In her closing statement during the Democratic presidential primary debate Saturday evening, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “and may the force be with you,” referencing the new “Star Wars” film. That force appeared to be with her throughout the debate where moments of levity intercepted the sometimes heated exchanges.
Not only did Clinton close out the debate with a bang, she had several strong ovations from the crowd at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, where the first primary will be held in February. Even so, the Iowa caucus’ six weeks was on everybody’s mind.
When CNN moderator David Muir asked Clinton “Should corporate America love Hillary Clinton?” She answered without hesitation, “Everybody should.” This drew a loud round of laughter and cheers from the audience.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, attempting to counter the response, said that corporate America “ain’t going to like me and Wall Street is going to like me even less.”
Into this final debate, there was nothing new from the candidates that included former Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland. He tried valiantly to stoke his bid for the White House with facts about how effective a mayor and governor he had been.
His charge that Trump was a “fascist” was well-received, and perhaps his best line.
But the contest was basically between Clinton and Sanders, though Clinton tended to keep her eyes further down the road to a showdown with Donald Trump. She invoked his name on several occasions, much in the same way he repeatedly mentioned her during the Republicans’ fifth and final debate last week.
Trump she declared, “Is becoming ISIS’s best recruiter,” with his inflammatory remarks about banning Muslims from entering the country. “They are going to people showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists.” Again, she drew sustained applause from the audience.
A very animated Sanders, often frantically waving his arms hammered away at Clinton on her vote for the war in Iraq, her Wall Street connection, and her position on Obamacare, emphasizing his push for a single-payer insurance. However, he apologized for the recent data breach that got his campaign in hot water with the Democratic National Convention.
In a manner similar to Sanders’ dismissal of Clinton’s email debacle in the previous debate, she played past the glitch, insisting there were other more substantive issues to discuss.
Paramount among the critical issues for them was terrorism, both at home and abroad. Clinton was clearly the most hawkish with the call for a no-fly zone and regime change in Syria. Sanders challenged her on this point, suggesting that Clinton had been a proponent of regime change in Libya and elsewhere without understanding “the unintended consequences.”
Throughout the debate Sanders centered his remarks on domestic affairs, particularly the economy, taxes, and free tuition for college students. Clinton questioned most of these plans, demanding how her opponent would pay for these measures. “By taxing the rich,” Sanders exclaimed.
O’Malley wedged his way back into the game while breaking up an apparent dispute between Clinton and Sanders. He sought to interject the fact that he was the younger of the candidates—Clinton is 68 and Sanders is 74. O’Malley is 52 and hardly a spring chicken. No matter, the stratagem backfired and he was hooted on by the audience.
Sanders may not have had as strong a closing statement as Clinton’s, but he received a nice response when he observed that the three of them were much more worthy than any of the Republican candidates.
And with that he gathered what remained of the event’s force, which was not like the Republican farce.