Tag Archives: Democratic Primary Debate

Who Won The First Democratic Party Primary Debate?

Lincoln Chafee, Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, Bernie Sanders, and Jim Webb faced off in the Facebook-CNN sponsored debate. Who won?

The individual who “won” is the individual whose poll numbers went up the most, and we don’t know that yet. But there are other ways to win, and other ways to talk about winning.


Barack Obama I am pleased to note that the candidates running for the Democratic nomination were not running away from the President. That proved to be a bad strategy for House and Senate Democrats during the last election, and we are not seeing it today. One of the questions asked during the debate was, “How would your presidency not be a third Obama term?” The ideal answer might have been, “Oh, it will be a third Obama term in many ways,” or even “My first term will be a second version of Obama’s second term.” No one said that, but some implied it, and it was clear that no candidate was trying to distance themselves from Obama. Within Democratic party politics, that is meaningful, and it was an endorsement of President Obama.

The Democratic Party I believe that there are people out there who were either Republicans or who were Independents who watched the GOP debates and then watched the Democratic debate and became Democrats. If you need to know why, you didn’t watch the debates.

Climate Change I am also please to note that climate change was a key issue in the debate, even if CNN did not try very hard to make it so. Many of the candidates mentioned climate change without prompting, and when climate change was brought up it was addressed. Most of the candidates had the “right” answer — that climate change is real, and important.

Martin O’Malley O’Malley is a climate hawk, and also, has a strong position on gun regulation. But, he is relatively unkown. Most democrats and progressives seemed to think he did well in the debate and he made a good impression. He is not likely to move out of the single digit zone, but he has become a factor. Many commenters are suggesting that he advanced into the possible VP slot because of this debate.

Bernie Sanders and Millions of Americans Sanders articulated his central position and did not falter or screw up in any way. Sanders supporters are able to say he won hands down, Sanders opponents can not say he did poorly. But something else happened here. Sanders made a point to a national audience that he has been making all along, which is very important. Like many idealist candidates before him, he has positions that can’t turn into reality because of strong opposition by the Republicans and because of Citizens United. Sanders’ answer to that is to agree, these positions will go nowhere. Unless… Unless millions of people show up outside the windows of the elected officials in Washington to scream at them. He’s right. Having that sociopolitical tactic acknowledged and part of his campaign would make Sanders the best candidate and an effective president if a) he wins and b) the millions of people actually show up. That prospect is now on the table.

Hillary Clinton Many commenters have noted that Hillary Clinton won the debate because she was the best debater. An example of her skill came when her ability to make good decisions was questioned vis-a-vis her vote on Iraq. Her answer was, essentially, that President Obama trusted her with the Secretary of State job, so what the heck? That and several other comebacks served her well. Clinton is a traditional fire and brimstone Democrat. Given a podium for ten minutes she can capture the crowd and bring everyone to a teary-eyed state of Progressive Frenzy with great skill. In the debating context, this is hard to do because the train just starts to leave the station when you get cut off. But on those few occasions when Clinton had the time, she got the train out of the station. Did you notice that? (In contrast, Sanders is a chunker. He has these great, fiery, hard as brick chunks of rhetoric he can slam into any conversation in less than 19 seconds. He showed that ability many times last night.)


International trade deals Sanders made the point that there have been no good international trade deals. Clinton, who was in on the early negotiations of the Trans Pacific Partnership threw the TPP under the bus. No one came to the rescue of international trade deals. It will be interesting to see if the Gops make this a point in the election. Their knee-jerk reaction will be to do so, but it will hurt them because nobody likes sending jobs and money overseas, and Romney has inoculated the voting populous in this area already.

Lincoln Chaffee Chaffee just did not come off well. Also, he was the only candidate repeatedly questioning everyone else’s ethics with the passive aggressive comment that HE was the one with ethics. Then he fell into the tiger trap by admitting that his 1999 Senate vote to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act, which he now sees as having been a bad vote, was made because he had no idea what he was voting for and had some personal problems and stuff. In all fairness, that was a conference vote, which is routinely near 100% even if more were opposed to the original bill, and he never had a chance to debate or vote against the bill earlier on. This is the Senator Problem, where the rules of the Senate are such that most experienced Senators can be singled out as having voted against something they are for, or for something they are against, unfairly. So, it may be unfair to write off Chaffee because of that one gaff. But it was more than just a gaff. It was more like digging a tiger pit for the other candidates then flinging oneself into the hole.

Guns Not every candidate was saying the same things about guns, but here’s the thing. The biggest differences between candidates were exposed in the light of very few issues, and gun regulation was one of those issues. But, it seems that at least within the context of the Democratic Party, the candidates are being judged on how anti-gun they are. Guns lose.

Benghazi and Email Scandals Benghazi was already hanging from the end of a taut rope, but still got beat up during the debate, along with Sanders’ remark that the Republicans need to take Hillary Clinton’s emails and shove them where the sun don’t shine. OK, he didn’t say that exactly, but that is what he, and everyone else, was thinking.

Wall Street Obviously.

So, who really won the debate?

Sanders or Clinton won the debate. The commenters I’ve read seem about evenly divided between the two candidates. However, on line polls are wildly supportive of Sanders over Clinton. Perhaps this means we have to say Sanders won the debate. I personally felt better about both of them after the debate, but it is hard to say if I felt more better about one or another.

Regarding the online polls, I’ve placed a bunch of screen grabs HERE so you can see how that looks. And, this brings up another interesting point.

Notice that I’ve avoided mentioning Jim web in the winners vs. losers sections. Personally, I thought he came off as a whinging wonk, not a potential president. Also, he’s wrong on several issues. Most commenters seem to feel the same. But if you look at those on line polls, oddly, Webb has surprisingly high marks in some of them. Overall, if we look only at the on line polls, Webb came in a solid third, even though most commenters are writing him off. Why?