DES MOINES (CN) - With Iowa Caucuses around the corner, the three candidates for the Democratic nomination returned to Drake University's campus on Monday to talk about the concerns of black and Latino citizens.
Billed as the oldest forum that addresses minority issues, the Iowa Brown and Black Presidential Forum began in 1984 and is a prominent event in Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses. The host of this year's forum also served as the venue of the Democratic candidates' second debate.
Though the terror attacks in Paris had dominated the November debate, policy issues such as economic development, immigration, education, health care and bias in the justice system came to the forefront Monday.
Each of the three remaining candidates in the primary took pains at the forum to volley forthright questions about recent police shootings, campus rapes and the deportation of children to uncertain fates in Central America.
Former secretary of state Clinton outshined the others in terms of charisma most of the night, difficult to rattle with even the toughest questions. Despite a few hiccups, Clinton appeared authoritative on policy matters yet also personable when talking about the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 and recalling the first moment when she realized she was privileged while babysitting the children of migrant workers as an 11-year-old girl.
Clinton also scored the two biggest laughs of the night - the first one came with her question if "the Republicans will be next" to take the stage.
Though the GOP candidates were in fact asked to participate, scheduling conflicts ended in the cancelation of a similar event last month.
To end the night, Clinton merrily dodged an attempt to have her predict who would next hold the Oval Office. "Who would have ever thought Donald Trump would be leading a race for president," she asked. "For those of you who have ever thought of running: Take heart."
With the temperature at snow-covered Drake University campus threatening to dip into single digits overnight, the atmosphere in Sheslow Auditorium was notably different than at the November DNC debate.
There were few people outside on campus, and no demonstrations by supporters of any of the three candidates, but the event came at a crucial moment in the election with the first primaries arriving in three short weeks.
Sen. Sanders has shown surprising staying power over the holidays and has closed the gap in polling numbers between himself and Clinton.
A poll released over the weekend by NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist showed Clinton holding a 3-point lead over Sanders in Iowa, with Sanders holding a 4-point advantage in New Hampshire.
In the same poll, Clinton leads Sanders nationwide 50-44 among Democrats, although Sanders performs better than Clinton against all likely Republican opponents in hypothetical general election matchups.