4 takeaways from the Democratic debate in Des Moines

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From left: Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O’Malley exit the stage at Sheslow Auditorium at Drake University in Des Moines. The three candidates are at the university for the second Democratic presidential candidate of the presidential nomination election cycle. (The Daily Iowan/Brooklynn Kaschel)

DES MOINES — The second Democratic debate has officially wrapped up at Drake University.

The three Democratic presidential hopefuls — former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley — devoted plenty of time to foreign policy following terror attacks in Paris,  Clinton found herself on the defensive on a number of issues, and O’Malley broke through as a serious candidate.

O’Malley the one-upper

O’Malley often found himself in agreement with the other candidates, but in an effort to distance himself from Sanders and Clinton, he did a lot of adding to their existing policies.

Many of his additions were in the realm of foreign policy. He noted Clinton’s support for the Iraq War and Sanders’s nonintervention policies.

He stood out in one specific instance after Sanders used the phrase “boots on the ground.”

“My son is not a pair of boots on the ground,” O’Malley said. “These are American soldiers, and we fail them when we fail to take into account what happens the day after a dictator falls.”

RELATED: O’Malley may seize the moment

He went after Clinton after she said she doesn’t see the United States as chiefly responsible in resolving the conflict in Syria.

“I would disagree with Secretary Clinton, respectfully, on this score,” O’Malley said.  “This actually is America’s fight. It cannot solely be America’s fight. America is best when we work in collaboration with our allies.”

He closed his remarks with a humbling response, standing separately from the others, to explain what crises he has faced that have prepared him for the presidency. Clinton explained the decision to go after Osama bin Laden, but O’Malley noted that no position is comparable to the president.

— by Aaron Walker

Foreign Policy was tonight’s top issue

The most discussed topic during the debate was far and away foreign policy. It is not surprising after the recent terror attacks in France, but it may be indicative of the topic’s importance to come.

Terrorist targeted a soccer stadium, concert venue, and cafés in Paris, where at least 129 people were killed.

Each candidate spent a great deal of time discussing solutions to defeat ISIS.

Sanders was the first to drop the name of the group of radical terrorists, saying he will work to rid the world of ISIS.  Clinton soon followed giving regards to France and demanding action.

“We need to have a resolve that will bring the world together to root out the kind of radical jihadist ideology that motivates organizations like ISIS, the barbaric, ruthless, violence jihadist, terrorist group,” she said.

O’Malley chimed in, agreeing with Sanders on a need to avoid war as much as possible but explained his justification for action.

“This is not a conflict where we send in the third divisions of [UNINTEL],” he said. ” This is — a new era of conflict where traditional ways of — of huge standing armies are not as – serve our purposes as well as special ops, better intelligence, and being more proactive.

Each candidate avoided calling the conflict a war on Islam and called for the United States to play an increased role in accepting refugees.

— by Aaron Walker

Branstad shoutout

One of the biggest applause lines tonight came when former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took a punch at Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad.

“I would not want, if I lived in Iowa, Terry Branstad administering my health care,” she said during the second Democratic debate at Drake University, after saying Sanders’ health-care plan would consolidate all health-care programs, including the Affordable Care Act and Medicare, into one single-payer system that would be handed over to states.

Branstad is longest serving governor in U.S. history.

This wasn’t Clinton’s first time ripping on the state’s GOP executive. She has called Branstad out for his efforts to close two mental-health institutions in the state and to hire private firms to run state Medicaid programs.

— by Aleksandra Vujicic

Clinton cites 9/11, changing defense of Wall Street ties

Sanders quickly pulled out the gloves on Clinton when it came to her ties with Wall Street, specifically in the form of campaign contributions.

“They expect to get something, everybody knows that,” he said, contending that Clinton was indebted to some of Wall Street’s greatest players.

But Clinton’s defense: She helped rebuild Wall Street after 9/11.

“I represented New York on 9/11 when we  were attacked,” she said. “Where were we attacked? We were attacked in downtown Manhattan, where Wall Street is.”

University of Iowa law Associate Professor Andy Grewal’s tweet went viral and even made it onto the big screen, prompting a follow up question.

“Have never seen a candidate invoke 9/11 to justify millions of Wall Street donations until now,” he wrote on Twitter.

— by Aleksandra Vujicic

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