Democratic Presidential Debate: 5 Moments That Mattered

PHOTO: Sen. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton argue a point during a Democratic presidential primary debate at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Feb. 11, 2016, in Milwaukee.PlayMorry Gash/AP Photo
WATCH Sixth Democratic Presidential Debate In A Minute

In the final Democratic debate before the Nevada caucuses, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders faced off at a pivotal moment in the race for the Democratic nomination.

After a sweeping loss in the New Hampshire primary earlier this week, the former Secretary of State aimed to stop the bleeding. Meanwhile, Sanders needed to generate more momentum and support from non-white voters as he heads to more moderate, diverse states.

The Democratic presidential candidates turn to Nevada next Saturday, where each candidate needs to take a stand.

Here are five moments that mattered from the Democratic debate:

1. Whose Line Is It Anyway?

Over and over Bernie Sanders hammers home his one message: The economy is rigged and money corrupts politics. And tonight, Clinton stole it from him.

"There aren't enough good paying jobs, especially for young people. And yes, the economy is rigged in favor of those at the top,” she said during her opening remarks, echoing the Vermont Senator almost word-for-word from his stump speech.

Clinton also dropped the “R” word during her concession speech in New Hampshire on Tuesday.

While imitation is the biggest form of flattery, it might also be the biggest sign that the once-presumed Democratic frontrunner is scrambling to find a new message.

2. History on the Stage

Hillary Clinton was asked tonight about the 55 percent of female voters supporting Bernie Sanders over the former Secretary of State in New Hampshire and what women are "missing" about her. She answered that she has "spent my entire adult life working toward making sure that women are empowered to make their own choices, even if that choice is not to vote for me."

She then took the opportunity to note some history on the stage:

"I would note just for an historic aside, somebody told me earlier today we've had like 200 presidential primary debates. And this is the first time there have been a majority of women on the stage," she said referring to herself and moderators PBS's Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff. "So you know, we'll take our progress wherever we can find it."

Woodruff quipped: "Senator Sanders, you're in the minority but we still want to hear from you."

The Vermont Senator -- who would be the first Jewish president -- noted, "I think a Sanders victory would be of some historical accomplishment as well."

3. Sanders Takes On Race Relations

Bernie Sanders made two unequivocal statements on race tonight. First, this -- “We are looking at institutional racism,” the Vermont Senator declared, citing incarceration rates, youth unemployment, and systemic poverty along racial lines.

Sanders, who desperately needs to close the gap and improve his name recognition with African American and other minority voters as he race for the party’s nomination moves beyond Iowa and New Hampshire, then went further.

Asked point blank if race relations would be better under a Sanders administration, he did not hesitate, “Yes.”

“What we will do is say instead of giving tax breaks to billionaires, we are going to create millions of jobs for low income kids so they're not hanging out on street corners. We're going to make sure that those kids stay in school or are able to get a college education,” he continued.

4. Bernie’s Fight Over Fundraising

It’s no surprise that Sanders brought up “a corrupt campaign finance system” where “extraordinarily wealthy people make very large contributions to super PACs.“

After he implied Clinton’s super PAC does not allow her to remain independent from corporations who donate large sums of money to her campaign, Clinton said, “We are mixing apples and oranges. My 750,000 donors have contributed more than a million and a half donations. I'm very proud.”

Clinton then reminisced about how President Obama was able to stand up to Wall Street even though “he was the recipient of the largest number of Wall Street donations of anybody running on the democratic side ever.” That did not settle well with Sanders.

“Let's not insult the intelligence of the American people,” Sanders said. “People aren't dumb. Why in god's name does Wall Street make huge campaign contributions? I guess just for the fun of it.”

5. Kissing Off Kissinger

After criticizing Clinton’s Iraq War vote, Sanders turned to attacking Clinton’s relationship with Henry Kissinger, whom Sanders called “one of the most destructive secretaries of state.”

“In her book and in this last debate, she talked about getting the approval or the support or the mentoring of Henry Kissinger,” Sanders said. “...I'm proud to say that Henry Kissinger is not my friend. I will not take advice from Henry Kissinger.”

“Well, I know journalists have asked who you do listen to on foreign policy and we have yet to know who that is,” Clinton pointed out.

“Well, it ain't Henry Kissinger, that's for sure,” Sanders fired back.