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US Democratic Candidates Reach Out to Voters at Iowa Town Hall


From left, Senator Bernie Sanders, former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speak during a CNN town hall at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 25, 2016.

The three Democrats who want to be the next president of the United States made their last major pitch Monday night to voters in Iowa, where next week the state's caucus kicks off the months-long process of selecting the party's 2016 nominee.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a town hall event hosted by CNN she is a "proven fighter" and highlighted her experience as a member of President Barack Obama's Cabinet. She said military action should be used as a last resort, and instead promoted using diplomacy even though it is "slow" and "boring."

Clinton also took aim at Republican front-runner Donald Trump's comments about Muslims, calling them dismissive, insulting and contrary to American values. She said protecting the country means ensuring Muslims "are with us."

'On the front lines'

"They are on the front lines of defending themselves, their families, their children and all the rest of us, and the same is true with Muslims around the world," she said. "We need a coalition of that includes Muslim nations to defeat ISIS, and it's pretty hard to figure out how you're going to make a coalition with the very nations you need if you spend your time insulting their religion. So we need to stand up and point out how wrong this is."

Clinton was long the clear leader among Democrats, but in recent weeks Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has roughly drawn even with her in polls in Iowa.

Sanders said in reference to Clinton that experience is important when it comes to being president, but that judgment is as well, and he has the background and judgment to be able to deal with many different issues.

He said his campaign has drawn enthusiasm by touching a nerve with Americans who understand that the current political system is not working.

"It just seems to me that the crises that we face as a country today -- and we didn't get into climate change to a significant degree -- inequality, poverty in America, an obscene and unfair campaign finance system, these problems are so serious that we have got to go beyond establishment politics and establishment economics," Sanders said. "In my view we need a political revolution where millions of people stand up and say you know what, that great government of ours belongs to all of us, not just the few."

Trailing far behind in the polls is former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, but he has not shown any signs of dimming enthusiasm for his candidacy. He told the town hall he is "in this to win it."

Caucus process

The caucus process makes O'Malley important to the outcome in Iowa. If he fails to get 15 percent support, then he will be eliminated and his supporters will be free to choose either Clinton or Sanders, potentially swinging the race between them.

O'Malley promoted his plan for affordable college education, employment for military veterans and immigration reform. He also touted his equal rights record as governor, saying his state passed marriage equality and legislation banning transgender discrimination.

"I believe that the genius of this American experiment of ours is that in every generation we take actions to include more people more fully in the economic, the social and the political life of our country. That's the broader arc of American history. We've yet to arrive at a perfect union, but every generation we have the opportunity to make it a more perfect union."