This was an interesting (though long and protracted) debate where the front runners did most of what they needed to do. Hillary Clinton is better in a debate format that in a lot of venues. The interaction helps her and she appears smart, well-informed, and engaging. She plays well off of others. Toward the end of the debate when she got a question on maternity leave she even showed a flash of Bernie Sanders’ style outrage. And, it became clear over the course of the night that she will increase position herself as an outsider as a woman.
Bernie Sanders was Bernie Sanders, consistent, forthright, and genuine. Going into the debate, I was unsure how he might come across but the fact that is unapologetic about who he is is endearing. He likely “won the debate” with his sound bite on being tired of hearing about Hillary Clinton’s damn emails. It was a great moment that allowed him – at once – to be generous to an opponent and critical of the news media and Republicans.
Some of his answers may not play well in the long run – embracing democratic socialism, for example, where he seems far outside of the mainstream. The fact that he embraces these answers and uses them as an opportunity to explain his views works well for him. The question remains, however, as to whether it expands his base?
Martin O’Malley did fine but I don’t think we’ll enough. He had an important misstatement on Assad and Syria, though I think he just misspoke. The problem is – he needed to have a home run and he didn’t hit it out of the park. I thought he was at his best when he responded to Sanders saying “we already did that in Maryland.” If his campaign ever took hold, he claim the mantle of a “reformer with results.”
Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee were not helped at all by being on the stage.
Finally, I have no idea what Joe Biden will do, but I don’t think this debate opened the door to a presidential run any wider. If Biden was waiting for a sign in the form of a crumbling Clinton campaign, I don’t think he got it.