Democratic Debate: Winners And Losers

The five 2016 Democratic candidates for President met in Las Vegas for their first debate last night, and this writer’s prediction is that the field will be down to three for the next matchup.  (Barring Joe Biden’s entry into the race, which remains a distant possibility).

Defying predictions that this would be a monotonous snooze, the Democratic debaters gave real answers to substantive questions. But beyond that, the candidates get a huge kudos for keeping the debate classy. Gone were the Trump-esque attacks on each other. What a breath of fresh air.

Here’s this writer’s opinion on how the five candidates performed:

Hillary Clinton

Clinton did exactly what a front runner should do: provided strong, detailed answers, proved she could take criticism and defend herself, appeared presidential and respectful of her fellow nominees, and snuck in a couple killer moments. Clinton was especially deft in outlining her foreign policy credentials, and was equally adept in defending domestic issues, from paid parental leave to America’s network of small businesses. She also squared her evolving liberal policy views with past policies by describing herself as a “progressive,” but one who likes to “get things done.” Nice.

Top Line: In response to Lincoln Chafee’s questioning of her credibility, host Anderson Cooper asked if she wanted to respond.

Answer? “No.”

Mic drop.

Bernie Sanders

The Vermont senator can’t help himself from sounding authentic. Whether or not you agree with his socialist policies, it is pretty much impossible not to like this guy. Sanders is on point, one gets the sense, because the issues he talks about are the ones he really cares about. Income inequality, climate change, paid parental leave. Sanders is about as far left as you can get, on every issue save gun control. He mentioned the word “revolution” many times, so Sanders is pushing for admittedly radical change.

Top Line: Responding to a question on an FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, Sanders supported Clinton by saying, “The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.”

Bernie wants to talk about the issues, even if it means helping out his competition. Now that’s class, folks.

Martin O’Malley

His demeanor was widely described as “low energy,” but the former Virginia governor did present himself as the soft-spoken, compassionate liberal to Bernie Sanders’ blustery indignation. Most commentators agreed that he had a good night, but probably not outstanding enough to raise his dismal poll numbers.

Top Line: In response to being criticized by Sanders for not having been a Congress member, O’Malley replied, “That’s a healthy thing.”

Jim Webb

The former Virginia Senator is also a former Marine, and came out strong in defense of America’s military. He came across as a very rusty communicator, and is most memorable for his repeated requests for more time.

Top Line: “You do not have the right to conduct cyberwarfare against American citizens,” as an example of what he would say to China.

Lincoln Chafee

It is difficult to imagine where Chafee’s support comes from… he seems like a nice guy, but how an individual with such a cherub-like demeanor has spent his life in politics is a mystery for the ages. He pretty much admitted that his first vote as a senator was on a bill he didn’t understand, and has held office as a Republican and an Independent, before joining the Democratic party.  

Top Line: “I have had no scandals.”


Winner: Anderson Cooper, for being fair and consistent in how he questioned the candidates. Cooper pushed back when politicians do what they do best: duck and evade questions. Even when he had to come back two or three times, Cooper kept at it to try and get real answers.

Loser: The Republican party, for looking immature and pretty dysfunctional in comparison. 

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