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tv   NBC News Special Democratic Debate  MSNBC  January 17, 2016 5:00pm-6:01pm PST

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8:00 eastern. just before the debate starts tune in on the local msnbc station a few minutes before 9:00. i will be there. lester and and yachlt if it is sunday, it is "meet the press." ♪ >> i am ready to play and win for you. >> let's have the courage to take on the billionaire class. >> we must build an american economy that works for all of us. >> i believe we should break up the large banks. hillary clinton does not. >> senator sanders has been a pretty reliable vote for the gun lobby. >> to say i'm kind of a supporter of the nra is a mean-spirited, inaccurate statement. >> senator sanders voted to give immunity to gun dealers. secretary clinton changes her position on this every election year. >> my view is we shouldn't rip up obamacare and start over.
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>> she is attacking me because i support universal health care. >> i think america is great and it's up to us to make sure we make it greater. >> i believe we're going to make history one more time. ♪ >> good evening from lovely, charleston, south carolina. i'm chuck todd. the stage is set behind me here inside the gillarder center for tonight's big democratic debate. this will be the final showdown between the top democrats before the two big primary states kick off with the iowa caucuses in two weeks from tomorrow and the new hampshire primary eight days after that. of course my colleagues lester holt and andrea mitchell will be the moderators for tonight's debate. as you can see, the audience is starting to arrive here in charleston. so it will be a little noisy behind us. the debate starts in just an hour and will last two hours. the candidates will arrive
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shortly. this is the fourth time the democrats have debate. hillary clinton suddenly finds herself in a neck-and-neck race with bernie sanders. while the debate on the stage starts in less than an hour, it began earlier today, on the morning shows, including mine on "meet the press" as hillary clinton and bernie sanders weighed in on some of the issues they have been fighting over. >> i always thought this was going to be close, and i can't speak for anybody else but i have worked as hard as i can to build an organization in iowa. >> i understand that secretary clinton and her campaign understand that, you know, they are losing ground. >> i am pleased that senator sanders has flip-flped on illegal immunity for gunmakers and sellers. >> there were things i did not like and i was willing to rethink. i we have rethought it. there is a bill being introduced. i like that bill. it makes good changes and we will be supportive of it. >> when with it comes to where we are right now in 2016,ly
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defend, protect and improve the affordable care act and i think it would be a mistake to thrust our country in to another contentious national debate about how we're going to provide quality affordable health care to even. >> our campaign should not be suggesting that my ideas will leave millions of people without health insurance. in fact, the opposite is true. what i want to do is to make sure every man, woman with and child in this country has health care. >> guns, health care, electability, wall street. i think those will be the four big issues tonight. i will be joined throughout this hour by eugene robinson, a south carolina native, pulitzer prize winning columnist for the "washington post" and msnbc analyst. it was interesting this morning, bernie sanders i had him on the show on "meet," every question i asked him he turned in to a comparative with hillary clinton. he seems more prepared for a debate tonight than i have seen in a long time. >> really does.
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what happened to the you guess on democratic primary. that's history. they are in a contest. the clinton campaign knows it's a contest and bernie sanders seems to have a new sort of impetus, a new pep in his step. because the polls show him so close and potentially leading in iowa and new hampshire. >> hillary clinton you feel the sense of urgency. she's feeling the sense of urgency, cue the back street driving story in the "new york times" today, the hand wringing, bill clinton is saying x and all of this stuff. for ten days they have been trying out attack lines on bernz person a bernie and trying to see what will stick tonight. >> this is a weird year. we shouldn't draw comparisons to any previous year, but one thing that seems similar is it took a while for the clintons to figure out how to go after barack obama. >> yeah. >> they did it in several wrong
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was, including here in south carolina that really backfired. you saw a bit of that in a smaller scare, much less damaging this week they way they went after bernie sanders on health care and chelsea clinton was criticized and backfired on the clinton campaign. maybe they will learn from that first misstep and figure out how to go after this guy. they have to do it. >> what is interesting an this debate, the democratic debates have been criticized because they haven't been the republican debates, they haven't had the big guy in the room -- donald trump. they have been nice affairs. this is not nice. all day long there has been gamesmanship, the hillary clinton campaign saying they want to hit sanders for not having a health care plan, his health care plan. >> would it be a health care plan. >> that throws her off. >> he did need to put it out. his health care plan is essentially medicare for all. there's the question of how do
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you pay for it. he came out with an explanation. we shall see. >> this will be a lot of substance tonight but i think back and forth substance. let's check in. kristin welker has been following the candidates and talking to the campaigns throughout the day as they get ready for the debait. she is joining me now. she's back stage for more on what we should look for tonight them last hour, we've got this issue of sanders putting out his health care plan. that has to change some strategy there for hillary clinton. >> it definitely does. the question is how? i'm told the clinton campaign officials as we speak are pouring through the details of his health care plan to determine how secretary clinton will respond tonight when she takes the stage. look, this is a big night for bernie sanders. he's under a bright new spotlight, as you've point ourt, because he's tied in the polls with secretary clinton in new hampshire and iowa. he is bracing himself for the sharpest attacks yet on health
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care and the issue of guns which you and eugene have been discussing. one of his aides telling me secretary clinton has more experience but he keeps getting better with every debait. they need this to be his best debate yet. for secretary clinton, according to her campaign officials, her strategy tonight will be convincing voters not only does she have the most experience but she would be the toughest candidate to stand up to a republican in a general election. martin o'malley, chuck, just walked behind me. a little news here. he walked out on to the main stage to get a sense of what the main stage looks and feels like. the stakes perhaps highest for him tonight. he has failed to breakthrough. he's got to do it tonight if he wants to be a part of this race. chuck? >> it's going to be fascinating. kristin welker, as you get more info, check in. and we will get it done. as the candidates ready to take the stage in less than an hour we will talk to representatives
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from each campaign and right now i have the campaign manager for bernie sanders campaign, jeff weaver. mr. weaver, welcome. i know we've got some -- we had some audio issues. i assume we have them fixed and everybody is hearing you just fine. >> i hope so. >> we'll find out. you guys put out your health care plan tonight. i'm guessing it was ready a week ago but you picked tonight for gamesmanship reasons, no. >> so we have been working with on it for sometime. but this is a complicated issue and we wanted to make sure we got it right and put together a pax tax plan that would fund it progressively. i thought tonight was appropriately and a chance for the candidates to discuss health care which has been in the news. >> let's walk through the details of it. medicare for all. >> yes. >> how do you pay for it? >> in a number of ways a 6.2% payroll tax on employers, which for ploifrs who are providing health care now is a saving of thousands and thousands of dollars. we with will put on a 2.2%
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premium on households, funded the same way, calculated like the income tax which for a family of four making 50 grand, they will pay $446 a year, no copayments, no deductibles. raise the income tax rates on upper income taxpayers, fix the estate tax and few other changes. >> as you know, a couple of times ago when bernie sanders was on the show, he seemed to say that he would only raise taxes on the middle class for one issue and that was to pay for paid leave. this is violating that pledge, no. >> what you have to appreciate and i know you do because you follow these things, the average family is going to save $5,000 in health care costs. so if you are a family of four making 50 grand and you have to pay 446 to uncle sam but save $5,000 and no copayments or deductibles it seems like a good deal. >> one of the arguments clinton campaign will say is this is a fine idea but the democratic party has spent nearly eight
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years litigating health care and doing this is another eight years of litigating health care. does the political system, can the political system handle another health care debate. >> senator sanders will be the first to toll you this will not happen tomorrow. this is where he'd like to go. universal health care has been a central tenet of the democratic party since franklin dell nor roosevelt but it would be tragic to elect a candidate who does not support that anymore. >> does this mean that the senator thinks that obamacare didn't go far enough or wasn't good enough? >> he looked on the affordable care act and supported it and on the senate committee that wrote it and strongly supported it and it is a critically important step forward to get universal health care. no doubt about that. major accomplishment but 29 million are still without insurance. many people with high payments and deductibles. we did medicaid, medicare. we have been trying to expand it
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than the afford tbl care act. >> you argue this is an evolution not a scrapping of obamacare. >> absolutely. >> it doesn't look like i builds on. >> it this is the fulfillment of the democratic vision since roosevelt. >> it doesn't build on obamacare. it does scrap it. >> i don't think that is true. it incorporates the programs in to a new comprehensive program that covers everybody. like every other major industrial country does. >> one of the things watching senator sanders in this process, it seems he hasn't been comfortable in those formats. what have you done to get him more comfortable. >> i wouldn't say that. the first debate was an opportunity to talk about to america. the second and third debate you have seen more interaction between him and the two candidates and this week more engagement than in past debates. >> you feel the sense of urgency. in a 24-hour period, senator sanders tried to answer two criticisms of the clinton
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campaign, one on the gun manufacturers and suddenly putting on a health care plan. >> and his tax plan. everybody knows to know what the top marginal rate. >> what is it. >> 10 million or more is 52%. >> what about for those 250,000 up to -- >> 500 to 2 million is 43 and 2 million to 10 million is 48. >> 52 is the top and a progressive rate that will have -- are we talking six, seven. how many categories. >> including the current tiers looking at four there and then three under each. eight tiers. >> let me play political cynic here yochl i get the democratic nomination. you and i both know how the republican party will characterize this. he wants to return to tax rates we haven't seen in 50 years. this isn't john kennedy's democratic party anymore. this is something different. >> what we have seen the is time
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to switch and middle income and working people are the beneficiaries of what goesen on in our society. >> what do you think it will take for bernie sanders to go from 40 to 45% in iowa to whatever the last five to ten points he needs and who are those voters? are they people who like him but don't think he can win? people that like him and are wondering can he pass the commander in chief test? who do you think it is? >> i think there are three groups of people, consistent democratic voters who obviously know secretary clinton much better. she is a better known commodity. independents who with we are bringing in and new democratic voters who we are bringing in. it is not just convincing people who are current democrats which we are trying to do but expanding the democratic base which is why he does well in general election matchups against republicans. >> the last 24 hours, tax and health care plan and last minute
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to make sure that hillary clinton had to cram for it, huh. >> we released six pages. i think the secretary can read six pages in thee hours. >> thank you for coming on. a short break. as you can see a lot going on here in the preshow before the debate. when we come back, i'm going to speak to the house minority leader nancy pe lowe lcy and ge her take on the debate. with creative new business incentives, the lowest taxes in decades, and university partnerships, attracting the talent and companies of tomorrow. like in utica, where a new kind of workforce is being trained. and in albany, the nanotechnology capital of the world. let us help grow your company's tomorrow, today at business.ny.gov marie callender starts her a crust made from scratch, and fills it with all white meat chicken and a rich, delicious gravy.
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center in charleston, south carolina. less than 45 minutes from the start of tonight's democratic debate. by the way, we have a pre-show goi 0 og there. you will hear that in the background. hillary clinton you will see her in the pictures. there she is getting ready for her debate and they have indicated they plan to engagen bernie sanders in a way they haven't done before. as we continue our coverage, i want to bring in the leader of the house democrats, none other than nancy pe lowcy. congressman, pe lowcy, nice to see you. are you totally in, not endorsed yet. >> i have not endorsed yet. >> is that as a party leader role or what are you waiting for? >> i'm excited about all of the
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candidates. i think all of them expand the pie of people who will be voting in the general election. every one of their supporters is important in leching a democratic president. >> have you been concerned there has been more coverage and eyeballs on the republican debates than the democratic debates? >> i had been one who with advocated for more debates. i think they have done justice to our issues and our candidates. >> if you watched any of the sunday morning shows, i think the two candidates want to debate, let them debate more, right? >> more debates to come. >> we will have conversations tonight i think about health care and guns. senator sanders released a plan. they say it expands on obamacare. the hillary clinton folks say it erases it. let me ask you, can washington handle another health care debate? >> the fact is, this has been an ongoing debate for many years. access to health care is an
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evolving subject. we always are trying to improve it. we're proud of the affordable care act. 18 million people previously uninsured, insured now. no previous existing conditions or limits. we are proud of it but no reason there couldn't be improvements. >> there were reasons why you didn't do medicare for all or public options. >> i was for public options. >> you couldn't get it done. >> we didn't get it done but that doesn't mean the conversation is over. the fact is, i think it is important for the affordable care act to get a chance to do its job and see what improvements we can make in terms of access affordability to quality of care. we are on a path. we reduced the cost, as has been said in the debates. the increase in health care been the biggest contributor to our deficit and now that has
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changed. we've taken that in a different direction. so cost was one of the big reasons why we had to do care, cost to individuals, the federal government, cost to our economy. and now that has been reversed. >> what is this, you know, election sometimes change election and sometimes continuity elections. what is this to you, big change or continuity election or in between? what do you think it will be about, i mean in the big picture? >> i mean we are amused by each over always saying this is the most important election of our time. >> i have covered it every four year you cover every two years. >> it kept getting more urgent. to me the election is not about the differences among the democrats, because they are minor compared to the big differences with the republicans, between democrats and republicans. to me, the election is about the future. that future depends on us going
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forward with an economy, a middle-class economy, middle-class economics, versus trickle down economics. republicans right now want to take us back to where they took us in 2008. when we came to a near depression in our country. it's really important for the public to understand that didn't learn a lesson then. they want to go back to tax cuts for the the wealthiest and special interests. we don't begrudge people their wealth and accomplishment but not at the exploitation and ignoring the needs of working with families for growing their paychecks. >> i'm curious watching the stock market over the last two weeks, are you having any deja vu flash backs to eight years ago? remember it was about the start of 2008 when things looked like they were going south. are you concerned about this? what do people tell you about this. >> what is different from 2008
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we have some checks on wall street, i don't paint everyone on wall street with the same brush but the fact they were with on that path and they want to take us back to that. they want to dismantle that. what will protect us from what happened in 2008. >> you are a student of american politics. you have been in so many different battles and different election years. what do you make of the country's anxiety? what do you think is the underlying reason for the anxiety. it's clear there's anxiety out there. what do you think it is? >> it is important to evaluate what happened in 2008 carefully. it was a situation where families were threatened in terms of their financial stability, their homeownership, their pensions, their jobs, the ability to send their children to school. they saw us bail out wall street, in their view, which was to bail out our economy and nobody bailed them out.
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and i think that uncertainty is what is holding in check any consumer confidence that they might have. consumer confidence is the life blood of our economy. >> right. >> if they don't feel comfortable to take -- to consume, that we will never really grow the economy to the full benefit of everyone enjoying prosperity. since the president took office, remember this, unemployment was 10% when he took office. it is now 5%. >> we have a wage issue. >> we have a wage issue. part of that would have -- we would have done better if the republicans would have went along or suggested anything to address that. but you can not address it if you are saying no to any suggestion that is made by the president of the united states. if you just say, wages will increase if we give tax breaks to the wealthiest in our country and special interests. we have to invest in education,
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research and development, invest in infrastructure in our country so we can create good-paying jobs. and when we increase the paycheck, everybody, everybody in our economy will benefit. >> i know you are officially neutral. you broke a glass ceiling in the house. >> marble ceiling. >> how important is it for the democratic party to elect the first woman president. >> it would be exciting. no question. i love all of the candidates. i appreciate martin o'malley and support his agenda, colleague of bernie sanders and love the fact he's attracting so many people to his point of view. hillary clinton is the first woman president it would send quite a -- i can say from my own experience, being speaker is different from being president but nonetheless the public awareness is different but nonetheless the response we got around the country and the world. >> something about being the first. >> being the first woman, being first woman with because we
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believe when women succeed america succeeds. >> i know you want to get to your seat and watch this debate. thank you for coming on. another quick break. when we come back we with will go to iowa because we will be joined by a representative martin o'malley's campaign and a bunch of voters who will watch the debate with us. we'll be right back. with us. we'll be right back. plaque psoriasis... ...isn't it time to let the... ...real you shine... ...through?
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welcome back to charleston, south carolina. as you can see, there's bernie sanders, the final candidate to arrive tonight. when i had bernie sanders on the show this morning he answered every question trying to talk about hillary clinton. let's go backstage to kristin well withinger. she has a representative of martin o'malley's campaign. south carolina state senator vincent shaheen. kristen? looks like we have a little audio issue. are you hearing me backstage? all right. we will wait to fix that. it's a live event. we've got a lot going on. i have eugene robinson back with me. i asked nancy pelosi whether with washington could handle another health care debate.
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she dodged. she wants to stay officially neutral there. is this an evolution on health care for democrats or a change? >> look, hillary clinton, bernie sanders, nancy pelosi have long philosophically believed in true universal health care. >> kennedy and on and on. >> richard nixon so you want to be technical. the question is politics the art of the possible. is it possible to go back given the fact the affordable care act barely passed. that was the fight of all fights. set the tone for the rest of president obama's presidency. it's difficult to imagine that congress is going to pass such a sweeping reform of health care. then again, as i said before, this is a weird year. people are sending a message. and eventually a strong message. >> i think everybody's tired -- the base of both parties is
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tired of incrementalism. the right is upset that their party doesn't fight hard enough, doesn't go all the way. >> the candidates who think big and talk big. >> i think progressives. >> they are the ones who are inspiring passion among voters. that could make a difference this year. >> all right. we have been doing live television. the good news is i can now go to kristin welker. my pal backstage has a representative of o'malley's campaign. let's see if we can do it this time. take it away. >> i hear you loud and clear, thanks, chuck. as we have been talking about, the stakes are incredibly high for martin o'malley tonight. thank you for joining me. is it too late for martin o'malley to breakthrough. >> i remember in 2008 when hillary clinton seemed to win south carolina and few weeks out that changed dramatically. people are looking for new leadership. they are looking for someone to
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lead us in to the future. and i think he has a good shot. >> what does he have to do in this debate he hasn't been able to do yet? >> i think it is critical he portray the image of who he is. he is the next generation of leadership for the democrat s in this country. we have seen the clintons and bernie sanders forever. but the question is can he connect with the public to realize that martin o'malley has what it takes to lead us to the future. >> what is your top piece of advice? >> be different. he doesn't need to engage in the petty bickering we have seen 40 years in washington, d.c. martin o'malley has done and accomplished things and tonight he needs to let the public know it. >> senator sanders released his health care plan. i know you have had a chance to look at the details. what is your reaction, if you were counseling, oh maley, what
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should his attack be? >> he shouldn't attack. >> bernie sanders plan is different than o'malley's or hillary clinton's. >> his is focused on cost savings that would allow people to expand their opportunities for health care. he is thinking outside of the box, different from what we heard from sanders for 40 plus years and hillary clinton for a while. >> on the issue of guns, as you know just yesterday senator sanders reversed himself on a piece of gun legislation to align himself more with president obama. what can we expect to hear from martin o'malley on that? >> i think martin o'malley supports common sense reforms. >> does he see that as a flip flop? >> i don't think he will attack bernie sanders tonight. i really don't. he will show the public he is consistent when perhaps the others haven't. his job is focus on his message and i think you will see that sflont should he sharpen his attacks in one breaks through? >> i think that would be the wrong approach. we have seen clinton and sanders go at it. i think people are tired of it
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and looking for something different. lord knows we need something different. >> thank you so much. chuck, back to you. >> interesting. i think we know the o'malley strategy. i think they hope the other two have a fiery night. we are partnering with this debate for you tube and you can watch it on-line on you tube and at nbc news.com and you can interact as you watch and we will be tracking your questions and comments. we will be joined by daniel seeberg of the google news lab who's bnk been looking at the issues and questions trending going in to tonight's debate. tell us what we have got. >> sure, chuck. we have been looking at the data over the weeks and days leading up to the debate and minute by minute that will be available at google.com/trends. if we look at a national map of search interest, we can see that bernie sanders is really getting the bulk of interest across the country, followed by hillary clinton. we will follow that over the course can of the debate and see how that changes.
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almost a horse race graphic and see which issues are topical and what's on the front of mind for people who want to get context and clarity as they turn to search. >> all right, daniel, we will be watching that. let me ask you this, when you see this and you see the engagement, it feels as if bernie sanders had more engagement on-line. is it just the last week or the last six months? >> so that was over the past week. you could argue he's had more search interest in general, perhaps part of that is perhaps people aren't as familiar with his policies. for example, in the past hour hours we saw 600% increase in searches around his health care policy which we know is available to folks and maybe people know more about hillary clinton. there are questions people have. we have a graphic to show you what people are asking when they turn to search. for example, with bernie sanders, they ask things like, why is bernie sanders so popular? can bernie sanders win?
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and of course how old is bernie sanders. we see that a lot with different candidates. with hillary clinton we see things like, will hillary clinton get prosecuted? questions around the benghazi hearings. and with o'malley we hear why is martin o'malley running for president, is he still running for president. folks with questions of whether he is in the race at this point. >> what you are tell ing me is there is snark on-line. we are shocked by those. >> curiosity. >> fair enough. >> daniel, seiberg, thank you very much. as we have noted, iowa will kick off the primary season with caucuses, it is 15 days from now. we will be watching the debate with some voters in iowa. they are at a debate watch party in urbandale, basically a suburb of des moines. the race is tight between hillary clinton and bernie sanders. three polls in the last week, two had hillary clinton up by
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three or less and one has sanders up by two. a lot going on tonight. 23 minutes from the debate. we'll be right back. me smile. spending the day with my niece. i don't use super poligrip for hold, because my dentures fit well. before those little pieces would get in between my dentures and my gum and it was uncomfortable. even well fitting dentures let in food particles. just a few dabs of super poligrip free is clinically proven to seal out more food particles so you're more comfortable and confident while you eat. so it's not about keeping my dentures in, it's about keeping the food particles out. try super poligrip free. (flourish spray noise) (flourish spray noise) (flourish spray noise) (flourish spray noise) the joy of real cream in 15 calories per serving. enough said. reddi-wip. (flourish spray noise) share the joy. we'll be right back. y kiss ♪ beth, i hear you calling.♪.
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less than 20 minutes before the start of the debate. we are back here in charleston waiting if they are candidates to come on stage. we heard from o'malley's campaign, sanders campaign. we are missing one, aren't we? we are joined by the senior strategist for hillary clinton's campaign.
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joel, nice to see you, sir. >> good to see you, chuck, as always. >> the campaign over the last 72 hours, wanted to see bernz person rethink his position on immunity for gun manufacturers, release his health care and tax plan. check, check, check. he released these. >> in a manner of speaking. what we have seen happen the last 24 to 48 hours is he has come under a lot of scrutiny. the election days are closer. his plans and what they have been saying come under scrutiny he's had to backtrack and there's a bit of unsteadiness here. after weeks with of saying he would never change his mind on this provision of immunity, giving gun deerls immunity he did exactly that. he came under scrutiny from secretary clinton and criticized her for the question she was raising about his health care plan and he's now, after having the same plan for 20 years, he introduced it nine times in congress, to two hours before debate he released the shell of a plan.
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what is clear is no one knows what the detail s of his plans at all. >> you don't believe he provided enough details, the tay roll tax and employer tax. >> i think they put out a press release. the last attack where he said her criticisms are wrong and he acknowledged the criticisms are right and is making adjustments. the details matter when you run for president. when you want results that will make a difference in people's lives you have to get details right. i don't want to call it slight of hand but some changes from a guy who said he's been consistent his entire life. >> in our "wall street journal" poll we asked what kind of candidate are you looking for, someone test ed with experience or somebody that will change bring. majority of democrats want someone tested and experienced. and majority of americans
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change. bernie sanders does do better than hillary clinton among democrats that want change. hillary clinton does better among those who want someone experienced and tested. there's a changed vibe out there. do you think it will grow? and do you think hillary clinton has to respond to that? >> i think when you get your national results and say a majority of people want change, you have a lot of republicans in that sample. >> 61% isn't all republican. you know that. >> no, it is independents. i think people want to build on the progress we have made. i think president obama acknowledged that in his statement of the union. secretary clinton has been saying we have to build on the progress. we have to keep doing more to get incomes rising and great good-paying jobs that will do that. we need to restore more fairness to our economy and need growth and fairness in order to get incomes up, get costs down on things like prescription drugs. that's how the american people and their families will get ahead.
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i think people want a candidate with the experience to bring changes and build on progress, someone who has what it takes to do the job. i think that's why he is doing pretty well right now. >> what do you tell those voters, maybe the last chunk of undecide voters in iowa, some of who -- they look at the sanders tax plan, clinton's tax plan and say he is going for broke. you will argue, she's going for what can get done. how do you tell -- a voter sometimes doesn't want to hear this is the most we can get done versus what we wish we could do. >> i don't think she is going for what can get done. i think she is going for things that will make a difference in people's lives. you have to get things done when you are president. you have to have a president that will do what it takes to do the job whether keeping them safe against dris terrorists or getting our economy moving up to full throttle so kids can go to college debt free and people can get incomes rising, so women
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make the same amount as men when they do the same work. that takes a president who has what it takes to do all parts of the job and get results for people. >> would you describe hillary clinton as a changed candidate. >> i think hillary clinton is a changed agent. she has been pushing he limbs her entire career. she took on the health care industry 20 years ago, long before others were. >> joel, i have to leave it. there you have debate prep to do. >> we are 15 minutes until the start of tonight's debate. we will be back with the candidates sharing the stage together. in new york state, we believe tomorrow starts today. all across the state the economy is growing, with creative new business incentives, and the lowest taxes in decades, attracting the talent and companies of tomorrow. like in the hudson valley, with world class biotech. and on long island, where great universities are creating
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it's a big night in american politics. we are less than 10 minutes from tonight's democratic debate between the three top candidates. i'm chuck todd here at the gaillard center in charleston, south carolina, where the three candidates, hillary clinton, bernie sanders, and martin o'malley are backstage, about to take their places at the podiums. clinton and sanders have been setting some of the broad themes of this debate. earlier today, they were all over the sunday morning shows, including "meet the press." the theems of change versus experience and change versus continuity. this will be their final showdown, face to face, before the iowa caucuses, which are two
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weeks from tomorrow when the first votes of the 2016 presidential race will be cast. tonight's debate, by the way, will be moderated by our own lester holt and he will be joined in the questioning by andrea mitchell. throughout the debate, includes correspondents and experts will be providing realtime analysis. so gone over for a second screen experience at nbcnews.com. right now, let's get in to the pre-debate action. we will go to andrea mitchell and kristen welker. take it away. >> i'm with the great andrea mitchell, moments before this debate. you are excited i'm sure. >> this is the opportunity and just before iowa, the last debate before iowa to see the candidates, see hillary clinton, person ber bernie sanders and martin o'malley and help the voters decide. >> i don't want to give anything about the debate away. but set the scene. we have been on the campaign
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trail. a lot of sharp attacks. >> a lot of elbows. the timing couldn't be better, as you know. they have been going at each other. the intensity of the campaign. she has been acknowledging to supporters that perhaps they underestimated him. he's got so much support. but here we are in south carolina, where she has the enthusiasm and passion, much deeper roots with the african-american voters. this could be her fire wall if heing, as current polls would suggest, and if it turns out that way, he could win iowa. he has a shot at that and certainly has a strong neighborhood connection to new hampshire being from vermont. this could be the place in south carolina that tests whether he has legs to go further. >> so much at stake for each of these candidates. andrea, just break it down for us by candidate. what are you looking for? >> we want to hear hillary clinton and see how does -- does
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she go after him? there are big foreign policy questions, as well, as we see this weekend. and for bernie sanders, this is the test of, is in the polite democratic campaign or what we have seen on the campaign trail? >> let's pause. we have secretary clinton right now, shaking some hands. and governor o'malley following her, shaking debbie wasserman schultz's hand, of course the chairwoman of the dnc. the stakes couldn't be higher as they walk out on the stage. here's senator sanders. now all three candidates walking on the stage, preparing for the pivotal debate 15 days before the iowa caucuses them last time they face off before the voters have their say. talk about the anticipation you feel being here, that we all feel. >> it's so exciting. we see them on the trail, try to shout or ask them questions. you hear the cheers from inside
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the theater. this is a chance to get in to the policies with them and talk about the things they care about and how they handle the pressure from each other. >> no one better to do that than you and lester. we are excited about that. chuck, i'll toss it back to you. >> thank you. the candidates are on stage behind me. you hear the cheers there. by the way, we went from the red ties at the republican debate last week and nothing but blue on the stage with our three candidates. another veteran political observer watching tonight, the chief correspondent of the "washington post." dan, boy, i'll tell you in the last 72 hours suddenly the democratic campaign became the republican campaign. fighting, exchanges, the debate that people are anticipating with baited breath. what a 72 hours for hillary clinton. >> it's been a real roller coaster for her. chuck, what we are looking at tonight is the opening of the closing arguments for these
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candidates. martin o'malley is on stage but all the focus is on sanders and clinton. we know she's going to be tough on him. he's changed his position on guns in the last couple of days. he's got a new plan on health care he put out just before the debate. there's a lot of substance on the table they are going to go after one another on. >> ultimately, dan, this feels like this is two candidates that have to try to convince the democratic electorate that either you want radical change or basically continuity with a little bit of change. it seems as if that's the struggle for hillary clinton. bernie sanders has had an easier time making the radical change argument. >> very true. i think the other issue is electability. she's going to push that question on him throughout, not only the debate, but the final weeks before the iowa caucuses in new hampshire, raise questions in voters' minds whether bernie sanders can actually win a general election. he's going to try to show that
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he's got a grassroots movement. we know he's got some significant following, but what he's going to try to do is say he can bring out voters in november she can't do. >> how much -- you know, it's interesting, this electability argument, you have spent a lot of time in iowa and new hampshire, i have too. elect blgt vability is not a word you hear often there. you hear it in future but not in those two contests. >> those states are somewhat immune to the kind of arguments we hear from candidates at later points in the campaign. i think in iowa and new hampshire they have a close look. really, it's a cliche but there's so much effort going in to the ground game in to identifying the last hard supporters for each candidate and making sure they get out. the question of electability in iowa will probably be less important than it is later. >> all right, dan, i will let
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you get to your seat so you can start writing and reporting. thank you very much. let's go back to kristen welker. she is backstage. we see everybody getting wired up. what are you hearing back there? do you see nervousness, jitters, smiles, what are you seeing? >> chuck, you can feel the anticipation back here. there aren't a lot of smiles. this is game time. the candidates are talking to their top aides. they are getting miked up. they are going over their last-minute thoughts and ideas before they step out on to that stage, as we have been reporting all night. this is the most pivotal debate yet. it is days before the all-important iowa caucuses, before the voters weigh in and about 24 hours after vermont senator bernie sanders changed his position on a key piece of gun legislation and two hours after the released the pay for plan of his health care plan. expect secretary clinton to draw
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sharp lines with him over those issues. also to paint him as a flip flopper. we have seen that in her language. based on your conversation, of course, with her campaign manager she he signalled that will be her line of attack as well with. martin o'malley is polling in the single digits. this is his chance to have a breakthrough moment. based on my conversation with senator sheheen he may need to draw sharp lines if he wants on the map of this competitive race. chuck? >> i'm curious here, i feel this entire predebate few hours has been all about bernie sanders, him releasing this plan and releasing a tax plan and changing his position on guns. this will be a debate about bernie sanders for better or worse unless something changes. >> what an incredible tactic. he essentially tried to knock
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the clinton campaign off of its game. is he successful? we will have to see when they take the stage. >> it will be a doozy. what will we see tonight? this is a democratic electorate that is not as antsy as the republicans. they are trying to elect a president for a third term. hillary clinton being seen more as the continuity candidate with barack obama, sort of progressive change, pragmatic change. i think she describes that herself. bernie sanders trying to tap in to the progressive idealistic movement. he has energy in new hampshire, a neighboring state of his and also in iowa. this is the final showdown between these candidates before iowa, new hampshire take place. after this, they are going to be racing to iowa. i guarantee you, it will be nothing but wall-to-wall campaigning. we're at a time where every day is a week and every week will feel like a day.
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coming up, the nbc news you tube democratic debate, moderated by our own andrea mitchell and lester holt. here they are. [ applause ] >> trumped. the gop front runner no longer an apprentice. let's play "hardball." good evening, i'm chris matthews in washington. after a summer and autumn and now a winter of dominating the polls, donald trump is gaining grudging acceptance as a very real prospect to be the republican nominee for president. it's all true and getting truer each day. on "morning joe" today the republican front-runner said he's getting treated a little differently by the party these days. >> are you starting to notice

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