As the Democratic Debate got under way tonight in Manchester, New Hampshire, it initially seemed as if former Secretary of State and Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley might agree on more issues than not. And ABC News moderators David Muir and Martha Raddatz moved very quickly early on to address events over the last couple of days involving Sanders and Clinton — the voter data breach involving members of Sanders’ campaign staff.
Sanders, with hardly any prompting, quickly and forcefully apologized to Clinton for his staff improperly accessing voter information gathered by Clinton’s campaign as a result of a computer glitch in a database managed by the Democratic National Committee.
“I apologize,” Sanders told Clinton, asserting that the American people have more important things to worry about. “Not only do I apologize to Secretary Clinton, I want to apologize to my supporters. This is not the kind of campaign we run.”
Clinton also appeared eager to turn the page.
“We should move on because I don’t think the American people are all that interested in this,” she said, after telling Sanders, “I very much appreciate that comment.”
After the breach was discovered, the DNC punished the Sanders campaign by cutting off access to its entire voter database, including data collected by Sanders’ team. Sanders filed a federal lawsuit, and the Sanders team’s access was restored. One Sanders campaign staff member has been fired, and others are under investigation. Sanders and Clinton agreed that an independent inquiry was appropriate and they wished to move on.
Clinton didn’t waste much time going after the Republican frontrunner.
Donald Trump “has a great capacity to use bluster and bigotry to inflame people and make them think there are very easy answers to complex questions,” she said. “He is becoming ISIS’ best recruiter.”
Defeating ISIS/ISIL, stabilizing Iraq, Syria and Libya were top priorities for each candidate, as were the economy, jobs, taxes, Wall Street, big banks, education and health care. And they clashed on their strategies if not their goals.
The moderators also strived to enforce debate guidelines, not an easy task considering that each of the candidates at different times seemed to want to have the last word. O’Malley more than once interrupted or kept talking, criticizing Clinton or Sanders positions and suggesting he was the real progressive.
Clinton disappeared from the stage during a break but strolled back on with a simple “sorry” en route back to her lectern. She probably couldn’t resist having last words of her own, closing out the debate with a reference to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which just opened. “Thank you, good night, and may the force be with you.” The movie’s director J.J. Abrams and his wife together gave $1 million to Clinton’s super PAC, Priorities USA Action, in June.