Democratic Presidential Contenders Throw Down in Nevada

Moderator Anderson Cooper (L) stands onstage with Democratic U.S. presidential candidates (L-R) former U.S. Senator Jim Webb, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley and former Governor of Rhode Island Lincoln Chafee at the first official Democratic candidates debate of the 2016 presidential campaign in Las Vegas, Nevada October 13 Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Five Democratic presidential candidates took the stage at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas on Tuesday night in the first of six Democratic Party debates for the 2016 presidential election. Former secretary of state and frontrunner Hillary Clinton, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee, former Virginia Senator Jim Webb and former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley debated issues ranging from income inequality to climate change.

Related: Meet the Democratic Candidates

Tuesday night's bout was moderated by CNN host Anderson Cooper, with questions from CNN reporters Juan Carlos Lopez and Dana Bash.


10:55 p.m. Candidates are asked to give final statements. Chafee says that he's had no scandals in 30 years of public service. Webb says he has always been willing to take on complicated issues and "work through them in order to have a solution." O'Malley compliments everyone on the dais for searching for real solutions instead of name-calling or speaking ill of others. Sanders says no candidate can address the crises of our country unless "millions of people begin to stand up" and Clinton says she has the vision and tenacity for actually "making the changes that will improve the lives of American people."

10:52 p.m. The candidates are asked which of their political enemies they're most proud of having made. Chafee says the coal lobby and O'Malley says the National Rifle Association. Clinton says the NRA, the health insurance and drug companies, the Iranians and the Republicans. Sanders says Wall Street and the pharmaceutical industry. Webb says the enemy soldier that threw a grenade that wounded him.

10:44 p.m. The candidates are asked about the legalization of recreational marijuana. "I suspect I would vote yes," Sanders says. "I am seeing too many lives being destroyed for non-violent offenses. We have a criminal justice system that lets CEOs on Wall Street walk away, yet we are giving jail sentences to young people who smoke marijuana." Clinton doubles down on her refusal to take a solid position on recreational marijuana, suggesting she wants to watch the progress of marijuana legalization in the states (while also noting that she is in favor of medical marijuana).

10:42 p.m. "We need to join the rest of the advanced world" in having paid family leave, Clinton says. "[The Republicans] don't mind having big government to interfere with a woman's right to choose and taking down Planned Parenthood…they're fine with big government to do that." Sanders says the U.S. is an "international embarassment" for not providing paid family leave, while O'Malley touts his record expanding family leave in Maryland.

10:36 p.m. A submitted question asks candidates about their plans to address climate change. "We did not land a man on the moon with an 'all of the above' strategy," says O'Malley, touting a plan that would expand tax credits explicitly for solar and wind energy. "We are not going to solve climate change simply with the laws here," Webb says. "I believe…and Pope Francis made this point, that this [climate change] is a moral issue," Sanders says. "Nothing is going to happen unless we are prepared to deal with campaign finance reform, becuase the fossil fuel industry is funding the Republican party, which denies climate change....We have got to be extremely agressive working with China, Russia India....the planet is at stake."

10:33 p.m. In the debate's final half hour, Cooper starts off by asking Clinton why voters should ignore her insider status as a longtime politician. "I can't think of anything more of an outsider than electing the first woman president," she says before going on to tout her long political career and record fighting in office for the issues that matter to her. "I know what it takes to get things done," she says. "We cannot ...think that a resort to old names is going to move us forward," O'Malley responds. "I would not ask anyone to vote for me based on my last name," Clinton counters. Says Sanders: "I am the only candidate running who is not a billionaire. I do not have a Super PAC."

10:24 p.m. The candidates are asked how their presidency wouldn't be like a third term of President Obama. Chafee says he would change our approach to the Middle East. O'Malley says he would follow through on the promise to address the woes of Main Street. Clinton says "being the first woman president would be quite a change," adding that she would approach the presidency with different economic plans, a different approach to the pharmaceutical industry and on other issues. Sanders focuses his answer on "the power of corporate America," saying "the only way we really transform through a political revolution when millions of people begin to come together and stand up and say our government is going to work for all of us and not just a handful of billionaires." Webb says the biggest difference between his administration and the Obama administration would be the use of executive authority.

10:20 p.m. The candidates are asked about the Patriot Act. "As long as you're getting a warrant, I believe under the 4th amendment, you should be able to do surveillance," says Chafee, who adds that he would be in favor of reforming Section 215 of the Act. Clinton says the Patriot Act was "necessary...after 9/ put in place the security we needed," but says that the Bush administration chipped away at the balance between privacy and security. When asked, Sanders says he would "shut down what exists right now" in terms of the surveillance program." Chafee is asked whether Edward Snowden is a traitor or a hero. "What Snowden did showed that the American government was acting illegally," he says. Clinton says Snowden broke the law and shouldn't be brought home without "facing the music," a sentiment echoed by O'Malley. Sanders says Snowden "played a very important role in educating the American people to the degree to which our cuivil liberties and constituional rights are beng undermined. He did break the law and I think there should be a penalty to that, but what he did in educating us should be taken into consideration." Webb says he would "leave [Snowden's] ultimate judgment to the legal system."

10:13 p.m. Over an hour into the debate, the conversation turns to immigration. "When you have 11 million undocumented people in this country, we need comprehensive immigration reform," Sanders says. Clinton says she wants immigrants to have the option to buy into affordable health care exchanges, but adds that "to go beyond that...raises so many issues and would be very difficult to administer." O'Malley echoes calls for comprehensive immigration reform and says he would expand Obamacare benefits to people awaiting naturalization. Webb also says he wants comprehensive immigration reform, and Clinton chimes in to point out that any of the Democratic candidates has a more admirable response to the question of immigration than any of the Republican candidates.

10:08 p.m. Sanders is asked about college affordability and his plan to make public college free for everyone. "Donald Trump and his billionaire friends under my policy are going to pay a hell of a lot more in taxes," Sanders says. "This is 2015. A college degree today is the equivalent of what a high school degree was 50 years ago. And what we said 50 years ago was...every kid in this country should be able to get a high school education regardless of the income of their family." He adds that he would pay for his college program via a tax on Wall Street speculation. "The hardest thing about going to college should not be paying for it," Clinton says, noting that her plan for college prices—while it wouldn't make public schools free—would significantly reduce interest rates on student loans.

10:04 p.m. Cooper asks Sanders why he voted against the bailout in 2008. Sanders says he told Hank Paulson: "Your millionaire and billionaire friends caused this problem."I would not have let the economy collapse, but it was wrong to ask the middle class to bail out Wall Street."

10 p.m. The conversation turns to Wall Street and the financial crisis. O'Malley says the country needs to reinstate the Glass–Steagall Act and Clinton references her recently-released plan to address the financial sector. "Of course we have to deal with the problem that the banks are too big to fail," she says. Sanders get predictably heated talking about the big banks, saying "fraud is a business model" on Wall Street. "If you're only looking at the big banks, you may be missing the forest for the trees," Clinton warns. "Congress does not regulate Wall Street; Wall Street regulates Congress," Sanders counters, to applause from the audience.

9:56 p.m. Sanders is asked what he would do about income inequality that Barack Obama hasn't done. Among his suggestions: Create millions of jobs, raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and make public college free. Anderson asks Clinton the same question, noting that she and Bill are "part of the 1 percent." Clinton touts her five-point economic plan and says "If you look at the Republicans versus the Democrats when it comes to economic policy, there is no comparison. The economy does better when there is a Democrat in the White House."

9:51 p.m. The conversation turns to race in America, and the candidates face a submitted question: "Do black lives matter, or do all lives matter?" "The reason those words [Black Lives Matter] matter is that the African-American community knows that every day" someone like Sandra Bland can be killed by police, Sanders responds. Clinton says Barack Obama has been a "great moral leader on these issues and has been obstructed at every turn by Republicans."

9:45 p.m. Clinton is asked about the email scandal. "I've taken responsibility for it; I did say it was a mistake," she says. "I've been as transparent as I can be....I've been asking to testify for some time, and to do it in public." She goes on to call the Benghazi committee "basically an arm of the Republican National Committee." Sanders jumps in. "Let me say something that may not be great politics....The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails." Chafee says the email scandal is a question of "American credibility." Anderson asks Clinton if she'd like to respond. She replies, "No."

9:41 p.m. The candidates are asked about the greatest national security threat. Chafee says the chaos in the Middle East, O'Malley says the spread of ISIL (ISIS) and a nuclear Iran, Clinton says the threat from the spread of nuclear material, Sanders says the global crisis of climate change, Webb says our relationship with China and cyberwarfare as well as the Middle East.

9:40 p.m. Sanders is asked about his (lack of) military record, and the fact that he was a conscientious objector during Vietnam. "When I was a young man I strongly opposed the war in Vietnam…not the young men who fought in that war," he responds. "I am not a pacifist."

9:35 p.m. Benghazi makes an appearance. "Unless you believe the United States should not send diplomats to any place that is dangerous…when we send them forth there is always the potential for danger and risk," Clinton says. O'Malley responds that we need to a better job of "having human intelligence on the ground" in dangerous situations.

9:31 p.m. Webb says the invasion of Iraq, the Arab Spring and the Iran nuclear deal are collectively responsible for destabilization in the Middle East. (Incidentally, he is the only Democratic candidate who is critical of the Iran nuclear deal.) "If you want a place where we need to be in terms of our national strategy, the greatest strategic threat we have right now is resolving our relationship with China," he says, adding that the U.S. has to crack down on Chinese cyber attacks. Turning the conversation back to Russia, Sanders says Putin is "already regretting what he did in Crimea and what he is doing in Ukraine...I think what he is trying to do now is save some face."

9:26 p.m. Sanders is asked whether he would ever use force. "Much of what I thought would happen about the destabilization [in Iraq] in fact did happen," he replies. "I do not support the United States getting involved in unilateral action." O'Malley is asked whether Clinton has been too quick to use military force. "Leading us into Iraq under false pretenses and telling us as a people that there were weapons of mass destruction there was one of the worst blunders in American history," he says, conceding that he wouldn't resort to military action as quickly if he were president.

9:24 p.m. The conversation turns in full to the Iraq War, and Chafee is asked about statements he has made disparaging Clinton's record on Iraq. "I recall debating this very issue [with Obama]," she responds. "He valued my judgment because he made me Secretary of State."

Journalists in the debate media filing center watch the five Democratic U.S. presidential candidates at the first official Democratic candidates debate of the 2016 presidential campaign in Las Vegas, Nevada October 13. Mike Blake/Reuters

9:21 p.m. The conversation turns to foreign policy, and Clinton is asked whether she underestimated Russian President Vladimir Putin. "We have to stand up to [Putin's] bullying...specifically in Syria," she responds. "I think it's important that the United States make it very clear to Putin that it's not acceptable for him to be in Syria creating more chaos...bombing on behalf of Assad." Sanders responds: "I will do everything that I can to make sure that the United States does not get involved in another quagmire like we did in Iraq." He says the U.S. should put together a coalition of Arab governments. "I do not support American ground troops in Syria," he says. "Nobody does, Senator Sanders," Clinton responds.

9:13 p.m. Sanders is asked about his record with the National Rifle Association, who currently gives him a D- voting record on gun control. "Over the years I have strongly supported instant background checks, doing away with this gunshow loophole," Sanders says. "We have to look at the fact that we lose 90 people a day to gun violence," Clinton responds. "It's time the entire country stood up against the NRA." She charges Sanders with giving "immunity" to gun manufacturers and Sanders says "all the shouting the world is not...going to keep the guns out of the hands of people" who should not have them. "It's fine to talk about all of these things…but I've actually done them," O'Malley says when asked by Cooper about his own record on gun control. "We passed comprehensive gun safety legislation [in Maryland]." The candidates go on to discuss the role played by mental health in the gun control conversation.

9:11 p.m. Webb is asked about a comment he made in 2006 that affirmative action is was "state-sponsored racism." "I have always supported affirmative action for African-Americans…because of their unique history in this country with slavery and the Jim Crow laws that followed," Webb says at the debate. He goes on to say that we are "not being true to the democratic party principle" when we create broader affirmative action laws.

9:09 p.m. O'Malley is asked about unrest in Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray in April. "One of the things that was not reported during the heartbreaking unrest in Baltimore is that arrests had actually fallen to a 38-year low [at the time of the Freddie Gray protests]" he says. "Arrests peaked in 2003, but they declined every year after that as we restored peace in our former neighborhoods."

9:03 p.m. Sanders is asked about his political affiliation. "We're going to explain what Democratic socialism is," he responds, going on to talk about income inequality and the working class and touting the policies of countries like Denmark and Norway. "Do I consider myself part of the casino capitalist process by which so few have so much and so many have so which Wall Street and greed wrecked this economy? No I don't," he says. "When I think of capitalism, I think of all the small businesses that were started because we have the freedom to do that," Clinton counters. The debate over capitalism is nothing new, but socialism as a viable alternative has never gained much traction in America. Historians disagree as to why, but for a long time there was a belief among scholars that American affluence and mobility put the kibosh on socialism.

9:00 p.m. Cooper comes out of the gate asking Clinton about her recently shifted position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, saying "Will you say anything to be president?" "Actually, I have been very consistent over the course of my entire life," Clinton responds. "But like most human beings…I do absorb new information, I do look at what's happening the world." Later, when Cooper asks whether she's a progressive or a moderate, Clinton says: "I'm a progressive, but I'm a progressive who likes to get things done....I know how to find common ground, and I know how to stand my ground."

8:57 p.m. Last but not least, Clinton introduces herself as "the granddaughter of a factory worker and the grandmother of a wonderful wonderful child." Her introduction touches on investment in clean energy, income inequality and paid family leave.

8:48 p.m. After nearly 20 minutes of CNN introduction—including a National Anthem performance from Sheryl Crow—Cooper asks the candidates to introduce themselves. Chaffee says he's the only candidate running who has been a mayor, a U.S. senator and a governor (incidentally, he also went to Andover with Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush). Webb says, "People are disgusted with the way that money has corrupted our political process" and touts his humble upbringing and experience outside of politics. O'Malley, who notes his status as a lifelong Democrat (a thinly veiled jab at Independent Sanders and former Republicans Chafee and Webb) says more than a decade of experience has taught him to be an effective leader "because I am very clear about my principles," while also nudging at topics likely to come up again later in the debate: climate change and student debt. Sanders doubles down on climate change—"The scientific community is virtually unanimous. Climate change is real, it is caused by human activity..."—and also mentions U.S. incarceration levels and the lack of funding for education.