After dominating the first Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton in Des Moines, Iowa on Saturday night found herself under almost constant attack from her two main rivals, as Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley repeatedly criticized her on a variety of issues.
The debate began amid the echoes of the terrorist attacks in Paris, as Sanders and O’Malley took Clinton to task over her foreign policy stances as President Obama’s Secretary of State, and her vote in favor of the Iraq War during the Bush Administration.
“I would argue that the disastrous invasion of Iraq, something that I strongly opposed, has unraveled the region completely and led to the rise of al-Qaeda and to ISIS,” said Sanders.
O’Malley meanwhile took aim at the foreign policy landscape under the Obama Administration, a direct attack on Clinton’s time as Secretary of State.
“Libya is now a mess. Syria is a mess. Iraq is a mess. Afghanistan is a mess,” the former Maryland Governor said.
During the debate, Clinton defended her foreign policy choices, and again backed the idea of accepting up to 65,000 refugees from Syria.
“The administration originally said 10. I said we should go to 65, but only if we have as careful a screening and vetting process as we can imagine, whatever resources it takes because I do not want us to, in any way, inadvertently allow people who wish us harm to come into our country,” Clinton said.
Clinton also tangled with Bernie Sanders over the extent of contributions from Wall Street firms to her campaign.
Clinton also needled Sanders at one point over his plan to make college free for Americans, in order to avoid the burden of student loan debt.
“I disagree with free college for everybody,” Clinton said, winding up a verbal haymaker at Sanders. “I don’t think taxpayers should be paying to send Donald Trump’s kids to college.”
There may have been one pothole that Republicans will remind her about – where she said, “I come from the sixties – a long time ago.”
It only lasts four seconds, but it isn’t hard to imagine this as a campaign advertisement for someone like Republican Marco Rubio – and his aides were already tweeting out references to it on Sunday.
“The ad writes itself,” said GOP strategist Kristen Andersen on Twitter.
As for the bottom line from the second Democratic debate, while Clinton took a lot of punches, it seemed like she is still the favorite.
A CBS poll taken after the debate found debate watchers thought Clinton had prevailed over her two rivals.
51 percent of those surveyed declared Clinton the winner, 28 percent for Sanders, and only 7 percent for O’Malley.