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Democrats Face Off In First Debate Of 2016 Presidential Campaign

Five candidates — including Hillary Clinton — squared off in a debate sponsored by CNN and Facebook. BuzzFeed News reporters Ruby Cramer, Evan McMorris-Santoro, and Adrian Carrasquillo were on location in Las Vegas.

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Updated on

Here's what's happening:

  • The first Democratic debate of the 2016 presidential campaign featured Hillary Clinton, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb.
  • It was a critical contest for Clinton, and she put on a dominant performance amid questions about her use of a personal email account for government business while she was secretary of state.
  • Moderator Anderson Cooper was also a strong presence, challenging the candidates and keeping them on time.

Updates

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Question: What enemy have you made?

—Chafee: The coal lobby—O'Malley: NRA—Clinton: NRA, health insurance companies, drug companies, the Iranians, the Republicans—Sanders: Wall Street and the pharmaceutical industry—Webb: An enemy soldier who threw a grenade at him and injured him

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Also!

There was a magical wizard at the #DemDebate http://t.co/xgCOEQ2IHr

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And now, the weed question. Should it be legalized?

Sanders, who said he smoked pot twice, said he would legalize it. "We have a criminal justice system that lets CEOs of Wall Street off and yet we are ... giving jail sentences to young people who are smoking marijuana. We need to rethink our criminal justice system."

Clinton, who says she hasn't smoked pot, when asked if she's ready to take a position: "No." "I do support the use of medical marijuana," she said, adding, "I think we're just at the beginning."

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Answers on Edward Snowden, the former CIA employee who leaked a trove of sensitive information to WikiLeaks:

Is @Snowden a hero or a traitor? Chafee: Bring him home, no charges. Clinton: He stole v imp information. O'Malley: He broke the law.

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Here's some of the back-and-forth on guns:

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Question: How would your presidency not be a third term of President Obama?

— Chafee: Ending the wars— Clinton: Being the first woman president— Sanders: "Our government is going to work for all of us and not just a handful of billionaires"—Webb: Using less executive authority— O'Malley: A green energy revolution

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The question: Do "black lives matter" or do "all lives matter"?

Sanders: BLMO'Malley: BLMWebb: "Every life" matters

Clinton wasn't asked.

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Sanders' answer on a question about Hillary Clinton's email scandal brought down the house:

Sanders: "The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails!” Clinton: “Thank you, Bernie"

But then the other candidates had to answer the same question and...

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Everyone had to name the biggest national security threat:

Biggest nat sec threat: Chaffee — MidEast chaos O'Malley — Iran Clinton — nukes Sanders — climate change Webb — China/cyber

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Here's what Bill Clinton is up to tonight:

What happens in Vegas...is I watch @HillaryClinton prove she's the most qualified candidate for POTUS. #ImWithHer

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Clinton just laid it down after sparring with O'Malley, reminding everyone that he endorsed her for president in 2008.

2008 O'Malley HRC endorsement mention #drink

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Anderson Cooper is so far keeping firm control of the tempo and response times:

.@andersoncooper making it very clear who is in charge of this stage.

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Chafee was asked about his past comments saying that Clinton should not be allowed to run for president because she voted for the Iraq War:

"If you're going to make those poor judgment calls at a critical time in our history...that's an indication of how someone will perform in the future," Chafee said.

Clinton responded that even though she and Obama differed on the vote for war during the 2012 election, he still chose her to be secretary of state. "What I worry about is what will happen with ISIS gaining more territory, gaining more reach," she said.

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Clinton went strong on Sanders' record on guns, saying he didn't support laws that would lead to more stringent laws.

Hillary Clinton is asked if Bernie Sanders is tough enough on gun control: "No. Not at all."

Sanders: "I come from a rural state and the view on gun control are different in rural states than urban states”

Martin O’Malley on gun control: “It’s fine to talk about all of these things […] but I’ve done them.”

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Cooper asked Sanders if he was a capitalist.

"Do I consider myself part of the casinos capitalist process?" Sanders said. "No, I don't. ... I believe in a society where all people do well."

Clinton said capitalism needed to be fixed and that "we need to reign in the excess of capitalism."

Clinton on capitalism: It’d “be making a grave mistake to turn our backs on what made the greatest middle class"

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The first question goes to Hillary Clinton, including about her changing her position on same-sex marriage and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. "Do you change your identity based on who you're talking to?" moderator Anderson Cooper asked.

"Like most human beings, I do absorb new information, I do look at what's happening in the world," she said.

"I'm a progressive," she said. "But I'm a progressive who likes to get things done."

Chafee also explained why he left the Republican party:

Lincoln Chafee on leaving the GOP: “There was no room for a liberal, moderate Republican.”

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Here's a quick rundown of the opening statements:

— Chafee said he's never personally experienced a political scandal.— Webb discussed his family's history. His parents were laborers and now their children are successful.— O'Malley touted his record of getting "things done," and discussed economic injustice that threatens to "tear our country apart."— Sanders said "all of the new income and wealth being created is going to the top 1 percent." He also lambasted the campaign finance system, the over-jailing of black men, and mobilizing people "to take back our government" from billionaires.— Clinton led with specific plans. "I have spent ... my entire adult life looking for ways to even the odds" for people to get ahead." She said the center of her campaign is "raising wages," making the tax system fair for the middle class, and paid family leave.

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And here we go!

The candidates take the stage ahead of tonight’s debate

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Donald Trump is live-tweeting the debate. We'll just leave this here:

We will all have fun and hopefully learn something tonight. I will shoot straight and call it as I see it, both the good and the bad. Enjoy!

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Here's what the stage will look like:

Democratic candidates face off for the first time tonight: 6 things to watch for #DemDebate http://t.co/O0qbe1pC0v

Though maybe this would have worked too:

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Five Democrats will square off in their first debate of the 2016 presidential campaign season on Tuesday evening, and all eyes will be on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's performance.

The debate, sponsored by Facebook and aired on CNN, will take place at the Wynn hotel in Las Vegas.

Hillary Clinton is hoping a strong performance will finally put aside persistent questions about her use of a personal email account for government business while she was in the Obama administration. Her allies have pushed the message in recent days that she is the true progressive in the race and is the candidate who had plans and policies that she could actually put into practice.

Sanders, who has enjoyed unexpected popularity around the country, is hoping to rally more support for his unabashedly socialist message.

The contest is the first time these two candidates — along with former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb — will have to directly address each other and their positions. —Tom Namako