Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton take the stage for the debate at St. Anselm College, Dec. 19, 2015, in Manchester, N.H. 
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

An eagerly anticipated moment came early in the Democratic presidential debate Saturday night. The moderators immediately asked Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont about the controversy surrounding his staffers’ breach of Hillary Clinton’s voter data. After a lengthy response, Sanders apologized to Clinton. She accepted.

CNN described the opening scene as “a memorable start” that preceded sharp exchanges between the three candidates over a wide range of foreign and domestic issues.

Sanders accused Clinton of being “too aggressive” when drawing a distinction between how each would approach national security, the Washington Post noted. He said that the focus should be on defeating the Islamic State group—not also trying to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad. But Clinton insisted that the U.S. and its allies need to pursue both objectives.

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In domestic policy, Clinton again slammed Sanders for not advocating stronger gun control measures and criticized his single-payer health care plan, which she said would increase costs.

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Meanwhile, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley seized every opportunity to attack his rivals. As the Post observed, he attempted to brand himself as “a new-generation candidate” with a solid liberal record.

Saturday night may have been O’Malley’s last, best chance at getting the spotlight to make his case in a race dominated by Clinton and Sanders.

A Washington Post-ABC News national poll puts Clinton ahead with 59 percent among Democratic voters. Sanders stands at 28 percent, and O’Malley lags behind them at just 5 percent.

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While the Democratic candidates slugged it out, they were in accord on their dislike for Donald Trump, CNN underscored.

Clinton accused the GOP front-runner of “becoming ISIS’ best recruiter” for his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States.

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O’Malley said that the nation “must never surrender our American values to racists, must never surrender them to the fascist pleas of billionaires with big mouths.” And Sanders added that the businessman “thinks low wages are a good idea.”

Read more at CNN and the Washington Post.