The Slatest

Best Lines of the NBC News Democratic Debate

The candidates assemble

REUTERS/Randall Hill

Tonight, the Democratic candidates for president gather to debate for the last time before the Iowa caucuses. Compared to their GOP counterparts, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O’Malley have been making their way through a rather drama-free primary. But tonight, despite the soul-sucking timing—a Sunday night of a holiday weekend—there might actually be some friction. The race between Clinton and Sanders is tight in Iowa and New Hampshire, and the two have finally started going after each other. Does that mean the debate—the fourth of the primary—will be full of biting attack lines, keen insights, and hilarious jokes? Who knows. But we’ll be here all night to record the best of the best, and also the stuff Martin O’Malley says.

Sanders on the stakes:

This campaign is about a political revolution to not only elect the president, but to transform this country.

O’Malley on his opponents’ gun control records:

I’ve listened to secretary Clinton and senator Sanders go back and forth on which has the most inconsistent record on gun safety legislation, and I would have to agree with both of them. They’ve both been inconsistent when it comes to this issue.

Clinton on injustice in the criminal justice system:

There needs to be a concerted effort to address the systemic racism in our criminal justice system. And that requires a very clear agenda for retraining police officers, looking at ways to end racial profiling.

O’Malley, explaining why he got into politics:

When I ran for mayor in 1999, Lester, it was not because the city was doing well. It was because we were burying over 300 young, poor black men every single year. And that’s why I ran. Because yes, black lives matter.

Clinton on the politicization of health care:

I don’t to want see us start over again with a contentious debate. I want us to defend and build on the Affordable Care Act and improve it. 

Sanders, diagnosing a broken health care system:

Do you know why we can’t do what every other major country is doing? It’s because we have a campaign finance system that is corrupt, we have Super PACs, we have the pharmaceutical industry pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into campaign contributions and lobbying…

Sanders, on how he differs from Clinton:

Well, the first difference is I don’t take money from big banks. I don’t get personal speaking fees from Goldman Sachs.

Clinton, identifying her real opponents:

I can tell you that the hedge fund billionaires who are running ads against me right now… I’m the one they don’t want. 

O’Malley on his past relationship with Wall Street:

Yeah, but I haven’t gotten a penny this year, somebody please, go on to, go on, send me your checks.

Sanders on Wall Street’s obligations:

This country and the middle class bailed out Wall Street, now it is Wall Street’s time to helm the middle class.

Sanders on the GOP frontrunner:

It is beyond my comprehension how we can elect as president of the United States somebody like Trump who believes that climate change is a hoax, invented by the Chinese. 

O’Malley on cybersecurity:

I believe whether it’s a back door or front door that the American principle of law should still hold that our federal government should have to get a warrant. 

Clinton on making America great again:

I do believe as [Sanders] said, everything that’s wrong with America has been solved somewhere in America. We just have to do more of it, and we have to reach out, especially into poor communities, and communities of color to give more people their own chance to get ahead. 

Clinton on Flint, MI

We’ve had a city in the united States of America where the population, which is poor in many ways, and majority African American, has been drinking and bathing in lead contaminated water. And the governor of that state acted as though he didn’t really care. He had requests for help that he basically stone walled. I’ll tell you what, if the kids in a rich suburb of Detroit had been drinking contaminated water and being bathed in it, there would have been action.

This post was updated throughout the debate.

Read more of Slate’s coverage of the Democratic primary.