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


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


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.


Hillary Clinton becomes a Snapchat ghost

(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.


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.


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


Here’s some background on recent family deportations


Clinton on deportations


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.

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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.

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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.

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Is there an echo in here?


Sound off: Sanders, Clinton offer opening remarks


Reaching a more diverse electorate


Civil rights leader attacked for backing Clinton

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.


Once again, a debate draws a protest

Hundreds of reporters, photographers and videographers are awaiting the start of the sixth Democratic presidential debate at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

With that built-in audience, a few dozen people demonstrating for a higher minimum wage stopped by to publicize their cause.


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 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.


Obama: ‘When people are scared, then strange things can happen in politics’

President Obama said Thursday that both parties should be mindful of the “disquiet” Americans are now expressing through the presidential campaign, cautioning Democratic donors that “strange things can happen in politics” when the public is scared.

At the same time, Obama cautioned against overreacting to “every twist and turn” on the campaign trail.

“Look, it’s an interesting political moment, and it’s still early in the process,” he said at a party fundraiser at the Atherton, Calif., home of Steve Westly.

Though the media might “hyper-ventilate” now about the campaign, “three to four months later, nobody remembers what all the fuss was about because we get down to the real business of electing a president.”

Obama said that the nation was “indisputably, demonstrably” better off now than when he took office, but that the memories of the economic collapse in 2008 are still fresh in voters’ minds, leading them to lose trust in government and private sector institutions.

“People are deeply concerned about inequality in the sense that the system is rigged against ordinary folks ... and they’re not wrong,” he said. “Big money and unaccountable, undisclosed money is distorting our politics in ways that are going to be damaging over the long-term.”

“That disquiet, that concern is expressing itself in the Republican Party as well as the Democratic Party, and we need to listen to that, and we have to pay attention, and be mindful, because when people are scared, then strange things can happen in politics. When people are nervous and feel threatened, we can get a politics that is not about bringing people together, but is about us and them.”


In case you were wondering


John Lewis ‘never saw’ Bernie Sanders at civil rights events

At a Congressional Black Caucus news conference Thursday morning, civil rights activist Rep. John Lewis vocalized his support for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. When asked about Bernie Sanders’ involvement in the civil rights movement, Lewis said he had never seen the candidate at any events.

“I never saw him. I never met him. I’m a chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee for three years, from 1963 to 1966. I was involved in the sit-ins, the freedom rides, the March on Washington, the march from Selma to Montgomery, and directed their voter education project for six years. But I met Hillary Clinton. I met President Clinton,” Lewis said.

On Sanders’ Senate website, there are two photos of what appear to be the candidate with Lewis on the Edmund Pettus Bridge during the 50th anniversary Selma march last year.

Christine Mai-Duc will have more later.


Why the Silver State matters


Former President George W. Bush set to hit campaign trail in South Carolina

(Stefan Zaklin /European Pressphoto Agency)

Jeb Bush speaks often about his deep admiration for his brother, former President George W. Bush, and soon the two will be side-by-side on the campaign trail.

The former president is set to campaign with his brother next week in North Charleston, S.C., ahead of the state’s Feb. 20 Republican primary.

Bush, following a competitive finish in New Hampshire, sees South Carolina as a opportunity to gain some momentum in his quest for the GOP nomination.

In the past, South Carolina has been friendly to the Bushes. George W. Bush won the South Carolina primary in 2000, and former President George H.W. Bush won in 1988 and 1992.

Still, Jeb Bush faces an uphill climb in the state. Donald Trump, who won New Hampshire by 19 points, holds a double-digit lead over his competitors in South Carolina, according to several state polls.

Bush and his brother are likely to focus on issues affecting veterans — a key voting demographic in the Palmetto State’s GOP primary.

“They want a commander-in-chief that will have a steady hand and have a backbone and will support the troops, and has detailed plans on how to keep us safe as it relates to Islamic terrorism,” Jeb Bush said Wednesday on CNN. “Here in South Carolina particularly that’s an important issue.”


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.


Prominent supporters may not be helping Hillary Clinton with younger women

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.

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Hillary Clinton gets boost from Congressional Black Caucus PAC

The Congressional Black Caucus’s Political Action Committee announced its endorsement Thursday of Democrat Hillary Clinton for president.

The overwhelming support from the influential organization provides an important boost for Clinton’s effort to coalesce African American support before early voting in the next battleground states of South Carolina and Nevada.

“When the issues are important to our constituents, Hillary Clinton has been there,” said Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.)

“She’s been an outspoken person in regard to the empowerment of Democrats and the Democratic agenda in its entirety.”

“We believe she has made a difference.”

With 46 African American members in Congress, the black caucus is now the largest in history. Its PAC works to elect African Americans and others who champion black interests.

The PAC voted almost unanimously for Clinton, with two abstentions and no votes for Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

“We must have a president who understands the racial divide, not someone who has just acquired the knowledge recently, but someone who understands the racial divide and has lived in it and worked through it,” said Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), the chairman of the caucus.

“There’s no question in my mind, in our minds, that one single candidate -- one, possesses the qualifications, the experience and temperament to be the next president of the United States, and that person is none other than Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton.”

My colleagues Evan Halper and Chris Megerian took a look at the state of the Democratic race and the importance of minority voters. Here’s their report:

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John Kasich doesn’t expect to win S.C., but says campaign is gaining steam

(Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

John Kasich acknowledged that he doesn’t have much of a chance to win in South Carolina, but he insists he’s posing a growing challenge to the current GOP front-runners.

“We’re going to compete here,” Kasich said in an interview Wednesday on CNN. “We don’t expect to win here.”

But after his second-place win in New Hampshire on Tuesday, the Ohio governor has received an influx of cash and support from donors who now see him as a viable candidate in the narrowing field.

“The money is coming now,” Kasich said. Before New Hampshire, he said supporters may have liked his message, but were concerned that he was polling at only 1%. “Now, all of the sudden, they’re like, ‘How do I get a seat at the table?’”

He added, “I’d go home if I didn’t think I could compete.”

Kasich’s campaign has been less willing to attack his rivals, a stark contrast to the aggressive tactics of businessman Donald Trump, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Kasich says he will try to stay on the issues. But if a rival candidate launches attacks against him in South Carolina, he says he will fight back — as he says he learned to, growing up in a “blue-collar” Pennsylvania town.

“I’m not going to sit there and be a marshmallow, or some kind of a pincushion [and let] people just pound,” he said on CNN.


Obama on his legacy: ‘Maybe I could have done ... a little better’

He had just given an hourlong speech calling for comity in politics, and President Obama craved a few moments with a few friends who remember when he was not a polarizing figure but an effectively bipartisan one – his poker buddies from his eight years here in the Illinois Senate.

The three retired state senators, two Democrats and a Republican, were still laughing about Obama’s warmly received address to the Illinois General Assembly when he joined them for an interview Wednesday with the Los Angeles Times about the legislative gridlock in Washington and his role in it.

In a freewheeling exchange, Obama said he doesn’t think that his race explains the Republican fortress against his agenda, or that having lawmakers over for drinks or to watch football every weekend would have made a difference over the last seven years.

But he also admitted that he was partly to blame for the hyperpartisan environment by failing to reach out more to Republicans.

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Voters size up John Kasich as the battle for GOP establishment support shifts to S.C.

Gov. John Kasich of Ohio after the New Hampshire primary.
(Jim Cole / Associated Press)

Ohio Gov. John Kasich seldom stands out for debate zingers or high-decibel confrontations with his rivals. His campaign failures and triumphs rarely spark breathless media accounts.

But after spending months in diners and Elks Clubs in New Hampshire, the low-profile Midwesterner boarded a plane to South Carolina before dawn Wednesday with a chance to win the mantle as the establishment’s best hope against Donald Trump in the Republican primaries.

His strong second-place finish in New Hampshire’s primary Tuesday means donors and voters elsewhere will size him up anew, or maybe for the first time – assessing whether his message of pragmatic, upbeat conservatism will resonate in a time of voter anger, and whether his plodding electoral strategy will hold up long enough to survive a national campaign.

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