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New Hampshire Democratic Debate: Clinton, Sanders Go Head-to-Head

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are locked in a tight race for the Democratic presidential nomination. They met one-on-one Thursday night in the MSNBC Democratic Candidates Debate in Durham, New Hampshire.

For full coverage of the race for the White House, go to Decision 2016.

HIGHLIGHTS: DEMOCRATIC DEBATE

Moderate Views Helped Kasich Nab Second

Ohio Gov. John Kasich's moderate views and positive message helped him stitch together enough votes to emerge as the second place finisher Tuesday in New Hampshire's Republican primary.

Kasich said he wanted to avoid the negative tone of his opponents, and that approach seems to have paid off, according to the NBC News Exit Poll. While Donald Trump tended to win most voter groups, Kasich did better than the rest of the fieldamong Republicans who are dissatisfied but not necessarily angry with Washington (21 percent); among Republicans who are somewhat rather than very worried about the economy (27 percent); and among GOP voters who are somewhat rather than very worried about a terrorist attack (24 percent).

Kasich was able to close the deal among one in five voters (21 percent) who made up their minds in the last few days and those who value political experience over outsider status (28 percent).

On the issues, Kasich did better than everyone except Trump among voters who rate the economy as their most important concern (24 percent); among those who oppose a ban on Muslims traveling to the U.S. (27 percent); and among Republicans who support giving undocumented immigrants the opportunity to apply for legal status (23 percent).

Kasich also did well among self-described moderates (28 percent), voters who have a post-graduate degree (22 percent) and voters who don't own a gun (21 percent).

Sharp Differences on Display at Debate: What We Learned

Sharp Differences on Display at Debate: What We Learned

Thursday's Democratic presidential debate on MSNBC offered the clearest, rawest and most specific examination of two fundamentally different philosophies about the character and future of the Democratic Party voters have seen yet.

Not only was it the first one-on-one debate between front-runner Hillary Clinton and insurgent Bernie Sanders, but it came at time when the candidates are finally ready to hash out the core questions of what it means to be a Democrat.

Seven years of control of the White House has built up fundamental divisions within about who the party should represent and what it should do.

Clinton represents one view, calling for continuity and pragmatism, while Sanders represents the polar opposite, with his outspoken calls for "revolution."

Guided by moderators Chuck Todd and Rachel Maddow, the candidates articulated the most cogent representations of both arguments so far this campaign. Read more at MSNBC.com

Anna Brand

And Here are the Closing Statements...

And Here are the Closing Statements...

Clinton said that the question she's been hearing a lot recently is "do you vote with your heart or your head?"

"I'm asking you to bring both your heart and your head Tuesday," she said, looking ahead to the New Hampshire primary. She brought up LGBT, racism and sexism as issues that weren't discussed during the night that the U.S. needs to stand up to -- and "diminish" from our society.

"I have been moved by my heart," she said, "...I will bring that heart with me, but I will also tell you we have to get our heads together to come up with the best answers to solve problem ... for now and into the future."

Clinton: We need heads, hearts voting on Tuesday 1:19

Sanders began by talking about his dad coming to the U.S. from Poland without money and unable to speak English. It would be "beyond his wildest dreams to see his son up here running for president," Sanders said. "I love this country, my dad loved this country."

"But today in America, we're the only major country on Earth that doesn't guarantee health care, paid family medical leave," Sanders said, also bringing up childhood poverty and the families who can't afford to send their kids to college.

"I'm running for president because I feel it is too late for establishment politics and economics," he said. "I believe we need a political revolution."

Sanders: We need a political revolution 1:17

ANALYSIS: Where does that leave us?

As they have in previous debates, both candidates were strong. Things got heated at times, but both candidates were respectful and substantive.

Sanders was his usual self: He has a very clear, straightforward message that resonates on a values level. It's absolutely genuine and he's committed to it, and he delivers it well. Despite demands for more specificity, he doesn't let himself get bogged down in the details, and that works for him. As I type this, he's giving a very strong, values-driven response on why he opposes TPP and other trade deals that he thinks don't do enough to protect US workers.

Clinton came out very aggressive, maybe too aggressive. It was clear she wanted to shake things up because she's trailing badly in New Hampshire. Tonight there was much less of the cautious, general election strategy that we've seen from her in the past, including at times in debates.

As the night went on, she settled down and, especially on foreign policy, gave her usual authoritative, in-command performance.

Asked by Chuck Todd what she'd focus on first as president, she seemed to light up at the thought of rolling her sleeves up and governing, though she declined to specify top priority. She was in her element. She found chances to emphasize similarities with Sanders and to reach out to his supporters, as when she said he'd be her first call about which direction to go in after winning the nomination). She brought up racism and sexism as evils that we need to fight in addition to economic inequality, drawing an implicit contrast with Sanders, who has put less stress on those issues.

She even got to show a bit of charm a few times, as when, asked whether she wanted to say more about counting disputes from the Iowa caucus she answered simply "no."

I doubt this will change the race much. Sanders still looks likely to win New Hampshire, but Clinton of course remains the clear favorite to win the nomination. What tonight did confirm, once again, is the enormous distance between our two parties. The very issues discussed tonight -- inequality, health care, global warming, the death penalty, the Flint water crisis -- have mostly been afterthoughts in the GOP race. That's the real contrast.

No VP Promise, But a Handshake

Ahead of the candidates' closing statements, Chuck Todd asked Clinton whether she would consider asking Sanders to be her running-mate should she win the Democratic nomination. Clinton said she doesn't want to get ahead of herself, but added that if does win, Sanders will be her first call.

Sanders returned the kudos. "Sometimes in these campaigns things get out of hand. I respect the secretary, I hope it's mutual." Sanders added that "on our worst days, we are 100 times better than any Republican candidate."

"That's true!" Clinton responded, and the two candidates, who have run increasingly heated campaigns, shook hands.

Anna Brand

Sanders: Let Me Be Very Clear

Sanders: Let Me Be Very Clear

"No nominee of mine if I am elected president to the United States Supreme Court unless he or she is loud and clear and says they will vote to overturn Citizens United."

Crash course:

How 'Citizens United' is hurting democracy

The consequences of 'Citizens United'

'Citizens United' fallout 'more dangerous' than expected

Clinton, Sanders Condemn Flint Crisis Response

Both Clinton and Sanders fiercely condemned the state of Michigan's response to the water crisis in Flint, where residents, including small children, have been exposed to lead in their drinking water. While national attention has now been shed on the community's plight, Rachel Maddow noted that there has been no door-to-door delivery of water nor any replacement of lead pipes in the city.

Clinton said if she were president she would enable the federal government to intervene. "This is an emergency," she said, adding that Michigan officials should pay for the necessary fixes to the water system and be held accountable for the crisis.

Sanders called the water crisis "outrageous" and called on Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to step down. "That there hasn't been a dramatic response is beyond comprehension," he said.

"One wonders if this had been a white suburban community what kind of response there might have been," Sanders added.

Clinton, Sanders: Fed gov't must act in Flint 3:56
Anna Brand

On Death Penalty, Sanders Says Government Shouldn't Be Part of Killing

On Death Penalty, Sanders Says Government Shouldn't Be Part of Killing

Asked about her position on the death penalty, Sec. Clinton said that for "particularly heinous crimes, I do believe it is an appropriate punishment."

But, she said "I deeply disagree with the way that too many states are implementing it."

Sanders, while agreeing that there are barbaric acts that occur in this world, said he does not believe government should be part of the killing, to cheers in the audience.

"When somebody commits any of these terrible crimes that we've seen, we lock them up and throw away the key," Sanders said.

Clinton is '100 Percent Confident' Nothing Will Come of Email Investigation

Hillary Clinton sounded a confident note when Chuck Todd pressed her on the ongoing FBI investigation into her use of private email while serving as secretary of state.

"I have absolutely no concerns about it whatsoever," Clinton said, adding that she is "100 percent confident" that the investigation will not turn up anything that could torpedo her campaign.

Sanders, who has focused more intensely on the email issue in recent weeks, declined to take a jab Thursday. "There is a process underway, and I will not politicize it," he said.

Clinton: 'Before it was emails, it was Benghazi' 3:26

ANALYSIS: Sanders' pitch on electability falls short

Explaining why he thinks he's the more electable candidate, Sanders said: "Democrats win when there is a large voter turnout...Republicans win when people are demoralized and you have a small voter turnout."

That's undeniable. But it's not a very sophisticated theory of how you win a general election campaign. It's easy to say you're going to inspire lots of young people and working people so it doesn't matter that you're going to lose swing voters. And it's true that elections these days depend much more on mobilizing your base than they used to.

But I was hoping for something more from Sanders in response to the question. Something that gave the sense he had actually sat down and thought this through, and had an idea of how he'd modify his message on specific issues. How he'd talk about campaign finance reform, economic inequality, regulating the banks, when he's addressing swing voters. I didn't hear that.

However, he did just have a great moment when he said he'd continue to avoid attacking her over her emails, despite constant requests to do so.

Anna Brand

Clinton: 'I've Been Vetted...'

Clinton: 'I've Been Vetted...'

"I've been vetted -- there is barely anything you don't know about me," Clinton said, making the case for why she's the person prepared to take on Republicans.

"I think I am the person who can do all aspects of the job -- and take the case to Republicans," she said. "At the end of the day, it's not so much electability, it's who the American people believe can keep them safe..."

Sanders on Iowa Caucus Results: 'Let's Not Blow This Out of Proportion'

Asked whether he accepts the results of Monday's Iowa caucuses, in which Clinton eked out a narrow win, Sanders downplayed the situation. "This is not like a winner-take-all thing," he said, noting how each candidate received about the same number of delegates.

Iowa's largest newspaper, The Des Moines Register, called for an audit of the results, which were the closest in the state's history.

Clinton said she would be open to participating in an audit if the Iowa Democratic Party wants to take another look at the election results.

Sanders: I love the caucus process in Iowa 1:21
Anna Brand

Rachel Maddow: 'Sen. Sanders, in 1964...'

Rachel Maddow: 'Sen. Sanders, in 1964...'

Sanders: Ohhhhh word :shakes head:

Anna Brand

What Would You Do With the VA?

What Would You Do With the VA?

Asked by Rachel Maddow how the candidates would argue a Republican opponent who wants to privatize or even abolish parts of the department of veterans affairs, Clinton began by saying she is "absolutely against privatizing" it.

"I am going to do everything I can to build on the reforms to fix what's wrong with the VA," she said, listing wait times, and other services that have to be fixed "because our veterans deserve nothing but the best."

Clinton then railed against the Koch brothers for trying to "convince Americans we should longer have specialized care for our veterans."

"I would fight that as long as I can. Let's fix the VA but we will never let it be privatized and that is a promise."

Sanders agreed with Clinton that the Koch brothers -- among others -- are destroyers. The senator also slammed Republicans for talking a "good game" about veterans, "but when it came to put money on the line they were not there."

In Case You Missed It ...

Clinton, Sanders Spar on Foreign Policy

Sanders and Clinton jousted over the United States' relationship with Iran, which recently struck an agreement with world powers to curb its nuclear program.

The two candidates tried to jab each other on their approach to dealing with Iran and other adversaries of the U.S.

Sanders said Clinton disagreed with then-Sen. Barack Obama in the 2008 campaign about whether to meet with America's enemies. "I think those are exactly the people we should talk to," Sanders said.

"Let me correct the record, as I certainly recall the question was to meet with without conditions," Clinton responded. "And you're right, I was against that then, I would be against that now."

In the end, both Sanders and Clinton support the landmark Iran deal, which is fiercely opposed by Republicans in Congress and on the presidential campaign trail.

Sanders: US can't be the 'policeman of the world' 2:39

The Debate Turns to National Security

As the debate turned to national security and the fight against ISIS, Bernie Sanders hit Hillary Clinton over her vote for the Iraq War.

Clinton quickly rebutted the comment, saying, "A vote in 2002 is not a plan to defeat ISIS." She said the focus must now be on how to defeat terrorism as it currently exists.

Could this be a new line we hear on the campaign trail from Clinton?

Clinton won't send US combat troops to Iraq, Syria 2:28
Anna Brand

Experience vs. Judgment

Experience vs. Judgment

Sanders said that he "fully, fully concedes" that Sec. Clinton has more experience in foreign affairs. However, he said, "experience is not the only point. Judgment is."

Clinton shot back that she has both. When it comes to judgment, she said she was chosen by President Obama to be secretary of state and at the table during pivotal moments that shifted the country's foreign policy.

And, she said, "I know from my own experience that you got to be ready on day one. There's just too much unpredictable threat and danger in the world today to say I'll get to that when I can."

Clinton reminded voters, "You are voting both for a president, and a commander-in-chief."

Tony Dokoupil

Sanders Sums Up GOP Opposition to Climate Change in One Word: Money

Sanders Sums Up GOP Opposition to Climate Change in One Word: Money

Early on in Thursday's Democratic presidential debate on MSNBC, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders explained Republican opposition to action on climate change in a single word: money.

All the top GOP candidates are skeptical about man made climate change, or at least skeptical of the claim that it is a serious, multi-level threat to the planet. Their skepticism is dangerous and misplaced, according to scientists. But nonetheless they are pursuing it as a political pose this election season.

By contrast, Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have pledged to continue and even deepen President Obama's historic efforts to cut emissions and cool the planet. Sanders explained this split by invoking the campaign donations of the Koch brothers and other industrialists, many of whom believe that addressing climate change would torpedo the economy.

He also called out the alleged anti-science, counter-programming efforts of ExxonMobil and other major energy companies, some of which now face inquiries into what they actively mislead the public and their investors about the risks of greenhouse gas emissions.

"Do you think there's a reason why not on Republican" presidential candidate will take a position against climate change, Sanders asked rhetorically, trying to slap down Clinton's claim that donations don't change her political positions. "Do you think that has anything to do with the Koch brothers?...That's what goes on in America."

Clinton Defends Accepting Wall St. Speaking Fees

Clinton sought to explain why she accepted huge speaking fees from Wall Street firms after she stepped down as secretary of state. "They wanted me to talk about the world," Clinton said.

Clinton said she warned Wall Street about their "risky shenanigans with mortgages" ahead of the 2008 financial collapse. She added that negative ads against her from investors and super PACs prove that they are worried about her cracking down on the financial sector.

"I will be the person who prevents them from ever wrecking the economy again.

Sanders, meanwhile, used the moment to rail against the big banks and the executives who lead them.. "These guys are so powerful that not one of those executives on Wall Street have been charged with anything" after paying billion-dollar fines to the Justice Department related to the financial crisis.

Clinton Accuses Sanders of "Attacks by Insinuation"

Sanders: Money in politics ruins democracy 2:51