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Last night [January 25, 2016], Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley and Hillary Clinton took to the stage to engage in a less conventional Town Hall meeting, hosted by CNN.

Venturing from the typical presidential debate format, the candidates took on more candid positions as they answered questions asked by audience members, representative of the many thoughts on the minds of voters nationwide.

In what may have proved to be their strongest appearances yet, each candidate took the floor individually as they addressed tough policies with more energy and greater insight than ever before.


Holding true to the politics and approaches they’ve established along the campaign trail, they continued to reiterate their strongest points. Here are their top three answers each during tonight’s CNN Democratic Town Hall.

Bernie Sanders: This far along into the campaign, Bernie Sanders has made clear his stance on American inequality, condemning major economic gaps between upper and middle class Americans. With a “stump speech” in tow, Senator Sanders has instilled his opposition towards “big banks,” his past judgement on major political issues, and unapologetic candor in the minds of the American voters, and his responses this evening didn’t careen from his campaign’s major strategies. “Our message has resonated much faster; much further than I thought it would–Being president is an enormously difficult job. I think I have the background I think I have the judgement to do that. I helped lead the opposition to that war.”

  1. What does Democratic socialism mean to you? “Economic rights should exists in the United States of America–There’s something wrong when we have millions of citizens trying to get by on $11,000 or $12,000 a year. We cannot continue to have a government dominated by the billionaire class and a congress that continues to work for the interest for the people on top–that’s my definition of democratic socialism.”
  2. Why do think that people would support Medicare for all? “Because the United States is the only major country today that doesn’t guarantee healthcare as a right. In America, we pay, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. I believe we should join the rest of the world—everyone should be entitled to comprehensive healthcare,” Senators sander began. “It is time for us to have the courage to take on the insurance companies and the drug companies.”
  3. Is Secretary Clinton simply better prepared for the job than you? “I’ve known Hillary Clinton for 25 years. I like [her] and respect [her]…I’ve tried not to run a negative campaign. The truth is that the most significant vote and issue regarding foreign policy was the vote on the war in Iraq. I voted against the vote in Iraq. Hillary Clinton voted for the war in Iraq. In terms of Wall Street, I fought against deregulation, unfortunately my side lost, Wall Street became deregulated. The rest is history. In terms of climate change: on day one, I said the keystone pipeline is a dumb idea, why did it take Hillary Clinton such a long time before she came into opposition?”

Martin O’Malley: Former governor of Maryland Martin O’Malley has been the candidate attempting to escape the shadow of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. While he’s not been regarded as a major threat in the Democratic election, he hasn’t given up in trying to get America to hear his hopes for the nation’s future. Always being sure to allude back to his successful policy implementations as Mayor of Baltimore and as Governor of Maryland, he’s determined to bring to light his qualifications to be a favorable pick as the Democratic elect. “Look I’m in this to win this. We have deep divisions in this country. We need a leader who can pull us together—that’s what I believe the people of Iowa are looking for. We need new leadership to do that and break through the gridlock in Washington. I’m honored to be able to offer my candidacy in the company of secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders.”

  1. How would you lessen the burden of health care costs? “We need to build upon the good things that President Obama has done with the affordable care act. What I hear from a lot of folks is that their paying more out of pocket. We need to change what it is that we actually pay for–to put wellness at the center. The biggest ‘differentiator’ for your high insurance cost is the hospital costs.”
  2. Are there any meaningful differences between your approach to the economy and Sanders’s approach? “My background isn’t a background of Democratic conversion, it’s a background of Democratic upbringing. The stronger we make our country, the more our country can give back to our children and to our selves. Economic freedom means freedom from monopoly. We have reached the point where there is such a corporate concentration that it is taking opportunity of the many.”
  3. What steps, if any, would you take on a federal level to protect  LGBT Americans? “I passed the anti gender discrimination bill in the state of Maryland. The common ground we found was about our kids. There is dignity in every child’s home and every child’s home needs to be protected under the law. I will do everything in my power to move us forward as nation and make us more inclusive—because that’s what makes us stronger as a country.”

Hillary Clinton: A clear favorite, Clinton has managed to hold a lead over Senator Sanders throughout the race, with the gap only getting smaller in recent polls. While her policies have been more varied thank er opponents, Hillary Clinton has channeled her past as a First Lady and Secretary of State to secure her legitimacy as the best candidate for the job. “I understand that you get into the arena and you’re going to get pummeled and pushed and criticized. I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t think it was absolutely necessary to build on the progress that we have made under President Obama.”

  1. How can we be sure income inequality will be a top issue for you? “I think it’s fair to say that I have a 40 year history of going after inequality. The kinds of things that go after people to put them down and push them back. When we focus on economic inequality—I was in the fight during my husband’s administration…incomes grew for everybody. More people were lifted out of poverty.We tackled income inequality and produced results.”
  2. How much of an interventionist would you be as a president? “I think it’s important that you do your very best to avoid military action—to use diplomacy even if it’s slow, boring, hard.”
  3. With Islamophobia here in the US, is America really the place I want to raise my children? “American Muslims deserve better—we cannot tolerate this. We must stand up and say that everyone in this country deserves to be treated with respect. But, there’s another element to this; they are also on the front lines of trying to protect their children from radicalization. We have to protect ourselves in a unified way, making sure that our Muslim friends and neighbors are with us. We need a coalition that includes Muslim nations to defeat ISIS.”