The Winner Of The Democratic Debate Was By Far The Most Level-Headed Candidate

The fourth Democratic debate took place Saturday night, and presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and Martin O'Malley took the stage at the Gaillard Center in Charleston, South Carolina. This marked the last chance that candidates on the left had to address the American public before the Iowa caucus, which is set to take place Feb. 1. The event served as an important proving ground for candidates, especially given its sponsor: the Congressional Black Caucus Institute. The winner of the Democratic debate expertly touched upon issues of racial discrimination and the Black Lives Matter movement in ways that had previously gone unaddressed.

Host NBC News partnered with YouTube for the debate, a move that certainly pushed more questions about the Black Lives Matter movement and gun control front and center. YouTube stars like Franchesca Ramsey and Connor Franta greatly contributed to a debate that skewed slightly more toward social issues, including garnering the youth vote and ways to response to local law enforcement's conflict of interest when faced with issues of officer-involved shootings. Likewise, moderators Lester Holt and Andrea Mitchell were especially effective in their questioning. Mitchell, a foreign affairs correspondent, asked questions that were nuanced and informed. Throughout what proved to be a heated affair, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton appeared the most level-headed.

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The previous debate, in which Clinton narrowly beat her fellow candidates, illustrates just how close of a race it currently is between herself and Sanders. O'Malley continues to establish himself as a non-factor, essentially shooting himself in the foot with a more divisive style of rhetoric that certainly won't earn him any bonus points or cabinet consideration, no matter which candidate ultimately nabs the nomination. Likewise, his desperate pleas for more time came off as seriously unprofessional. Sanders was similarly riled up, to the point where he even talked over Mitchell at one point.

Though Clinton may have won the fourth Democratic debate, her performance was similarly problematic. She was defensive with Sanders regarding his recently unveiled health care plan, as well as on her stance on Dodd-Frank and similar economic policies. Like Sanders, she was rather loud, reaching a fever pitch during her closing statements. She spoke up for a very good reason, however. She closed with a call to action to help the people of Flint, Michigan as they face a state of emergency due to contaminated drinking water.

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Clinton began by drawing on her bona fides and evoking the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr, as did her fellow candidates. She condemned systemic racism, vowed to fight for equal pay, and passionately argued for an end to police brutality — and that was just in the first hour. While Sanders continued to hammer on subjects that he's comfortable with, including income inequality and veteran's affairs, Clinton was unafraid to face questions head-on, rather than going back to safe subjects. These points mark new territory for Clinton, and the fact that she addressed new issues, especially ones concerning minorities, is what ultimately won her the debate.