegally, with both staking out positions to the left of President Obama.

In the Democratic debate on Thursday, Clinton called for the end of privately run detention centers and came out against recent immigration raids aimed at deporting young Central American asylum-seekers.

“I am against the raids, I’m against the inhumane treatment that is being visited upon families, waking them up in the middle of the night, rounding them up," said the former secretary of  State. 

Sanders also criticized Obama’s deportation policies, and the Vermont senator vowed he would use executive power to expand protections for immigrants. 

But even as they took aim at his policies, both candidates echoed Obama's frequent refrains on immigration. 

Sanders said his policy would aim to "keep families together" — something Obama, too, has called a priority.

And Clinton said she supports “deporting criminals, not hard-working immigrant families who do the best they can.”

That is almost the precise language Obama used when he issued an executive action in 2014 that offered protection from deportation to roughly 5 million immigrants in the country illegally with long-standing ties to the U.S. and no serious criminal records.

He also used similar language to explain who his administration would prioritize for deportations. 

Immigrant rights groups say Obama has deported hundreds of thousands of immigrants with no criminal records or only minor records, and say his policies have forged distrust in law enforcement by immigrant communities. 

While Clinton and Sanders presented Obama's policies as too harsh, most of their Republican counterparts say the president hasn't gone far enough. 

GOP front-runner Donald Trump shot to the top of polls last  summer after calling for a wall along the border with Mexico and pledging to mass deport all immigrants in the country illegally. Several of his opponents for the Republican nomination joined him in those calls.

At one point during the debate, Sanders referenced those proposals. "We have to stand up to the Trumps of the world who are trying to divide us," he said. 


Henry Kissinger makes surprising cameo in Democratic debate


More than 40 years after he last held government office, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger abruptly became a hot debate topic between Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Sanders started the spat by saying that unlike Clinton, he would never take advice from Kissinger, citing KIssinger's role during the Vietnam War.

"I happen to believe that Henry Kissinger was one of the most destructive secretary of States in modern history," Sanders said. "I am proud to say Henry Kissinger is not my friend. Count me as somebody who will not be listening to Henry Kissinger."

Clinton said she takes advice from many people, and noted that Kissinger had created the opening to China in the early 1970s.

She said his diplomatic efforts and ongoing relationships with the leaders of China were  "incredibly useful" for the U.S.

Sanders seized on that to say Kissinger later created conditions for China to take American jobs.

Clinton got in the last word, noting that at least she had many advisors for foreign affairs. Sanders, she said, has yet to name his.

Who is Kissinger, debate watchers of a newer generation might ask?

The bespectacled political scientist was National Security Adviser and secretary of State under President Nixon and President Ford.

I don't think he gets the credit he deserves.

Hillary Clinton, on President Obama

Clinton wants faster implementation of Syria cease-fire

Foreign policy has typically been Hillary Clinton's chance to highlight her experience compared with Bernie Sanders'.

When the former secretary of State was asked about a cease-fire agreement reached Thursday night in Syria, she got another chance.

She praised the agreement, but warned that it should be implemented as quickly as possible to prevent Russia from stalling in order to continue its bombing campaign in support of the Assad regime.

"I fear the Russians will continue their bombing, trying to do everything they can to destroy what's left of the opposition," Clinton said.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry announced late Thursday that the United States, Russia and other world powers had agreed to a nationwide "cessation of hostilities" set to start in one week in the war-torn country.

The cease-fire aims to allow humanitarian relief, but will not apply to groups designated as terrorists. That allows Russia and the U.S.-led coalition to continue airstrikes against those positions.

Our colleague Tracy Wilkinson has the story.

Hillary Clinton becomes a Snapchat ghost

 (Via Snapchat)

(Via Snapchat)

Hillary Clinton was last seen on Snapchat about two days ago — before her bruising loss in the New Hampshire primary

While Snapchat won’t make or break this election, the Pew Research Center recently found millennials are turning there for news. Of those voters between the ages of 18 and 29, 12% of Democrats polled are getting their election coverage from Snapchat, versus 5% of millennial Republicans. 

Clinton's Snapchat presence has never been overly robust, but since she is typically active on the platform, her absence ahead of Thursday night’s debate was noticeable. 

Especially given the fact that her rival, Bernie Sanders, is plenty visible. He was seen playing basketball just as the primary results started coming out on Tuesday, and his campaign showed a presence in Milwaukee on Thursday. 

His Snapchat account included scenes of Sanders backstage before the debate and local supporters.

The most active candidate ahead of the Democratic debate? Republican Gov. John Kasich of Ohio.

Clinton, Sanders (and Obama) spar over Wall Street donations

One of the most contentious areas of disagreement between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton has been the influence that major Wall Street donors have on politics.

Clinton says donors haven't changed her mind on votes; Sanders says they inevitably carry influence.

But she went further Thursday by drawing President Obama into the argument. 

Clinton suggested that when he ran for office in 2008, the super PAC backing Obama received more donations than any Democratic presidential candidate "ever."

But, she pointed out, he still signed the Dodd-Frank financial services overhaul bill into law in the wake of the Great Recession.

"When it mattered, he stood up and took on Wall Street," she said. "Let's not in any way imply here that either President Obama or myself would in any way not take on any vested interest."

Sanders was not convinced.

"Let's not insult the intelligence of the American people," he said. "Why in God's name does Wall Street make huge campaign contributions? I guess just for the fun of it." 

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles

Clinton, Sanders talk criminal justice reform at outset of debate

As the race for the Democratic presidential nomination heads to South Carolina, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have worked feverishly in recent days to shore up support among black voters. 

Both addressed the issue of mass incarceration -- which disproportionately affects black males -- during Thursday night's debate. 

"This is one of the great tragedies in our country today," said Sanders. "We can no longer continue to sweep it under the rug. It has to be dealt with."

Sanders called for ending mandatory prison sentences, diversifying police departments and halting over-policing in black communities. 

Earlier Thursday, Sanders' campaign unveiled an online video featuring Erica Garner, the daughter of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who died at the hands of New York police officers in 2014.

Clinton said work must be done to address the high incarceration rates of black men -- which in Wisconsin, the site of the debate, is about 13%, among the highest in the nation. 

"We have to restore policing that will actually protect the communities that police officers are sworn to protect," she said. 

Clinton said sentencing reform and systemic racism must be addressed. 

"When we talk about criminal justice reform and ending the era of mass incarceration, we have to talk about jobs, education, housing and other ways of helping communities," she said. 

Here's some background on recent family deportations

Clinton on deportations

Civil rights leader attacked for backing Clinton

 (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

During a news conference Thursday at which the Congressional Black Caucus endorsed Hillary Clinton, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a prominent figure in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, questioned Bernie Sanders' record.

"I never saw him. I never met him," said Lewis, who was involved in many of the major efforts of that era as head of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. "I met Hillary Clinton. I met President Clinton."

That statement led to attacks against Lewis on social media. The attacks, in turn, drew a rebuke from the Clinton campaign.

Hillary Clinton has 'no argument with anyone making up her mind about who to support'

Hillary Clinton breezily brushed back a question about her unexpected struggle to win support from female voters, particularly millennials.

"I have no argument with anyone making up her mind about who to support," Clinton said. 

"I just hope that by the end of this campaign there will be a lot more supporting me," she added.

At the same time, she declined to distance herself from comments made by a top supporter, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who warned of a “special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”

Clinton said she had spent her adult life working to ensure women are "empowered to make their own choices, even if that choice is not to vote for me."

And, with two noted women journalists, Gwen Ifil and Judy Woodruff moderating the debate, she noted that for the first time in the more than 200 presidential primary debates in U.S. history, a majority of those on stage were women.

'Especially with young people'

Hillary Clinton went off on Sen. Bernie Sanders to say that the candidates owe voters a realistic assessment of what's politically possible to achieve as president. 

She added a pointed note: "Especially with young people."

We've been examining how Clinton is losing the votes of millennials. Expect Clinton to continue using this line. 

Times cartoonist David Horsey tackled this topic today with this image. 

 (David Horsey / Los Angeles Times)

(David Horsey / Los Angeles Times)

Prominent supporters may not be helping Hillary Clinton with younger women

Gloria Steinem at the 2016 MAKERS Conference at Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes. (Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images)

Gloria Steinem at the 2016 MAKERS Conference at Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes. (Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images)

Hillary Clinton has been under tremendous scrutiny for her inability to draw support from younger women. 

Two of Clinton’s most prominent supporters may have made matters worse for her in recent days with some controversial comments about her struggles with young female voters.

First it was Gloria Steinem, saying on Bill Maher’s talk show that “When you’re young, you’re thinking ‘Where are the boys?’ The boys are with Bernie.”

Steinem apologized.

Then it was Madeleine Albright, the former secretary of State, warning of a “special place in hell for women who don’t help each other,” as she introduced Clinton at an event in New Hampshire.

Both comments provoked a backlash.

Here’s a deeper look from The Times’ Evan Halper at Clinton’s struggles with younger female voters.

Secretary Clinton, you're not in the White House yet.

Bernie Sanders, to Hillary Clinton during the Democratic debate in Milwaukee

The price tag of 'Medicare for all'?

As Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign has picked up steam, the financing for his sweeping proposal to create a single government health insurance program for all Americans has come under increasing scrutiny.

In the last few weeks, two analyses have raised serious questions about how much the plan would cost and how it would be financed.

The Sanders campaign has said the “Medicare for all” plan would cost about $1.4 trillion a year, a tab that Sanders proposes to pay for with a series of new taxes. These include a 6.2% payroll tax on employers and a 2.2% tax on households.

Sanders says despite the new taxes, most Americans would come out on top because their healthcare bills – including insurance premiums, co-pays and deductibles – would largely disappear.

And, he argues, the new government insurance plan would not require more money because it would cost substantially less than the current healthcare system.

A single government plan would have substantially lower administrative costs than the current system of hundreds of insurance payers, and it could pay substantially lower prices for medical services and prescription drugs. Similar government-run systems in other nations, including Canada and Great Britain, are indeed much less costly than the U.S. system.

But independent analyses by the Center for a Responsible Federal Budget and by Emory University health economist Kenneth Thorpe suggest that Sanders’ estimates may be overly optimistic.

Thorpe, who has supported single-payer efforts in the past, estimates that about 7 in 10 Americans with insurance would see their costs go up under Sanders' plan. While single-payer proposals can save money, Sanders has promised savings that would be impossible to achieve, Thorpe says.

The center notes that Sanders' proposed taxes would likely generate less money, in part because as taxes rise, taxpayers change their behavior to minimize their tax bills.

Sanders already has backed away from one claim of potential savings. His campaign had to reduce estimated savings on prescription drugs after a reporter from Vox.com found that his claimed savings were actually larger than the total amount the country spends on drugs.

Sanders, an author of Obamacare?

Under fire from Hillary Clinton for his proposal to replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has said repeatedly on the campaign trail that he “helped write” the law.

This is at best an exaggeration.

Sanders, an independent, did provide a crucial vote to pass the bill -- so did all the Senate Democrats, with whom he caucuses. 

Sanders did push for a provision of the law that increased funding for community health centers. But the law was primarily written in the Senate by the Finance Committee and its chairman at the time, Max Baucus of Montana, with important contributions from the Senate health committee, then chaired by Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut.

In the final push to pass the legislation, then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada pulled together pieces developed by the two committees.

Sanders, who had pushed strenuously for a more liberal alternative that would have created a single-payer system, was a junior member of the health committee and did not play a central role in these efforts.

His claims about the Affordable Care Act have drawn critical reviews from, among others, Politifact and the Washington Post’s Fact Checker.

By the numbers

How does Clinton or Trump get to 270 electoral votes? Play with our map.

Third debate scorecard: Here's who's winning each round

All things Clinton | All things Trump

Who's endorsing who? Find out which celebrities support each candidate.

Find out which Republicans support Donald Trump

Get free news and analysis in your inbox daily from our political team.

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