What we learned from the Democratic debate in Iowa

Des Moines, Iowa -- The second Democratic presidential debate served many purposes. It gave the three candidates a prime-time platform to react to the Paris attacks, to solidify positions in this key early-voting state, and it gave the two challengers a chance to take shots at the front-runner. Mission accomplished, all around.

We laid out the main action for print and the premium website. But here are some highlights that didn't make the main story.

  1. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley had a good night, and had the best line of the night. Responding to a question about immigration -- the regular kind, not of Syrian refugees -- O'Malley said immigration from Mexico has flat-lined, despite what you've heard from that "immigrant-bashing carnival barker Donald Trump."
  2.  U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont was asked if stood by his previous comment that climate change is a bigger threat than terrorism. Sanders did not demur. While acknowledging that terrorism is, indeed, a threat, he said,  "climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism." Follow him now. If climate change continues to raise sea levels, there will be less land. People will then "be struggling over limited amounts of water, limited amounts of land to grow their crops.  And you're gonna see all kinds of international conflict."
  3. This being a Democratic debate, George W. Bush's name was invoked, and not kindly. Front-runner Hillary Clinton said Bush's  decision to promise Iraq that U.S. troops would leave Iraq by 2011. That decision, which President Obama honored, resulted in an "Iraqi army (that) was left that had been trained and that was prepared to defend Iraq.  Unfortunately, Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, set about decimating it." That, in turn, led to the rise of Al-Qaeda and ISIS, she said.
  4. In the spin room after the debate, a "reporter" from "The Daily Show" was making the rounds, looking for willing participants. It was a tough crowd. Nathan Blake, a local school board member and O'Malley surrogate, grudgingly participated. Roy Wood Jr., "correspondent" for the Comedy Central show, asked Blake whether O'Malley is the most handsome presidential candidate and how he would rate the candidates' handsomeness. Blake proved insufficiently game and Wood quickly moved on.