Des Moines, Iowa (CNN)Bernie Sanders talked about sexuality. Hillary Clinton broke with President Barack Obama on deportations. And Martin O'Malley admitted he didn't know "We're All In This Together" was a song in High School Musical.
Sanders talks sex, Clinton talks deportations at Iowa forum
Mostly, though, the three Democratic presidential contenders stuck to their standard fault lines in the Iowa Brown and Black Forum at Drake University on Monday night, offering a preview of the final Democratic debate -- set for Sunday night in South Carolina -- before the 2016 race's first votes are cast.
In separate interviews with Fusion network hosts, the three traded barbs on Wall Street reform, gun control and more. Here are four takeaways from the forum:
The big news of the night was Clinton -- who in 2014 supported the deportation of children who'd come to the United States -- coming out swinging against the Obama administration for sending families back to unstable Central American countries.
"What I don't like are the mass roundups and the raids that just pick people up and send them off in the middle of the night. And that should end," Clinton said.
The deportations, which started over the Christmas holidays, have left many Democrats -- especially members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus -- furious with Obama.
She wouldn't give a blanket commitment that she wouldn't deport children. But her position means she eliminates daylight with Sanders and O'Malley on the issue.
When Sanders was asked if he has noticed that Clinton is attacking him harder and more often, he offered a mischievous "yeeessss."
"It could be that the inevitable candidate for the Democratic nomination may not be so inevitable today," he said.
It's Sanders' antidote to Clinton's "electability" argument. His comment bring to mind her failure to capture the Democratic nomination in 2008, and allude to polls that show Sanders with a real shot at winning in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Clinton still has advantages once the race moves past Iowa and New Hampshire, but Sanders is clearly relishing the moment.
When asked if it's off-brand for a democratic socialist to live in a building as ornate as the White House, Sanders joked: "I would consider it more like public housing."
The event was called the Black and Brown Forum, and all three candidates were asked about issues like Black Lives Matter, criminal justice, immigration and even reparations.
But, beyond Clinton's comments on deportations, none took surprising positions.
For those who have been paying close attention, that should be no surprise: The Democratic field has been courting minority voters since the race started in the spring of 2015.
The most substantive clash right now is connected to criminal justice: A bill that gave gun manufacturers liability for crimes committed with firearms they made and sold. Clinton opposed it in the Senate, and Sanders supported it.
Sanders wouldn't back away from that vote, saying: "It's not a mistake. Like many pieces of legislation, it is complicated."
Clinton's campaign and allies were quick to pounce, accusing Sanders of doubling down on his support for a bill that was championed at the time by the National Rifle Association.
"I think most Americans think it was a mistake and wish he would admit it," said Steve Benjamin, mayor of Columbia, South Carolina, and a Clinton supporter, after the debate.
Things could have been uncomfortable -- in no small part because of a since-disavowed 1972 essay in which Sanders imagined women's rape fantasies -- when the topic of sex education came up.
But Sanders said it's time for a "serious national discussion about sexuality" -- including conversations about consent.
He also said that "rape must be prosecuted" in response to a question about rape on college campuses.
And he told Molly Monk, a Simpson College student and Democratic activist, that he opposes abstinence-only education.
"When sexuality is an intrinsic part of human life -- we should not run away from it," Sanders said. "We should explain biology and sexuality to our kids on a factual basis. Period."