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Democrats Meet for Final Debate Before Iowa, N.H.

GIF created using footage from NBC

The three Democrats running for president faced-off Sunday night for the last time before voters begin to weigh in on the 2016 campaign for the White House. 

The fourth debate between Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley was held in Charleston, S.C. While the Republican field has two more debates scheduled before the February 1 Iowa caucuses — January 28 in Des Moines and February 6 in Manchester - the Democrats aren't slated to debate again until February 11, two days after the New Hampshire primary.

Here's a roundup of a few of the issues the candidates clashed over last night.

Health care battle heats up between Clinton, Sanders

With the release of Sanders’ health care plan just hours before the debate, this long-simmering area of contention came a little more into focus.  As the Washington Post summarized:

Clinton suggested that Sanders’s latest plan was unserious — “Again, we need to get into the details,” she said — and charged that in pursuing his goal of a single-payer system, Sanders would jeopardize Obama’s landmark Affordable Care Act.” The Democratic Party in the United States worked since Harry Truman to get the Affordable Care Act passed,” Clinton said. “We finally have a path to universal health care. We’ve accomplished so much already. I don’t want to see the Republicans repeal it, and I don’t want to see us start over again with a contentious debate.” Sanders delivered a snappy retort: “No one is tearing this up. We’re going to go forward.” He bemoaned that the costs of health care in the United States are far greater than in other industrialized nations like Canada and France and that his Medicare-for-all plan would bring necessary improvements. Sanders said that some middle-class families would pay “slightly more” in taxes, an acknowledgment that advisers to Clinton quickly trumpeted on Twitter and elsewhere.

Clinton’s contributions used against her

Both Sanders and Martin O’Malley again brought up Clinton’s ties to the financial sector in an attempt to challenge her willingness to stand up to corporate interests as president.

The influence of money in politics was referenced repeatedly during the debate. The Center for Responsive Politics issued a steady stream of updates on the issue via its Twitter feed last night, highlighting each candidate’s campaign contributions from the financial sector and other industries.

O’Malley struggles to stay in the spotlight

The Maryland governor has lagged far behind his opponents both in the polls and in terms of the share of the national spotlight he’s received. O’Malley has made no secret of his frustration, and at one point during the debate could be seen bouncing at his lectern, eagerly awaiting his chance to step in and speak.

For what it’s worth, O’Malley correctly pointed out that he didn’t have as much of an opportunity to talk as Clinton or Sanders. According to Vox, he racked up about 14 minutes of speaking time, compared to nearly a half hour each for Clinton and Sanders.

For more on the debate, check out the following: