Since this is the last Democratic debate before Iowa I felt like I had to watch it. It was actually very substantive with plenty of fireworks and a lot of policy issues talked about. As a Nerd I liked it but to one friend he said his eyes glazed over a bit.
There is a lot to unpack but first let’s talk about the very first question, which I loved. The candidates were asked “if elected, what three things would you focus on in your first hundred days.” First off it’s a great question just because it gets to the heart of what the candidates view as most important. Both Sanders and Hillary focused on the economy, fair wages and similar issues, but O’Malley gave a lot more attention to cities and immigration. It was a telling moment to me since O’Malley, who comes from a state with a large urban and minority population, talked about this while neither Hillary nor Sanders did. I was frankly shocked that the agenda of Minorities and Urban voters weren’t a higher priority for them and it left me reeling a bit.
Sanders was hit pretty hard on guns by both Hillary and O’Malley. His answer was fine but when Hillary said he voted against the Brady bill nine times I cringed and knew he lost a lot of Democrats just then. This is a cultural issue and a moral issue for a lot of Democrats and being on the wrong side of it will hurt him. The exchange over guns turned into a bit of a melee with all three candidates tossing elbows at each other. Sanders defended himself reasonably well but both O’Malley and Hillary landed some blows that won’t heal easily.
O’Malley made a compelling case as a former Mayor of Baltimore that he did a lot to make the city a safer place. All three candidates came out strongly in favor of criminal justice reform and made compelling cases. Sanders linked it to Wall Street, and was very upset that millions of young black men are in jail for small time drug crimes while elites who defrauded billions of dollars are allowed to walk free. The field showed a remarkable level of solidarity on this issue but O’Malley stood out to me as seeming to understand the day to day issues of it.
When it got to healthcare it got downright nasty between Sanders and Hillary. Hillary accused Sanders of ripping up all of Obama’s progress on healthcare while Sanders said it didn’t go far enough. Hillary seemed rather mean spirited about it at times and trampled all over some of his specific points but one really good point stood out. A public option couldn’t have passed a Democratic House and trying to put one in now with a Republican Congress would risk the entire law. The exchange showed a very fierce side of Clinton and left Sanders looking unable to defend himself.
When it got to Wall Street things got really heated though. Sanders was far from kind to Hillary, accusing her of taking money from Wall Street and even talking about the revolving door between the treasury department and Wall Street. Both O’Malley and Sanders really went after Hillary and it made her look beholden to Wall Street.
At the end of the first hour Sanders and O’Malley stood out while Hillary wasn’t that big of a focus. She did well but aside from guns didn’t really hurt Sanders while both O’Malley and Sanders stood out as clear eyed progressive alternatives to Hillary’s more pragmatic approach.
The second hour was all about foreign policy but honestly there isn’t a lot to say here. All three candidates went out of their way to support President Obama and show solidarity. This is also where they really attacked the GOP field. While during the domestic part there was one or two hits on Trump this was really where the Democrats united and hit at the GOP. O’Malley talking about how troops shouldn’t be thought of as boots on the ground by Republicans. It seemed to me all three were declaring they were the party of a more balanced and less bellicose foreign policy. Also in one line it kind of seemed like Hillary and Putin had a thing for awhile…look up the jokes for yourself on that one.
All things considered, they all did fine. Hillary showed herself to be a competent debater, but I doubt she won over very many Sanders supporters. For Sanders part I doubt he will be helped or hurt by the debate. Aside from guns he showed himself to be a Liberal candidate out to break Wall Street. If I had to say there was a winner it would be Former Governor of Maryland Martin O’Malley. He came off as likable, knowledgeable, as pragmatic as Hillary but no less liberal than Sanders. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets the biggest poll bump from this.
On a side not the Democratic campaign committee should feel ashamed of itself. The scheduling for these debates has been ridiculous and they seem to have gone out of their way to hide them from viewers. Though I did really like how it was live on youtube. That made it very easy for me personally to watch but I know it being on a Sunday night must have really hurt it.
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