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Democrats differ on Islamic State fight in third debate

Democrats walked into the debate Saturday in New Hampshire ready to talk security. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Gov. Martin O'Malley tangled on the fight against the Islamic State and whether the U.S. must move Syrian President Bashar al-Assad out of power. Political director Lisa Desjardins reports.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    And now it is time for Politics Monday, following a busy campaign weekend.

    Political director Lisa Desjardins catches us up, starting with the strong contrasts that emerged in Saturday's Democrat debate.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    The Democrats walked in ready to talk security. Topic one: how to fight the Islamic State. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton argued the U.S. must move Syrian President Bashar al-Assad out.

  • HILLARY CLINTON, Democratic Presidential Candidate:

    We will not get the support on the ground in Syria to dislodge ISIS if the fighters there who are not associated with ISIS, but whose principal goal is getting rid of Assad, don't believe there is a political, diplomatic channel that is ongoing. We now have that.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    But Clinton's main rival, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, said any focus on Assad is a distraction.

  • SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, Democratic Presidential Candidate:

    Yes, of course, Assad is a terrible dictator. But I think we have got to get our foreign policies and priorities right. The immediate — it is not Assad who is attacking the United States. It is ISIS.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    That was an opening for former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, a distant third in the polls, to take his own swipe at Clinton.

  • MARTIN O’MALLEY, Democratic Presidential Candidate:

    I believe that we need to focus on destroying ISIL. That is the clear and present danger. But we shouldn't be the ones declaring that Assad must go.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Even as her fellow Democrats differed with Clinton, some Republican candidates agreed with her approach. On CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday, Florida Senator Marco Rubio called for helping Syrian rebels oust Assad.

  • SEN. MARCO RUBIO, Presidential Candidate:

    The argument that Assad, and we have no vested interest, and he's not an enemy of America is wrong. For example, Assad is the reason why there's a refugee crisis.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    And in a YouTube video today, another anti-Assad candidate, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, again stressed the issue, even as he dropped out of the race.

  • SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, Republican Presidential Candidate:

    I'm suspending my campaign, but never my commitment to achieving security through strength for the American people.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Of course, security wasn't the only topic at Saturday's debate. Candidates talked Wall Street as well.

  • QUESTION:

    Should corporate America love Hillary Clinton?

  • HILLARY CLINTON:

    Everybody should.

    (LAUGHTER)

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • HILLARY CLINTON:

    I want to be the president for the struggling, the striving and the successful. But I also want to create jobs, and I want to be a partner with the private sector.

  • SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

    Hillary and I have a difference. The CEOs of large multinationals may like Hillary. They ain't going to like me and Wall Street is going to like me even less.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    But the two rivals did have a moment of detente following news that the Sanders staff had accessed secret Clinton data.

  • SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

    Not only do I apologize to Secretary Clinton, and I hope we can work together on an independent investigation from day one. I want to apologize to my supporters. This is not the type of campaign that we run.

  • HILLARY CLINTON:

    I very much appreciate that comment, Bernie. It really is important that we go forward on this.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    The debate drew more than eight million viewers. That was on the Saturday before Christmas. That's less than half the number that tuned in for the prime-time GOP showdown last Tuesday.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I'm Lisa Desjardins.

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