LAS VEGAS (CBSNewYork/AP) — Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bernie Sanders are looking to build on their strong Democratic presidential debate performances, while three other Democratic candidates are still struggling for traction.
Clinton remained in Nevada Wednesday morning doing local media interviews. Sanders was scheduled to attend a taping of “The Ellen Degeneres Show.”
In Tuesday’s Democratic debate, Clinton contrasted her record with Sanders’ more conservative positions on gun restrictions while suggesting the Vermont senator is too liberal on other issues.
“Being the first woman president would be quite a change from the presidents we have had up until this point,” she said after the debate.
While the two clashed over U.S. involvement in the Middle East, gun control and economic policy, Sanders leapt to Clinton’s defense on the issue of her controversial email practices as secretary of state.
“The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails,” Sanders exclaimed as the crowd in Las Vegas roared with applause. A smiling Clinton reached over to shake his hand and said, “Thank you.”
Joining Clinton and Sanders on stage was a trio of low-polling candidates looking for a breakthrough moment: former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley; Jim Webb, a former Navy secretary and U.S. senator from Virginia, and Lincoln Chafee, the Republican-turned independent-turned Democrat from Rhode Island.
While the five candidates took issue with each other, they also repeatedly sounded traditional Democratic themes — such as fighting income inequality — that are sure to carry over to the general election campaign against the Republicans. And they sought to cast the GOP as a party focused on sowing division and denigrating minorities and women.
Sanders, the most searched candidate during the debate according to Google, scored major points for steering the discussion away controversy and back to the issues.
“I know that if I had attacked Hillary Clinton viciously, it would be on the front cover of every paper,” Sanders said after the debate. “That’s not what the American people want.”
O’Malley, who took Sanders to task on gun control, said the night proves the contest is more than a two-person race.
“This is the opening kickoff and for the first time tonight, people see they have a choice,” he said following the event.
None of the five candidates on stage mentioned Vice President Joe Biden, who has yet to announce whether he will launch a White House bid.
Some analysts say the vice president is waiting to see how Clinton handles her testimony before the House Benghazi Committee, scheduled for later this month.
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