Locked in a tight battle to win next week’s opening nominating contest of the 2016 election, the two leading Democratic presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, will seek whatever edge they can in front of voters Monday at a town hall in Des Moines.
The two offer somewhat similar visions but contrasting strategies: Clinton, the former secretary of State, has pitched herself as a pragmatic progressive who will build on President Obama’s efforts, while Sanders, a senator from Vermont, has had unexpected success by calling for nothing less than a political revolution to fight inequality.
The town hall at Drake University, which will be moderated by CNN, was announced only last week. Unlike a typical debate, the three candidates won’t be onstage at the same time. Instead, they’ll appear separately to give a speech and answer questions from moderators and members of the audience.
The three Democratic presidential candidates did not quite debate on Monday night. Instead, in one of the last chances for voters to see them before the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1, they took separate questions from the audience of Democrats who plan to caucus. What we noticed:
Candidates stick to their scripts
The format allowed the candidates to hold mostly to their stump speeches when answering questions, with their opponents off stage, no pushback from the questioners and only a few follow-ups from moderator Chris Cuomo.
After being needled by Bernie Sanders over her 2002 vote in favor of war with Iraq, Hillary Clinton pointed to her work as secretary of State to argue that she has a far broader range of foreign policy experiences that show how she would lead if elected president.
“I have a much longer history than one vote,” Clinton said during a Democratic candidates’ town hall at Drake University here.
Among the examples Clinton cited was helping to create the coalition that imposed sanctions on Iran that eventually led to last year’s landmark nuclear deal.
Hillary Clinton said during Monday night's town hall that she has made an effort to be more transparent by releasing all of her emails from her time as secretary of State and casting her move as unprecedented. But Clinton's claim is misleading; she turned over her messages only after her use of a private email server was revealed. And several lawsuits filed by reporters would have eventually forced the release of the documents.
Hillary Clinton angrily denounced Donald Trump's call for an open-ended ban on Muslim immigration to the U.S., calling it "not only shameful and contrary to our values" but dangerous.
It's dangerous, she said Monday, because Trump's harsh language has led to threats against Muslims living in the United States and because it undermines efforts to recruit foreign allies to help fight terrorism.
"We need a coalition that includes Muslim nations to defeat ISIS," Clinton said, raising her voice, "and it's pretty hard to figure out how you're going to make a coalition with the very nations you need if you spend your time insulting their religion."
Bernie Sanders faulted Hillary Clinton on Monday for voting to authorize the Iraq war, a major liability during her 2008 run for president, and he questioned her commitment to fighting climate change, noting the long delay before she took a stand against the Keystone oil pipeline.
His language was mild, but Sanders nonetheless tried to sharpen contrasts with Clinton, recalling his own House vote in 2002 against the Iraq invasion and his argument on why the war would be unwise.
“It gives me no pleasure to tell you that much of what I feared happened,” the Vermont senator told the audience here at a CNN Democratic presidential town hall.
Martin O'Malley, the former governor of Maryland, is far less known than Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton and has not gained the kind of notice Bernie Sanders has. Check out The Times' rundown of all the presidential candidates to find out more about O'Malley.