Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said black lives matter and called for an end to institutionalized racism during the Democratic presidential debate Tuesday night. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised President Barack Obama's handling of race issues and called for more body cameras and an end to criminal justice policies that target black men.

The exchange was part of a focus on black and other minority voters during the event held in Nevada, an important swing state where elections often turn on what nonwhite voters do. "We need a new New Deal for communities of color," Clinton said.




During the debate, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley defended his record during his two-term tenure as mayor of Baltimore where riots broke out in May over the police-involved death of Freddie Gray, a black man, in April. Critics have claimed O'Malley's tough-on-crime policies prompted the riots. While there was a sharp reduction in the number of homicides during his term, the number of arrests in Baltimore spiked in 2005, the Washington Post reported. O'Malley said there were 30 years of peace before the unrest.

"We've saved over 1,000 lives in Baltimore in the last 15 years of people working together," he said. "And the vast majority of them were young and poor and black. It wasn't easy on any day. But we saved lives and we gave our city a better future, improving police and community relations every single day that I was in office."

O'Malley also said black lives matter and lamented how poor, black youths have been ignored. He said the nation had to a lot to do to end racial injustice.

Meanwhile, former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb defended his criticism of affirmative action policies, even as moderator Anderson Cooper pointed out the party is increasingly composed of nonwhite voters.



Most Americans weren't aware the debate was being held Tuesday night, a Reuters/Ispos poll indicated. Hours before it started, more than half of U.S. registered voters said they did not know about the event that was held at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas. Roughly 45 percent of voters registered as Democrats knew of the debate.  The poll had a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. In contrast, more than 23 million viewers watched CNN's three-hour Republican debate last month.

Clinton was leading the primary before the debate. She was polling at 41 percent, down from 51 percent, a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted between Oct. 4-9 indicated. Trailing behind her was Sanders, with 28 percent support, up from 24 percent.

Many Twitter users pointed out the Democratic field was made up only of white candidates.