The eighth Democratic primary debate was held on March 9, 2016, at the Miami Dade College in Miami, Florida. It was the second Democratic debate in a week, coming just three days after March 6's showdown in Flint, Michigan. The debate was hosted by Spanish-language news network Univision (and simulcast by CNN), and moderated by Washington Post journalist Karen Tumulty and Univision's Maria Elena Salinas and Jorge Ramos, with questions contributed in Spanish by audience members and translated for the candidates by an interpreter.
The biggest change between tonight and the last debate three days prior had been a set of primaries on March 8, during which Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders had scored a staggering upset against frontrunner Hillary Clinton in the state of Michigan. This result had been shocking to political analysts, both because of Michigan's demographic makeup (the state is largely populated by African-American people, a group with which Clinton has traditionally dominated Sanders) and because polls had consistently put Sanders at a 20-point deficit in the race. Clinton supporters neglecting to vote out of complacency, the previous debate on March 6 (which occurred in Michigan), and poor polling methods were variously blamed for the enormous discrepancy. Whatever the cause, the win reinvigorated Sanders' campaign and caused analysts to begin wondering whether other states showing Clinton's dominance in polls might roll over to her opponent, too.
With the debate being held in Miami, a largely Hispanic city with many immigrants from Cuba, Mexico, and various South American countries, it was only natural that the issue of immigration would be raised. It was, very early, and the conversation ended up monopolizing most of the two-hour event's first sixty minutes. Both candidates agreed in their pledge that, if elected, they would never deport children or break apart the families of those in the country illegally. They were also united in their condemnation of Donald Trump's immigration policy, with Clinton openly ridiculing the Republican frontrunner for comparing his proposed “big beautiful wall” project to the Great Wall of China. However, the Democratic hopefuls clashed when Clinton accused Sanders of having supported the Minutemen, a group of private citizens who patrol the Mexican border on their own time in search of immigrants attempting to enter the US illegally, and who Clinton called “vigilantes”. Sanders flatly denied that he had ever supported the group, declaring of Clinton's accusation, “that is a horrific statement and an unfair statement to make.”
Tonight's Univision moderators targeted Clinton about her ever-worsening political scandals, a subject about which most American networks seemed to be tiring. She was asked about the private e-mail server she used during her service as Secretary of State, and which she has repeatedly promised was never used to send or receive classified information – though much of that information has now been found to indeed have been secret. Clinton responded that the e-mails in question have been retroactively classified, meaning that they were not so at the time but that upon review have since been recategorized, and that Republicans are attempting to hold her responsible for their status now. Asked whether she would withdraw her candidacy if she were indicted on this matter, Clinton scoffed. “Oh for goodness -” she trailed off, indignantly bemused. “It's not gonna happen. I'm not even answering that question.”
Later, moderator Jorge Ramos attempted to question her on her other major scandal in the Benghazi affair. He found his way difficult, however, as once his intention became clear, Clinton's supporters in the audience began booing him so loudly and emphatically that his voice was nearly drowned out. He persisted, however, asking Clinton whether she had lied to the families of the slain Benghazi Americans. Clinton stated that she had not, and summoned to her defense the fact that she had testified for 11 hours on the scandal, with Republicans unable to find anything in reams of her testimony which they could use against her. This time, it was the cheering and applause that overpowered Ramos' voice, making it hard for him to follow up.
Sanders, who was not noticeably more aggressive tonight despite his powerful and momentous win in Michigan, did attack Clinton on the issue of her speeches to major Wall Street donors, for which he said she was compensated in the range of $225,000 each. Clinton has not released the transcripts of these speeches, and Sanders sarcastically said that with her having been paid so much for them, they must have been very good, and that the American people would surely like to know what was said. Clinton responded that while she had received money from Wall Street, she has a proven record of standing up to them – similarly, she said, to President Barack Obama, who has also logged large Wall Street donations without being beholden to the donors.
Other issues raised included education, with Sanders reiterating his call to make public colleges and universities tuition-free. Health care was raised, and Clinton attempted to frame the distinction between her plan to improve on Obama's Affordable Care Act and her opponent's intentions to transition to a single-payer system. Climate change also received some attention.
The evening's closing statements held little novelty. Clinton, for her third debate in a row, spoke of “breaking down barriers” such as racial injustice and income inequality, while Sanders familiarly railed against the privilege of the financial 1% and decried their oligarchical level of influence on the American political process.