Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley gathered in Charleston, South Carolina for the NBC News-YouTube Democratic presidential candidates' debate Sunday, hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus Institute.
The NBC News politics team live-blogged the debate. You can read the highlights and analysis below:
HIGHLIGHTS: DEMOCRATIC DEBATE
The Democratic debate displayed sharp differences between the three candidates on health care, guns, foreign policy and more. What did we learn? Our top experts and analysts from around the Twittersphere weigh in.
And Bill Clinton gave his backstage post-debate take:
O'Malley: He talked about immigration where he called for a pathway to citizenship and to close "inhumane" detention facilities.
Clinton: Says Flint Michigan lead water problem is "deplorable." She said that if the contaminated water occurred in a wealthy suburb of Detroit, she wondered if Governor Rick Snyder would have done more.
"I want to be a president who takes care of the big problems," Clinton said.
Sanders: Even though this closing segment was supposed to be about the opportunity to say something you didn't get a chance to say, Sanders reverted to familiar territory. He said something has to be done about campaign finance.
"That question annoys me"
Bernie Sanders still thinks that Bill Clinton's personal transgressions are "deplorable" -- but he doesn't like being asked about it while he tries to run an "issue-oriented campaign."
"That question annoys me," he said when asked about his comment earlier this month that Bill Clinton's behavior was "totally, totally, totally" disgraceful.
"I cannot walk down the street -- and Secretary Clinton knows this -- without being told how much I have to attack Secretary Clinton," he said. "Wanna get me on the front page of the paper? I make some vicious attack. I have avoided doing that, trying to run an issue-oriented campaign."
Pressed by NBC's Andrea Mitchell on why he chose to answer the question as he did, he replied "Well, if I don't answer it, then that's another front page."
"Yes, his behavior was deplorable. Have I ever once said a word about that issue? No, I have not. I am going to debate Secretary Clinton and Governor O'Malley on the issues facing the American people, not Bill Clinton's personal behavior."
Hillary Clinton says Bill Clinton Would Serve as 'Good Will Emissary'
Will Hillary Clinton solicit advice from her former president husband?
"It will start at the kitchen table, we'll see how it goes from there," Hillary Clinton said when asked what kind of role he would potentially play in her White House.
"I'm going to have the very best advisers I possibly can…You bet I'm going to ask for his ideas, I'm going to ask for his advice," Clinton said.
She added that she would use Bill Clinton as a "good will emissary" who would travel the country soliciting the best ideas.
"I do believe, as he said, everything that's wrong with America has been solved somewhere in America. We just have to do more of it, and reach out. Especially in poor communities and communities of color to give more people their own chance to get ahead," Hillary Clinton said.
Goldman Sachs Resurfaces Again
After bringing up the speaking fees Clinton received from Goldman Sachs, Sanders brings up the Wall Street giant again, saying both Republican and Democratic presidents had treasury secretaries from the firm and he vows that would not happen in a Sanders administration.
Both Presidents George W. Bush (Henry Paulson) and Bill Clinton (Robert Rubin) had treasury secretaries from the firm.
(Sen. Cruz is under pressure for an unaccounted loan for his Senate campaign from Goldman Sachs, his wife's employer.)
Clinton on her relationship with Putin: "It's, uh, interesting."
Hillary Clinton says her relationship with Vladimir is ... "interesting."
"It's, uh, interesting," she said, prompting some laughs from the arena. "It's one, I think, of respect. We've had some very tough dealings with one another. And I know that he's someone you have to continually stand up to. Because, like many bullies, he is someone who will take as much as he can unless you do."
She didn't say whether she would offer Putin a "reset button" as she famously did for Russia's foreign minister in 2009.
"It would depend on what I got for it," she replied, saying that the U.S. worked with Russia after 2009 on issues like the START treaty and sanctions against Iran.
And Your Most Searched Candidate (So Far) Is...
Encryption Backdoor? Should The Government Demand It?
Sanders said it's not only the government you have to worry about but it's "private corporations" that also violate personal privacy. As for if the government should be able to break encryption codes, Sanders adds that public policy has not caught up with the explosion of technology and that Silicon Valley needs to help.
Clinton said she's pleased that members of the Obama administration went to Silicon Valley next week to discuss government access to encoded information.
She then said that Muslim Americans are the front line against lone wolves and terrorist attacks.
Republican Candidates Trolling Democratic Debate
Republican presidential hopefuls are getting in on the action taking place at tonight's Democratic debate.
Rand Paul is live tweeting the debate, and Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush are slamming the three candidates on stage in Charleston. The normally outspoken Donald Trump has been silent (so far).
Sanders praises "thaw" in relations with Iran, won't promise to re-open embassy
Asked whether or not he wants to re-open the U.S. embassy in Tehran in the wake of the weekend's release of US prisoners, Sanders said he advocates to "move as aggressively as we can to normalize relations with Iran."
But he added caveats about Iran's support for terrorism and the "anti-American rhetoric" heard from the nation's leaders.
"That I believe we are seeing a thaw in our relationship with Iran is a very positive step. So if your question is 'Do I want to see that relationship become more positive in the future?' Yes. Can I tell you that we should open an embassy in Tehran tomorrow? No, I don't think we should."
Clinton also offered words of warning about Iran, even as she praised the nuclear agreement.
"I think we still have to carefully watch them," she said. "We've had one good day over 36 years. And I think we need more good days before we move more rapidly towards any kind of normalization."
U.S. Ground Troops on The Ground?
Clinton said absolutely no U.S. ground forces in Syria.
She called for:
- American air power to support fighters on the ground.
- Supporting Sunni Kurdish fighters.
Clinton didn't call for a no-fly zone, something that she used to say often.
Clinton is asked if Obama should have stuck to his red line threat against Assad over his use of chemical weapons.
She didn't directly answer but just said the administration was "deeply worried about Assad's forces using chemical weapons."
Sanders said the "immediate task" is to bring all countries together to deal with ISIS, including Iran and Russia.
O'Malley: 'We Actually Believe in Science'
Bernie Sanders said he believes Americans are beginning to change their behaviors in response to climate change.
Sanders said young people especially are aware of the threat posed by rising temperatures, saying it was 65 degrees when he was in his home state of Vermont for Christmas.
Both Sanders and Martin O'Malley slammed Republicans for failing to acknowledge climate change exists. Sanders accused the GOP of being "owned by the fossil fuels industry" and not having "the courage" to listen to scientists.
"We actually believe in science," O'Malley said.
Martin O'Malley isn't getting donations from Wall Street, but he's asking for your checks.
Confronted by Hillary Clinton over the fact that he raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from Wall Street when he served as the finance chair -- and later the head -- of the Democratic Governors Association, O'Malley replied conceded that he did fundraise from big banks.
But, he added "I'm not getting them now."
"Go to MartinOMalley.com," he implored the audience, asking for donations.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Citigroup gave the DGA more than $270,000 during the 2008 election cycle, when O'Malley served as finance chair. Goldman Sachs gave at least $100,000.
Under O'Malley, the DGA broke fundraising records in 2008, hauling in a total of $23 million.
Clinton and her affiliated super PAC have raised more than $5.5 million from the finance industry, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Sanders' Health Care Tax
Sanders said Clinton knows health care well and that she "understands" that a medicare for all will "substantially lower the cost" of health care. He goes on to say that while middle class taxes would go up, health care premiums would go away.
Clinton, Sanders Spar Over Wall Street
Bernie Sanders took an indirect shot at Hillary Clinton for her relationship with Wall Street, an issue he focused on in an ad released last week.
"I don't take money from the banks; I don't take personal speaking fees from Goldman Sachs," Sanders said.
Sanders has gone on the offensive against Clinton for her ties to financial institutions, releasing a contrast ad that indirectly critiques the former New York senator.
Clinton said there is "no daylight" between her and Sanders on the principle that no bank is too big to fail and "no banker is too big to jail." She also took a swipe at Sanders for speaking out against how President Obama has dealt with Wall Street.
"I'm going to defend Dodd-Frank and I'm going to defend President Obama," she said.
O'Malley also took Clinton to task for her "cozy relationship" with the financial sector.
Wall Street Part Two
For the second time Sanders mentions Clinton's paid speeches from Wall Street institutions, this time being more specific, saying she's received more than $600k in speaking fees from Goldman Sachs in one year.
Here's a bit of fact check from Meet the Press' Lauren McCulloch: Goldman Sachs donated $434,850 to Hillary Clinton in 2008
Clinton retorts that Sanders is "the only one on this stage who voted to deregulate this financial market" in 2000. (He was the only one in Congress in 2000.)
"Did I say that?"
NBC's Lester Holt cited Bernie Sanders once saying "There wasn't a helluva big difference between the two major parties."
Sanders mused for a moment, saying "Did I say that? Okay."
The quote is from Sanders' 1997 memoir, "Outside the House," published by Verso Books.
It's now out of print and has shot up in value for used book dealers after his rise in the national spotlight.
You can read more about the book from MSNBC's Alez Seitz-Wald here.
Clinton, Sanders Cite Bipartisan Track Record
Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton rattled off a list of Republicans they have worked with when answering a question about what they would do to help bring the country together.
"I will go anywhere to meet with anyone at any time to find common ground," Clinton said. She touted her work as first lady, senator, and secretary of state, saying she has worked with the likes of Lindsey Graham and Tom Delay.
Sanders talked up his work with John McCain on veterans' issue. He said Republicans and Democrats "do not hate each other," but that money has led to gridlock in Congress.
"The real issue is that Congress is owned by big money and refuses to do what the American people want them to do," he said.
... For Young People
In response to a YouTube question from a youth who said his peers like Sen. Sanders, Clinton was asked how she'd appeal to young people. She mentioned her plan for debt-free college tuition and that she will continue to fight for women's rights, gay rights, civil rights and workers' rights.
She adds that she has "the greatest respect for Sen. Sanders and his supporters."
Do we really pay three times as much as the Brits on health care?
Bernie Sanders says so. And he's right, per our friends at Politifact.
They write: "Do the math, and total U.S. spending is about 2.7 times what they spend in the United Kingdom per person, and a bit over twice what they spend per person in France. Everything is measured in dollars, and the data are from 2013."