In their final debate before the Iowa caucuses, the gloves came off between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
Shouting over each other at times, the Democratic presidential candidates engaged in some of their toughest exchanges of the campaign, underscoring the narrowing race in the first-to-vote states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
Clinton sought an advantage over the Vermont senator on curbing gun violence.
Sanders, meanwhile, twice assailed the former secretary of state for accepting big money in speaking fees from Wall Street, drawing some boos as he did so.
Healthcare emerged as a major dividing line. Just two hours before the debate, Sanders released a proposal that would create a “Medicare for all” system funded by higher taxes on middle- class families and the wealthy.
Clinton warned reopening the health care debate would put incumbent president Barack Obama’s health care law at risk.
Trailing in preference polls, former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley tried to enter the conversation with mixed results.
Questioning her commitment to policing excess on Wall Street, Sanders twice invoked Clinton’s receipt of lucrative speaking fees after leaving her post as secretary of state in early 2013.
“You’ve received $600,000 in speaking fees from Goldman Sachs in one year,” Sanders said pointedly.
Clinton tried to turn the argument back on Sanders, suggesting his criticism of financial regulations was a knock on Obama’s receipt of donations from Wall Street during his two presidential campaigns.
She also pointed out that Sanders once called Obama “disappointing” during the president’s first term and suggested the senator wanted someone to run against Obama as he sought re-election in the 2012 primaries.
“Your profusion of comments about your feelings towards President Obama are a little strange given what you said about him in 2011,” said Clinton.
Clinton and Sanders also exchanged barbs over gun control. Clinton charged Sanders with reversing his position on a 2005 bill that granted gun manufactures immunity from lawsuits.
She listed a series of provisions that she said the senator had supported in line with the National Rifle Association.
Sanders said Clinton was being “very disingenuous” and pointed to his lifetime NRA rating of “D-minus”.
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