Taking Stock of a Tepid Debate

Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont,, left, and Hillary Rodham Clinton laugh during the CNN Democratic presidential debate, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
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That’s a bit harsh. It’s a reaction to something I’ve been thinking about during this debate, which is that the debates on both sides, in both parties, seem somehow two dimensional. The 2008 campaign was historic and epic and an outlier in those terms going back a couple generations. Somehow I think it’s more than that – a topic I’ll return to. But let me share a few a thoughts on this debate.

I think Hillary had a pretty good debate. I don’t think she made a terribly clear argument for her candidacy. But she came into this debate with the debilitating email nonsense seemingly abating, or at least with some turning of the tide.

That took away some of the sense of foreboding that has been befuddling Dem political elites – that the Democrats have to find another candidate who is a realistic national candidate. Beyond that, she was just quick on her feet and clever, especially with her answer about Obama appointing her Secretary of State – that even the critic who defeated her largely on the basis of her Iraq War judgment nonetheless wanted her as her chief diplomat. She also pivoted to the Planned Parenthood story – something that had been almost absent from the debate. I think she did a solid job. She was just strong.

Sanders also had a good debate. He was clear, made his points with a coherence that resonates for where Democrats are right now. It was probably the first time a lot of people have heard him speak at length. He did really well. I think Anderson Cooper’s pressing “socialism” underscored the difficult time he would have in a general election, which of course helps Hillary. But I was struck most by his clarity, weaving together Citizens United with a critique of broken fiscal and economic policy into a coherent attack on rising plutocracy.

I think Jim Webb may have been different enough and compelling enough to generate at least a few additional points, which isn’t terribly hard since I think he and Chafee are both well under one percent.

Taken together, it was remarkably substantive compared to the Republican debates, no name calling or insane comments and, well, no overt racism which is refreshing.

I’m more interested in your take. Send me your emails at the main email inbox which is linked just below the TPM logo.

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