Iowa's Brown & Black Presidential Forum Draws Democratic Candidates Non-white voters could be the deciding factor in the Democratic presidential nomination. That's why Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Martin O'Malley participated in the forum Monday night.

Iowa's Brown & Black Presidential Forum Draws Democratic Candidates

Iowa's Brown & Black Presidential Forum Draws Democratic Candidates

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Non-white voters could be the deciding factor in the Democratic presidential nomination. That's why Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Martin O'Malley participated in the forum Monday night.


We're also following a big question in this country for Democrats. Non-white voters are a growing part of the American electorate and a huge part of the Democratic coalition. The question is which of the Democrats' three presidential candidates has the best chance to mobilize them in the numbers that President Obama did? With that in mind, Martin O'Malley, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton all attended an event called the Iowa Brown and Black Forum last night. It was carried by Fusion Television, and NPR's Tamara Keith was there. Hi, Tam.


INSKEEP: What did it sound like?

KEITH: Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton - the two front-runners in this race - continued a recent pattern of really going after each other and talking about each other directly. This was not a debate. It was technically a forum, so they weren't on stage together. Early on, moderator Jorge Ramos asked Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders about this change in tone in the race. Clinton used to avoid using his name, now she doesn't.


JORGE RAMOS: Have you noticed lately that she's been getting more aggressive with you?


RAMOS: Why is that?

SANDERS: I don't know. It could be...

RAMOS: You tell me.

SANDERS: It could be that the inevitable candidate for the Democratic nomination may not be so inevitable today.

KEITH: And the most recent polls do show Sanders and Clinton very close in Iowa and New Hampshire. And one area where Clinton has been going after Sanders is on guns. And last night's forum gave her campaign some new fodder. Ramos asked Sanders repeatedly whether he stands by his vote in 2005 for a law shielding gunmakers and dealers from some lawsuits.


SANDERS: What we have to do is take a new look at that legislation and get rid of the provisions.

RAMOS: Do you didn't make a mistake in that...

SANDERS: It's not a mistake. Like many pieces of legislation, it is complicated.

KEITH: Clinton's campaign feels like this is really a winning issue for her. And this morning, they announced that she's gotten the endorsement of the Brady Campaign to end gun violence.

INSKEEP: So probing a weakness of Bernie Sanders there. What weaknesses did O'Malley and Clinton face?

KEITH: Well these were not - there were some soft-ball questions, but then there were some really tough questions. Like, in the lightning round, they were asked which program is bigger, racism or sexism? Another question - is it time to consider reparations? O'Malley was asked if the schools in his home state of Maryland suffered from de facto segregation. He was also asked about policing tactics during his time as Baltimore mayor. And Clinton was asked about white privilege, as well as her inconsistencies on immigration policy and whether she supports the Obama administration's recent deportation raids on some of the mothers and children from Central America who were picked up at the border back in 2014.


RAMOS: Will you become the next deporter-in-chief?

HILLARY CLINTON: No. No, and I have come out against the raids. I do not think the raids are an appropriate tool to enforce the immigration laws. In fact, I think they are divisive. They are sowing discord and fear.

KEITH: This is a position that she basically announced last night but that both Sanders and O'Malley were ahead of her on. O'Malley has struggled to gain traction in this race, and he nodded to that last night.


MARTIN O'MALLEY: Sometimes people say to me, are you to the left or to the right of your opponents? Actually, I'm to the forward of them. I arrive at things before they do.

KEITH: A real frustration of his is of course that people just aren't jumping on his campaign.

INSKEEP: OK, so very briefly, Tamara Keith, this was the Brown and Black Forum, but it's in Iowa, a heavily white state. In fact, the first two states to vote are overwhelmingly quite.

KEITH: That's right, Iowa is 87 percent white. But after Iowa and New Hampshire come Nevada and South Carolina, where Latino and black voters are key. And Bernie Sanders knows he has ground to make up, and he is working on that very hard.

INSKEEP: OK, NPR's Tamara Keith. Thanks very much.

KEITH: You're welcome.

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