Facing repeated attacks on the debate stage, Bernie Sanders’ frontrunner status was clear. The Vermont Senator stayed positive and refrained from entering into divisive arguments.
Sanders faced harsh criticism from his opponents early on in the night. Pete Buttigieg suggested Sanders is “dividing people” and taking the Democratic Party “all the way to the edge.”
Sanders responded positively, saying he believed his agenda, including free healthcare and ensuring corporations are held accountable, will be unifying for the party.
Candidates on the stage were asked if they are concerned about the prospect of having a democratic socialist on the top of the ticket. Amy Klobuchar raised her hand. Earlier, Joe Biden had raised concerns that Sanders was a risk for Democrats.
Sanders made a strong electability argument, and sought to take the high ground, saying “no matter who wins this damn thing, we’re all going to stand together to beat Donald Trump.”
“I believe that the way we beat Trump is by having the largest voter turnout in the history of this country,” Sanders said. “That is appealing to working class people who have given up on the political process, because they don’t believe anybody is hearing their pain, perceiving that pain, feeling their pain, and we got to bring young people into the political process.”
At one point, Sanders was asked to respond to attacks from Hillary Clinton, but he declined to hit back at his former primary opponent. When asked about her experience working with Sanders, Amy Klobuchar said, “I like Bernie just fine,” while Biden moved in to give Sanders a hug.
Klobuchar said she and Sanders worked together on legislation, including lowering the price of pharmaceutical drugs. She noted that they got 14 Republican votes.
Sanders dismissed suggestions he would be unable to defeat Trump, noting he won 25 percent of Republicans in his state of Vermont. “There are ways that we can work with Republicans on issues where we have a common basis,” Sanders said.
On the subject of campaign finance, Sanders noted that Pete Buttigieg has more than forty billionaires contribution to his campaign. Rather than attacking opponents for their fundraising, he instead focused on his agenda for campaign finance. Sanders also noted his campaign is powered by 1.5 million hard-working Americans.
The marathon two and a half hour debate is the last before New Hampshire’s first in the nation primary on Tuesday. Bernie Sanders leads in the polls going into the contest.