Hillary's already running against the GOP

The enduring image of the third Democratic debate was the empty podium between Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley as Hillary Clinton returned late from a bathroom break. "Sorry," the front-runner said as she took her place.

Clinton has emotionally checked out of the Democratic nominating contest before the vote, preferring instead to focus on the Republican presidential field. Donald Trump, the most controversial of those GOP voices, was mentioned 12 times. She claimed at one point that Trump appears in Islamic State recruiting videos, which Politifact rated false.

But Clinton is willing to throw sharp elbows when she has to, leaving little to chance after being upset in the 2008 primaries. Defending her record on gun control from O'Malley, for instance, she managed to take a few subtle shots at Sanders and damn him with faint praise for moving her way on the issue.

Sanders ultimately wasn't willing to do the same. Leading up to the debate, his campaign was brimming with outrage. The fix was in. The Democratic National Committee had suspended their access to critical voter data because, they argued, the party was in the tank for Clinton. This pro-Clinton bias was the whole reason they were debating on a Saturday night before Christmas, competing with an NFL football game with playoff implications for both teams.

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