By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer
CHARLESTON, S. C. – After a contentious debate between the two leading Democratic presidential candidates, Hilary Clinton emerged as a leader in the polls, pushing back an insurgent candidate from Vermont.
Clinton sparred with the Sen. Bernie Sanders, who brands himself as a Democratic Socialist. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley came in a distant third after the fourth debate in Charleston, South Carolina. The debate was moderated by NBC News’ Lester Holt and Andrea Mitchell.
According to polls released on Sunday by NBC News/Wall Street Journal, the former secretary of state received 59 percent support from Democratic primary voters, while 34 percent support the Vermont senator. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley received 2 percent support.
Before the debate, another poll two weeks before the first votes in Iowa, 79 percent of Democratic primary voters say they would support Clinton. And of those same pollers, 66 percent say they would support Sanders.
Historically, the South Carolina primary election has been more important to the Republican Party’s nomination process, used to eliminate serious contenders facing the party’s frontrunner.
Clinton challenged Sanders on his policy shifts on universal health care, one of President Barack Obama’s signature achievements. Sanders said he would also build on Obamacare and tweak it to be Medicaid for all who are eligible, instead getting rid of Obamacare.
Positing herself as someone who can do “all aspects of the job,” the second-time presidential candidate also questioned Sanders policy shift on gun control. She also labeled Sanders as a fringe candidate, saying he would be unelectable.
Sanders pushed back with poll numbers, which puts him closer to Clinton before the South Carolina debates.
“When this campaign began, she was 50 points ahead of me,” he said. “We were all of three percentage points. Guess what? In Iowa and New Hampshire, the race is very, very close.”
He also cited his close tie in a general election against Trump.
Sanders beats Trump by 54 percent to 39 percent. And Clinton polled with 51 percent to 41 percent.
The two candidates took center stage because of Sanders gains in the polls before the Iowa caucuses. They also argued on who would be best to build on Obama’s legacy on healthcare and gun control, two hot-button issues fought vigorously in the Republican-led House and Senate.
Clinton proposed to build on Obama’s legacy and Sanders said he would be the right candidate that appeals to the current sentiments of the Democratic Party.
Sanders tried to present himself as the bolder choice to build on Mr. Obama’s legacy.
Despite the impressive showing by Sanders in these polls, one thing is clear: Clinton is leading Sanders.
O’Mally got feisty in the last democratic debate before the Iowa caucus, criticizing the two leading and “tested” candidates and show his support for privacy rights.
In response to the YouTube viewer about his stance on privacy versus security.
“I believe whether it’s a backdoor or a front door that the American principle of law should still hold our federal government should have to get a warrant, whether they want to come through the backdoor or your front door,” O’Malley said.
South Carolinians are expected to vote on Feb. 27.