Democrats give pitch to voters one last time at forum


Presidental candidates Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley at the Democratic debate at Sheslow Auditorium at Drake University in Des Moines on Saturday, Nov. 14.

Alex Hanson

The three Democratic candidates for president were able to pitch their ideas to Iowa voters watching from home one last time during a forum broadcast on CNN.

Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley talked about a wide range of issues while they took questions from members of the audience that gathered at Drake University in Des Moines.

Here are five takeaways from the event — just one week out from the Iowa Caucus on Feb. 1.

1) It’s still Bernie vs. Hillary on health care

The Democratic race has turned nasty during the past week as Sanders and Clinton have gone after each other over their proposals on health care.

Clinton has touted a plan to continue tweaking the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, while Sanders has said he wants to get rid of the private insurance system and transition to a “Medicare-for-all,” or a single payer system.

Clinton has argued that Sanders’ plan would scrap any successes made by Obamacare. Sanders has refuted the claim, saying it would only add to Obamacare by insuring more.

Sanders was asked two questions on his plan at the forum: Would it raise taxes and why he would implement a new plan instead of keeping Obamacare.

Sanders once again took issue with the premise, saying his plan would strengthen gains that have been made with Obamacare. He added that he thought Obamacare has done well and he appreciates the gains it has made — especially since he helped write it as a member of the U.S. Senate.

But, “I believe as a principle, everyone should be entitled to [universal health care],” Sanders said.

“Will we raise taxes? Yes we will,” Sanders said, but he argued the overall tax increase won’t matter because Americans will not be paying a private insurance premium, which will end up costing them less overall.

2) ISU student asks O’Malley question

Joi Latson, ISU sophomore in global resource systems, was able to ask O’Malley a question.

She asked specifically how O’Malley would implement policies to address racial inequality in the country.

O’Malley pointed to his tenure as governor of Maryland. Some critics, though, have said his tough-on-crime policies have contributed to problems in the state.

“I never stopped searching for the things that work,” O’Malley said. He pointed to policies that broke up gang violence, decriminalized some drug use and reforms that “police the police” in the state — which has made use following high profile police shootings of minorities that ended up being unarmed.

3) Sanders embraces ‘socialist’ label

When asked about his own embrace of the term “socialist,” Sanders had no problem defending the label and sticking up for the political ideology that has made him stand out in the Democratic race.

Sanders went on to say he defines “democratic socialism” in the United States as the idea that everyone is enabled to certain economic rights and economic security.

“There is something wrong when the rich get richer and the poor get poorer,” Sanders said.

Clinton and O’Malley have yet to launch full on attacks at Sanders for openly calling himself a socialist, but they have acknowledged that Sanders’ progressive ideology may inhibit the ability for him to get things done as president.

Either way, Sanders continues to run on the label and explained to the crowd in Des Moines why they should not fear the socialist label.

“We cannot continue to have a government dominated by the billionaire class and a Congress that continues to work for those at the top,” Sanders said. “I want to create a government that works for everyone, not just those at the top.”

4) O’Malley confident even with low poll numbers

Despite not moving much in polling throughout his entire campaign, O’Malley was still confident at the forum.

O’Malley said he was “excited” just one week out from the caucus and that polls do not matter at this point because Iowans are actually starting to make up their minds.

O’Malley also pointed to campaigning “the Iowa Caucus way,” which has included more than 120 events in the state. O’Malley will continue his campaign in Ames on Wednesday at Torrent Brewing Company, and he is planning to take part in the Presidential Caucus Series at Iowa State on caucus day.

An average of polls in Iowa from Real Clear Politics shows O’Malley with just 4.4 percent of supporters in the state. Clinton has a slight lead at 46 percent, while Sanders is at 45.6 percent.

O’Malley was also asked about The Des Moines Register’s endorsement of Clinton, which also said O’Malley may be best positioned for a cabinet position in her administration.

“I’m in this to win this,” O’Malley said, blowing off the idea that he is just in the race for a vice president spot or a cabinet position.

In a question that drew some laughs, moderator Chris Cuomo asked O’Malley who he would tell his supporters to switch allegiances to if he does not meet the 15 percent threshold as caucus sites.

“Hold strong at your caucuses,” O’Malley said.

The Iowa Caucus is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday. Sanders hosted a campaign event at Iowa State on Monday. Clinton will campaign at Iowa State on Saturday morning, and O’Malley is planning two events — one Wednesday and another on caucus day.

5) Clinton weighs in on President Obama comments

Clinton was asked off the top about comments made by President Obama in an interview released Monday by POLITICO.

Obama said while voters probably like the fresh face of Sanders in the race, he thinks Clinton’s experience in the race makes her qualified. He also said she has received some unfair scrutiny by Republicans in the race.

Clinton said she “appreciates” the comments made by Obama, who defeated her in the 2008 race for president.

“I understand you get pummeled when you get in the area [and run for president],” Clinton said. “I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t want to build on the progress made by President Obama. We need to build on it and go further.”