In their final matchup preceding next Monday’s showdown for delegates in Iowa, likely caucus-goers and fellow primary voters in impending states tuned in to hear from Democratic contenders Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley one last time. Hosted by Chris Cuomo of CNN, the open-style town hall allowed for numerous interactions with audience members who questioned the candidates on a wide variety of issues beside those posed by Cuomo. In order of appearance, Sanders was steadfast and energized in his efforts to champion “the revolution”; O’Malley was ever-hopeful in his time on stage, positioned between the poles’ major front runners; and Clinton was poised and prepared in her efforts to establish herself as the candidate that is most capable of leading once Obama leaves office. Senator Sanders’ Call for the Revolution A clear takeaway from last night’s town hall was Senator Sanders’ intentions to drive home the foundations of his rallying cry, which is the end of income inequality in America and his combative stance against America’s reprieves towards Wall Street. Sanders detailed plans to realize these changes with calls for major reform to our campaign finance system and America’s tax structure. Similar to his sentiments in previous debates, Sanders once again impugned Wall Street and its behavior as a complicit force in the continuing downfall of America’s middle class. Challenges for Wall Street to pay its fair share and bail out the middle class as an act of reciprocity to America’s taxpayer-led bailout of 2008 permeated the Senator’s speaking points.

His bold call for change reverberated throughout the meeting several times in response to questions about healthcare, Planned Parenthood, and even Flint, Michigan. All roads led back to economic reform: Sanders’ response to a challenge on his intentions to expand Medicare for All invoked an open critique of America’s pharmaceutical industry for reigning in $45 billion in profits, while charging the highest prices for prescription drugs in the world. Likewise, he responded to pushback on his support of Planned Parenthood by acknowledging his “100% pro-choice voting record” and announcing plans to expand funding to Planned Parenthood, which he also called a “fantastic organization.” Finally, he responded to the ecological calamity in Flint, Michigan by pivoting to highlight our diminished access to opportunities as a collective in America, which of course includes access to clean water for those affected by the crisis in Flint, Michigan. Governor O’Malley’s Attempt to Stay Alive in this Race Cuomo reminded O’Malley of a key rule in next Monday’s caucus, which requires each group of supporters at every caucus site to receive at least 15% of the gathered support in order to be a part of the vote that will determine Iowa’s allocation of delegates. Cuomo also pointed to the former governor’s low standing in current polls. Luckily, in this town hall, O’Malley had plenty of time to plead his case to voters, thus imploring them to “raise the bar” and shake the proverbial apple cart by voting to support his nomination. Governor O’Malley shined the brightest during replies that recalled some of his better known accomplishments during his time in Maryland. In one instance, he cited past efforts in Baltimore to counter a young lady’s claims that he might not be capable of handling reactions like the one we saw in Ferguson, Missouri (at 3:47 mark): Some noticed that O’Malley skimmed over the question’s main critique:

On a different topic of discussion, O’Malley’s intentions to “heal [America’s] wounds and divisions” was most clear during his reply to Brian Carson, a concerned student who requested clarity on his intentions to expand LGBT equality at the federal level. In response, the former governor stated, “We’ve yet to arrive at a perfect union, but every generation we have the opportunity to make it a more perfect union. In my own state we were one of the very first to pass, at the ballot, marriage equality. I also passed the transgender anti-discrimination law in the state of Maryland as well…One of the most powerful beliefs we share is our belief in the dignity of every person,…and I will do everything in my power to move us forward as a nation and make us more inclusive in every possible way I can.” Later, he lost a bit of luster when asked to name the issue that millennials should be most concerned with moving forward. It seemed to take him by surprise as he responded by stating that climate change is most important for our consideration, thus bypassing the mounting racial tensions that currently exist in America, the state of our economy, and even foreign policy as an answer. It should be noted, however, that given the makeup of caucus goers in Iowa, his message will likely resonate well among young voters in the Hawkeye State. Secretary Clinton’s Steadfast Demeanor Clinton hammered home her point about preparedness and her ability to lead by relaying her messages with a confident demeanor. Up front, the former Secretary of State embraced President Obama’s positive sentiments about her, as he sang her praises in an interview with Politico’s Glenn Thrush just hours earlier. Many pundits, including last night’s host, suggest that Obama basically intimated informal support for her campaign, which is huge just one week before Clinton is set to face the same set of voters that picked him over her during the 2008 campaign cycle.

Secretary Clinton continued her mission to remind America of her leadership through past actions by retelling the story of how she handled the Iranian Nuclear Crisis. Upon Clinton’s discovery of Iran’s nuclear weapons race, she lobbied our global allies and other nations to support her non-interventionist strategy as the best way to dismantle Iran’s ability to produce a nuclear bomb. She later decried Islamophobia in last night’s town hall by claiming, “American Muslims deserve better… We need a coalition that includes Muslim nations to defeat ISIS; it’s pretty hard if you spend your time insulting their religion.” Her overall message faltered a bit, however, when she addressed distrust amongst millennials. She basically dismissed the notion with a not-so-expertly crafted response that painted millennials as a naïve bunch.

And, of course, this would not be a traditionally-heightened political season without challenges to Clinton’s ability to lead by detractors. In regard to the gaffe in Benghazi and email-gate 2015, she responded, as expected, by stating that both were largely partisan issues—even noting times in America’s past when members of both parties rallied behind President Reagan and President Bill Clinton in contrast to the rancor that such events evoke today. Common Ground Even with their vast differences, the candidates found common ground as each one positioned him or herself as the rightful heir to President Obama’s legacy. They also united in their separate attacks on the Republican crop of contenders, and they all held to their beliefs-in-self as the one candidate that is most capable of uniting a very divided Congress. The town hall can be watched in its entirety
here. Surprisingly, Twitter Fingers Donald Trump has yet to reply to any of the snubs.