Tuesday night was the first round of debates for the democratic presidential candidates. CNN/Facebook sponsored the debate, and Anderson Cooper moderated in Las Vegas, Nevada. The lineup on stage is slightly refreshing (compared to fifteen Republican candidates!): Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb, and Lincoln Chafee. For complete candidate profiles, see my previous blog post here.

So far, there have been no major changes in the democratic field in the past few months. Many have speculated and have encouraged Vice President Joe Biden to run for president (CNN actually had a podium set aside in case he wandered in this evening), but he hasn’t showed signs of throwing his hat in the ring. Hillary leads the polls, with Bernie as a close second. Martin O’Malley has low poll numbers, but more name recognition than either Webb or Chafee. Coming into this debate, I’m sure these two were simply looking to introduce themselves to the American people.

Honestly, I can’t call a clear winner on this one. Clinton and Sanders were both strong. But the only name I can mention that will likely see a positive impact on their poll numbers will be O’Malley. While most of the attention throughout this campaign has been focused on Clinton or Sanders, I would say he laid out a lot of his past achievements and goals for the future.

ALSO, I really have to hand it to Anderson Cooper. He was a tough moderator – on all of the candidates. For CNN being known as a more liberal news outlet, it was somewhat surprising to see how combative he was. But at the same time, it’s really great that he got some of the tough, stickier issues out in the open and forced answers from these candidates.

Favorite moment had to be during the discussion of the Clinton email scandal. After Hillary was asked (I’m sure for the billionth time) about the emails, Bernie jumped in to defend her:

“The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails!”

I really do love how Bernie really isn’t inhibited by anything or anyone. As a self-declared socialist and previous Independent party member, it’s nice to see him say what he wants without needing to apologize or toe a party line. He’s running as a democrat, but he’s a democrat unlike any other on stage, which makes him VERY appealing to American voters. Hillary seems now seems to position herself as a more progressive, less moderate candidate, like him.

Candidate performance summaries:

  • Hillary seemed consistent and comfortable for the majority of the debate. She’s obviously comfortable with this sort of setting, and it showed. Very eager to highlight that she’d be the first woman president. However, she used that argument to answer the question of how she’d be different from the Obama administration. Could have used a stronger answer on this. She was strong on guns and immigration. Very strong on her foreign policy record and women’s issues, e.g. paid maternity leave. Weak on issues she’s been accused on flip-flopping, as she’s come under fire regarding her position on the Keystone Pipeline and TPP trade deal.
  • Bernie also did well, and remained consistent with his platforms and campaign rhetoric. He’s not very strong on foreign policy, and many of his answers regarding Syria, for example, didn’t have a strong answer. Neither was his answer on guns (kind of supports them, actually, and was called out for his Senate voting record). Truly rallied on economic inequality, the need for more universal college education, and said it was an “embarrassment” that the U.S. doesn’t offer paid maternity leave. Supports legalizing marijuana, only candidate to say so. I was also a big fan of his comment during a hot exchange regarding Wall Street: “Congress doesn’t regulate Wall Street, Wall Street regulates Congress.”
  • O’Malley gave many examples of his accomplishments and was really vocal about financial reform. Wants to reinstate a modern version of the Glass-Steagall Act** to break down big banks and their influence. At one point he called Trump a “carnival barker,” which I truly loved. He’s also the only “Washington outsider.” Really positioned himself to make this a 3-candidate race, instead of 2.
  • Webb mostly complained about his lack of screen time. I counted at least 4 or 5 times when he tried to speak over someone else, and was basically like, “what about me!?” Also seemed a bit conservative/traditionalist on some issues.
  • Lincoln Chafee remained mostly unmemorable. Tried to pose himself as a man “without scandal,” but the most important comment came when he was asked about his vote to repeal Glass-Steagall while he was in the Senate. Seemed to be making excuses about how it was “his first day.” Really, it only make him look unprepared. Not good when you’re trying to look good.

All can agree that they are OVER the Republican circus. The crowd really loved when Bernie said “let’s forget scandal and get back to the issues.” We agree, Bernie, we agree.


**Pro tip: Glass-Steagall was an act that was repealed in 1999 that prevented investment banks from interacting with commercial bank assets – which they now do. One of my favorite explanations of this comes from this scene in Season 1 of “The Newsroom,” and Olivia Munn’s character Sloan Sabbith:

“After the great depression, congress wanted to put a firewall between the investment banks and the commercial banks – they wanted to be sure Wall Street could melt to the ground and the commercial banks wouldn’t be touched.  They passed a law – the Glass-Steagall Act. Now you could be Gordon Gecko or George Bailey but you couldn’t be both….It helped lead to the largest sustained period of economic growth in U.S. history.”

Then, in a later scene…
“The culture of deregulation culminates in 1999 (Glass-Steagall gets repealed) and immediately banks start merging. Gordon Gecko can now use George Bailey’s bank balance to make bets.”


  • Josefine Fabricius Josefine Fabricius says:

    Great post! It was indeed a refreshing debate to watch. Such a contrast to the Republican debates in which they all just attack each other the whole time.
    Just wanted to offer a friendly correction – Bernie Sanders is a self-proclaimed DEMOCRATIC socialist, not a socialist. As a Dane, I think its an important distinction to make.

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