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U.S. Democratic Candidates Meet In Final Debate Before Voting Begins

Hillary Clinton (left) and Bernie Sanders appear at the Democratic Party debate on January 17.
Hillary Clinton (left) and Bernie Sanders appear at the Democratic Party debate on January 17.
By RFE/RL

The three candidates for the Democratic Party's nomination for the 2016 U.S. presidential election have met in debate for the last time before voting begins in the state of Iowa on February 1.

Front-runner and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on January 17 clashed with her leading challenger, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, over issues including health-care reform, gun control, and regulating large financial institutions. 

Sanders noted that Clinton led the race by as much as 50 percentage points at the beginning of the campaign but that polling now shows the two running close in both Iowa and New Hampshire, which will vote on February 9. The latest polls show the two in a statistical tie in Iowa and give Sanders a slight edge in New Hampshire.

Asked about her relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Clinton answered that "it's interesting."

"It's one, I think, of respect," she said. "We've had some very tough dealings with one another. And I know that he's someone you have to continually stand up to. Because, like many bullies, he is someone who will take as much as he can unless you do."

Clinton defended the 2009 "reset" in relations with Russia that she oversaw as secretary of state, saying that as a result of the policy, Moscow cooperated with the United States on nuclear-arms control and reining in Iran's nuclear program.

Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, who is far behind in the polls, also participated in the debate.

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