Live Blog: Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders Debate in Flint

Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders Debate in
Photo: Chris Usher/CBS

Hillary Clinton has more than double the number of delegates than her chief rival, Bernie Sanders. He has an unmatched fundraising operation, one that could help him stay in the race throughout the primary season and perhaps to the convention.

Sunday’s presidential debate in Flint, Mich., is a reminder that, as Republicans engage in theatrics, Democrats aren’t entirely free of drama.

The debate is likely to put much greater focus on the water crisis in Flint than Republican candidates did in their debate from Detroit on Thursday, as well as issues like trade, gun control and Wall Street.

Follow along below for updates:

7:57 pm ET: Nancy Reagan. The debate starts with a moment of silence for Nancy Reagan, who died this morning.

8:06 pm ET: The Water Crisis. Moderator Anderson Cooper starts with the water crisis, saying that “safeguards were ignored” and “even today lead is present in water.”

Sanders repeats his call for Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, to resign. “Amen to that,” Clinton says, adding that another alternative is for him to be recalled. This is the first time that she has called for his resignation.

Cooper asks whether the federal government also bears some responsibility, and whether, as an example, the head of the EPA should be fired. Clinton tells a Flint resident that “your government at all levels has let you down.” But she says that an investigation has to be complete and those responsible have to be held accountable.

Sanders says that he would fire anyone “who knew what happened and did not act appropriately.”

Both candidates are conveying the sense of urgency, and Sanders gets applause when he says that his concern is after the media attention subsides yet major problems still remain.

“It’s raining lead in Flint,” Clinton says, referring to the lead contamination in the city’s water supply.

8:21 pm ET: Sanders’ win. News outlets are projecting that Sanders is the winner of today’s caucuses in Maine.

8:23 pm ET: Snyder’s response. Snyder tweets, “I’m taking responsibility as our value system says we should. My track record is getting things done, and I want to get this done.”

“This was never about money. This was a failure of government at all levels that could be described as a massive error of bureaucracy.”

8:28 pm ET: Trade tiff. Sanders and Clinton spar over the issue of trade and the auto bailout.

“I am very glad that Secretary Clinton has gotten religion on this issue,” Sanders notes of Clinton’s recent opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership. He points out that Clinton supported trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he said is responsible for the loss of huge numbers of jobs.

Clinton points out that Sanders was against the 2008-2009 auto bailout, a huge issue in Michigan, which votes on Tuesday. “The money was there and had to be released in order to save the American auto industry…I voted to save the auto industry. He voted against the money that saved the auto industry.”

That leads to a contentious exchange, with Sanders telling Clinton, “Your story is for voting for every disastrous trade agreement and voting for corporate America.” As she tries to respond, Sanders says, “Excuse me, I’m talking.”

Sanders insists that he supported the auto bailout, but not a bailout of Wall Street bankers. Clinton says that her opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership came after she could see what was in it, rather than opposing something she had not seen.

8:35 pm ET: The speeches. Sanders has come into this debate with a number of attack lines, including one directed at speeches that Clinton gave to Wall Street firms after she resigned as secretary of state. Clinton has yet to release transcripts of those speeches, for which she was reportedly paid more than $600,000. “You want me to release my speeches to Wall Street?” Sanders says. “Here it is. There’s nothing!”

8:47 pm ET: A break. Clinton and Sanders have talked lead contamination, the auto bailout, NAFTA, the Export-Import bank. Neither has referenced their anatomy.

8:52 pm ET: Kalamazoo shootings. The father of a shooting victim in a recent tragedy in Kalamazoo, Mich., asks the candidates what they would do to curb mass shootings — but asks that the answer not be increased mental health research or expanded background checks “which do not work.”

Clinton outlines a series of moves, but also says, “We have got to have a public discussion, because we have created a culture where people grab for guns all the time.” Sanders, too, calls for a variety of measures.

But this is an issue where Sanders has been on the defensive over his support for 2005 legislation that provided liability exclusions for gun manufacturers. He expresses concern that holding manufacturers broadly liable would eventually restrict the legal sale of guns.

Clinton’s campaign has attacked Sanders over the vote, and she says that such a move is necessary to improve gun safety and accountability.

“Essentially your position is, there should not be any guns in America,” Sanders responds. “There are people who hold that view. That is fine if you hold that.”

Clinton follows up by citing what happened in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn.

“You talk about corporate greed. The gun manufacturers sell guns to make as much money as they can,” Clinton says.

9:09 pm. Avenue Q. Don Lemon asks the candidates what racial blindspots they have (a reference to a line from “Avenue Q,” “Everyone’s a little bit racist”).

Clinton at first answers by citing her work with the Children’s Defense Fund, perhaps in response to Sanders’ reference to his arrest in the early ’60s while protesting segregated housing in Chicago. Lemon asks the question again, and she answers, “I cannot pretend to have the experience you have had and others have had.” Sanders gives essentially the same answer, but says, “When you’re white you don’t know what it’s like to live in a ghetto. You don’t know what it’s like to be poor.”

9:17 pm. The ’90s. What’s perhaps striking about this debate is how much has been focused on the ’90s. Sanders tries to tar Clinton with welfare reform, which President Bill Clinton signed in 1996, as leading to an epidemic of “extreme poverty.” Clinton says that the legislation had “a lot of provisions that unfortunately were stripped out by George W. Bush.” Welfare reform created discord in the administration: Peter Edelman, the husband of the Children’s Defense Fund’s Marian Wright Edelman, resigned over it.

Clinton also cites the improvement of median incomes among African-Americans during her husband’s term, a time of immense job growth.

“If we’re going to argue about the ’90s, let’s try to get the facts straight,” she says.

9:34 pm. Climate change. The candidates are asked about an issue that rarely gets raised at the GOP debates — climate change and, in this case, fracking.

Clinton outlines a series of areas where she opposes fracking.

“By the time we get through all of my conditions, I don’t think there will be a lot of places in America where fracking is taking place.”

Sanders seizes on her nuance. “My answer is a lot shorter,” he says. “No, I do not support fracking.”

9:44 pm. The contrast. Given the breadth of the issues posed to the candidates, it’s a wonder why the candidates have taken until now to take note.

“Compare the substance of this debate with what you saw on the Republican stage last week,” Clinton says.

Sanders is more biting. “We are going to invest a lot of money into mental health and when you watch these Republican debates, you’ll know why.”

9:53 pm. Trump and emails. Clinton is asked about Donald Trump’s vow that he will hammer her on her use of emails while secretary of state. She doesn’t address the emails directly, but says, “Trump’s bigotry, bullying and bluster are not going to wear well.” Trump also called Sanders a “communist,” to which Sanders quips, “That is one of the nice things he said about me.”

Clinton notes that she has gotten more votes than any other candidate so far, but Sanders cites polls showing he does better in a head-to-head with Trump.

10:02 pm. ET: That’s it. They came. They sparred. They tried to score points. But this debate between Clinton and Sanders could not be more different than the Republican debate last week, when questions about trade and the economy were obscured by a tone that has been compared to a wrestling arena. Clinton and Sanders went at it, but it never got personal, unless you consider Sanders’ “excuse me, I’m talking” snap a bit rude. Instead, this debate was much more substantive and informative.

Sanders scored some points in putting Clinton on the defensive over shifting policy positions, particularly from the ’90s, but he has created some social media criticism for saying, “When you’re white you don’t know what it’s like to live in a ghetto. You don’t know what it’s like to be poor.”

Clinton did well in addressing a sense of urgency in Flint — “it’s raining lead” — and did well in an emotional response to Sanders’ past support for immunity for gun manufacturers. But she should have directly addressed how she would counter Trump’s expected attack line about those damn emails.

10:16 pm ET: Top tweets. According to Twitter, Sanders led Twitter conversation with 55%. The top tweeted moments: When Sanders said he hated the word “huge”; when he said to Clinton “excuse me, I’m talking”; and when they each addressed how their faith guides them.