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The three candidates for the Democratic nomination in the US presidential race are taking part in a TV debate, as the contest appears to be getting tighter.

While Hillary Clinton leads nationwide, she is facing a threat from Vermont senator Bernie Sanders in key states.

Hours before the debate in Charleston, South Carolina, Mr Sanders unveiled a plan for healthcare for all American citizens.

This is the final Democratic debate before caucuses in Iowa on 1 February.

Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, who is trailing Ms Clinton and Mr Sanders in polls, is also taking part.

Mr Sanders’ universal healthcare plan, announced two hours before the debate started, would see citizens pay what he called “a 2.2% income-based premium” towards healthcare. Companies would pay an extra 6.2% of an employee’s income towards the plan.

The plan, Mr Sanders’ campaign website said, was a way to “stop forcing working Americans to choose between bargaining for higher wages or better health insurance”.

Ms Clinton had previously indicated that moves planned by Mr Sanders could “strip millions and millions and millions of people off their health insurance”