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Democrats Spar On Healthcare, Wall Street In Final Debate Before Iowa

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (CBSMiami) -- As expected, it was a debate dominated by the two front-runners for the democratic nomination for president as Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders took most of the spotlight away from former Governor Martin O'Malley, who consistently asked for time to be heard.

Clinton spent most of her time on the defensive, deflecting jabs from both opponents. Though it's a spot she seemed comfortable in all night.

Sanders distanced himself from Clinton's connections to Wall Street and big pharma, poking fun at her campaign contributions and earnings from speaking tours.

"I don't get personal speaking fees from Goldman Sachs," said Sanders. "Goldman Sachs is not going to have a secretary of treasury for a Sanders administration," he said.

Clinton swung those "connections" in her favor, adding that her husband's "kitchen table" advice is just another privilege of hers.

"You bet I'm going to ask for his ideas, I'm going to ask for his advice, and I'm going to use him as a goodwill emissary to go around the country and find the best ideas we've got," Clinton said.

They sparred on healthcare measures, though weren't too far apart on most of the nuts and bolts. Clinton vowed to continue Obama's Affordable Care Act. Sanders had to remind her twice that he helped write the bill.

With a lack of time to get his arguments across, Martin O'Malley was left with talking points that were large in scope, yet offered little substance behind them.

His biggest round of applause came as he called on his fellow candidates to join him in pushing for a 100 percent clean electric energy grid by 2050.

On gun violence, immigration, racial tension and Middle East policy, all three candidates are set on creating what they see as necessary change, including "policing" the police and giving an opportunity for immigrants to enter the country legally.

In the latest poll by debate host NBC, Clinton leads the pack at 59%, compared to Sanders at 34% and O'Malley with 2%.

In a general election poll between the parties, Clinton edges Trump 51-41. However, in the same comparison, Sanders would beat Trump 54-39.

This was the final debate for the Democratic candidates before the Iowa caucuses.

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