Hillary Wins First Democratic Debate

There were five candidates on the stage. Only two mattered.

democratic-debate-2015

My impression of the first Democratic debate of the 2016 cycle comports with that of the media accounts that I’ve read: Hillary Clinton was the clear winner and, among her challengers, only Bernie Sanders made any impact at all.

Clinton has been in the national spotlight for 23 years and nearly won the nomination eight years ago. So perhaps it’s not surprising that she was far and away the most comfortable on the debate stage. But she was ready for every question and managed to avoid looking bored or condescending.

Deprived of his adoring crowds, Sanders’ pitch fell flat. He strikes me as the Democratic Donald Trump, feeding his party’s id without the slightest regard for feasibility. He’s the Underpants Gnome candidate, who seems to think simply wanting bad things go away will make it so.

Sanders’ counterpoise is Jim Webb, the Democratic John McCain. Like the 2008 Republican nominee, he’s long taken positions that put him at odds with his own base. And, sadly, both have gotten much crankier in recent years. I half expected him to tell the other candidates to get off his lawn last night.

Lincoln Chafee is Democratic Lindsey Graham, well qualified for the job in terms of experience but lacking the personal gravitas to be taken seriously.

My favorite of the candidates is Martin O’Malley, who’s serving as the Democratic John Kasich. As a former mayor and governor, he has tons of executive experience and his record is one that would appeal to swing voters in a general election campaign. He comes across as likeable but, alas, didn’t do anything last night likely to connect him with the voters.

Clinton is the odds-on frontrunner. Nothing last night even put a slight dent in that. And, indeed, Sanders’ seeming dismissal of the email scandal as a relevant issue may well have given her a boost.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. gVOR08 says:

    He (Sanders) strikes me as the Democratic Donald Trump, feeding his party’s id without the slightest regard for feasibility.

    I’m sure that’s true, because both side do it.

  2. DMan says:

    He strikes me as the Democratic Donald Trump, feeding his party’s id without the slightest regard for feasibility.

    If true, what does that tell you about each party’s id? That one party strives for fairness and equality while the other caters to xenophobia and anti-intellectualism?

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Jim Webb, the Democratic John McCain. Like the 2008 Republican nominee, he’s long taken positions that put him at odds with his own base. And, sadly, both have gotten much crankier in recent years. I half expected him to tell the other candidates to get off his lawn last night.

    Heh.

  4. James Joyner says:

    @gVOR08: I’m not even sure what that means.

    @DMan: Both parties have a large core of disaffected types who are losing at life and looking for someone to blame. For Republicans, it’s illegal immigrants, coastal elites, and those somehow contributing to the moral decay of the society. For Democrats, it’s rich bankers and globalism. Both generally despise free trade, especially with less developed countries.

  5. Stan says:

    During the 2000 election one of my daughters, a Nader supporter, picketed Bush and Gore speeches in Portland, OR. The Gore attendees joshed with my daughter and the other protesters in a friendly way. The Bush people cursed them, shook their fists, and scared them out of her wits. Judging by the debates, nothing much has changed. For reasons I can’t understand, Republicans in modern day America are a lot angrier about the way things are going than Democrats. Why? I don’t get it.

  6. An Interested Party says:

    Both generally despise free trade…

    I can’t imagine why, what with “free trade” usually meaning the loss of manufacturing jobs and whole groups of Americans seemingly not reaping any benefits from these deals…

    Republicans in modern day America are a lot angrier about the way things are going than Democrats. Why? I don’t get it.

    Oh that’s quite easy to understand…the older, heterosexual white males of the Republican Party see that they are losing their status and privilege in this country and they don’t like it one damn bit…

  7. An Interested Party says:

    Both generally despise free trade…

    I can’t imagine why, what with “free trade” usually meaning the loss of manufacturing jobs and whole groups of Americans not reaping any benefits from these deals…

    Republicans in modern day America are a lot angrier about the way things are going than Democrats. Why? I don’t get it.

    Oh that’s quite easy to understand…the older, heterosexual white males of the Republican Party see that they are losing their status and privilege in this country and they don’t like it one damn bit…

  8. Neil Hudelson says:

    I expect O’Malley to get a bit of a bump, as most people watching didn’t know who he was before the debate, and he came off as strong and passionate.

    Sanders will see a big fundraising bump, but not much movement in the polls.

    I’m hoping Webb and Chafee exit soon. While I think Webb’s different views are healthy for the party, he sounded like my drunk uncle at Thanksgiving explaining how things would be different if he were in charge.

    Lincoln Chaffee looks surprisingly a lot like a thumb, and had the same charisma.

  9. Scott says:

    For Republicans, it’s illegal immigrants, coastal elites, and those somehow contributing to the moral decay of the society. For Democrats, it’s rich bankers and globalism.

    I think the difference in this case, is that the Republicans are punching down, and the Democrats are punching up. I have more respect with those that punch up.

  10. Hal_10000 says:

    @Stan:

    My experience was the opposite. I voted libertarian in 2004, 2008 and 2012 and got way more anger and heat for it from Democrats than Republicans (especially in 2004).

    I’m not sure how O’Malley is going to run on his record, considering what a mess he left Baltimore in. I’ve disliked him since I lived in Baltimore and he came across last night as he always did then: polished, prepared and utterly disingenuous.

    The candidate I liked most was actually Sanders, which surprised me. Then again, I always like people who are genuine and Sanders, whatever his faults, says what he thinks. I disagree with his entire economic agenda, but I really liked him on civil liberties, the War on Terror, marijuana and criminal justice reform. A Sanders presidency with a Republican congress wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. Not saying I’d vote for the man, but my impression was positive.

    Oh, and Chafee had to have some of the worst answers of the night. Defending his vote for the Patriot Act and Glass-Steagel, his answer was basically, “I was young; I need the money”.

  11. Franklin says:

    @DMan: It’s funny you mention that. A lot of people seem to think that the Occupy movement failed. Except, income inequality is actually a topic now, even among Republicans. We may disagree on their solutions to it, but it’s in the national consciousness now.

  12. michael reynolds says:

    Hillary crushed it. Joe who?

  13. Moosebreath says:

    @Hal_10000:

    ” Chafee had to have some of the worst answers of the night. Defending his vote for the Patriot Act and Glass-Steagel, his answer was basically, “I was young; I need the money”.”

    I’ve seen more than one commentator indicate it sounded like Chafee wandered in off his yacht and decided to join in the debate.

  14. Ben Wolf says:

    Deprived of his adoring crowds, Sanders’ pitch fell flat. He strikes me as the Democratic Donald Trump, feeding his party’s id without the slightest regard for feasibility. He’s the Underpants Gnome candidate, who seems to think simply wanting bad things go away will make it so.

    Then you have lost touch with reality. “Underpants gnome” is analysis-free jawboning which indicates you weren’t paying close attention

    Clinton:

    She gave the moat polished delivery and was clearly at ease in the setting. Understandable given her long experience and intelligence. Her genuine moment of the evening came when Sanders came to her defense on the email issue against an Anderson Cooper in a nasty mood; it was nice to see her flash the unscripted smile and laugh.

    On Syria she slipped, her suggestion she’d have the Air Force flying over Syria to get leverage over Putin not the most astute admission. It does signal that President Clinton will be just as neoconservative as Secretary of State Clinton. She showed the greatest mastery of foreign policy whether one agrees with her positions or not.

    On gun control she portrayed outrage with no concrete proposal for doing anything more than Sanders has proposed, but it’s one of the very few areas she can take the offensive against him so I expect to see more of it.

    On how she’s an outsider, “I’m a woman” didn’t cut it.

    On spending she hit back at the question perfectly by turning the focus to conservative love of big government when it serves their interests.

    On financial reforms her proposals were more-of-the-same stuff. “Give regulators more power” is a recipe for another crisis given these same regulators were either asleep at the wheel or wholely complicit in creating conditions for the previous disaster.

    Sanders:

    Stumbled on gun control under Clinton’s attack. His responses highlight the yawning differences between rural voters and the urban voters on which the Democrats are now largely dependent for electoral success.

    His delivery on inequality, financial reforms and campaign finance demonstrate the enormous impact he’s had on the issues in the campaign. Tbe other candidates would not have spoken so much on the topic or offered significant plans in financial sector reform and college affordability without his involvement.

    Delivered the best line of the night coming to Clinton’s defense. In an interview immediately following th debate when asked why he did it Sandsrs responded, “It was right thing to do.” Underpants gnomes would say that.

    On Syria not as polished or knowledgeable as Clinton as he doesn’t have her expertise in the area.

    Sanders delivered some well-aimed criticisms of the corporate-media’s endless hunger for meaningless conflict and susbstance-free blather.

    Overall he held his own against a political heavyweight which was what he needed to do with his introduction to so many Americans. Some commentors appear not to realize this dynamic.

    Chafee:

    Guaranteed he would never be president with his “all the cool kids were voting for it” defense of his record.

    O’Malley: Decent substance but terrible delivery.

    Webb: Woukd have done far better at the Republican debates. Comment on the guy he killed in Vietnam would have brought the house down over there but left the audience cold last night. Spent more time complaining about not getting enough time than using the time he did get to answer questions.

  15. michael reynolds says:

    @Franklin:

    Interesting, isn’t it? You had these two movements: Tea Party and Occupy. The OTB front-pagers welcomed the TP and sneered at Occupy. Now the TP is busily destroying the Republican Party, and “the 1%” has become a staple of political discussion.

    Of course this is the way of the world: Conservatives rage and rant and demand a DeLorean to take them back to a mythical time before black and brown and gay and female people existed. Liberals identify the issues of the future. The conservatives become road kill, the liberals shape the future.

  16. michael reynolds says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    Jim Webb is my favorite of the Republicans.

    On how she’s an outsider, “I’m a woman” didn’t cut it.

    Sure it does. She’s appealing to this little voting bloc that happens to be 52% of the electorate.

  17. Tillman says:

    @Franklin: I really don’t think making something a topic of national conversation counts as a victory, or if it does it counts as the weakest kind. The Tea Party accomplished this with deficits and elected Congressmen to drive us into default over them. Occupy fizzled into nothing after giving Democrats something to talk about as they lost power.

    @michael reynolds: your paranoia is getting the better of you. There’s no need to point out no one’s talking about Joe Biden when no one’s talking about Joe Biden.

  18. michael reynolds says:

    @Tillman:

    Wait a minute, aren’t you now talking about Joe Biden?

  19. Tillman says:

    @michael reynolds: Technically, I’m talking about talking about Joe Biden.

  20. Ben Wolf says:

    @michael reynolds: As Cooper spent ten minutes telling us, no one is more of an outsider than a socialist so she loses there hands down. “Vote for a woman” isn’t any better than “vote for a man because we don’t want a woman”. If it gets her some extra votes then mission accomplished but the argument itself is logical junk.

  21. michael reynolds says:

    @Tillman:

    See, if we were in the media we could now report the story that, “People are talking about Joe Biden.” Then we’d commission a poll and report on that. Then comes the rent-a-pundits who would disagree over whether or not we’re talking about Joe Biden, which in turn spawns the story, “Washington insiders divided on Biden.” And we would need still more pundits to talk about that.

    And people say perpetual motion is impossible.

  22. michael reynolds says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    100% of presidents have been men, 0% women, so in contemplating herself as a candidate, Hillary is right to claim outsider status.

    You prefer to define “outsider” from a policy perspective, she’s defining it differently but nevertheless accurately. And politically it’s smarter.

    I’m not dissing your boy Bernie, I thought he did a great job. He’s never going to be president, or even the candidate, but he preaches well to the already converted.

  23. Tillman says:

    @michael reynolds: “It’s time we, as a country, sat down and had a conversation on Joe Biden.”

    @Ben Wolf: Some of Clinton’s lines were pithy dismissals — you point out the “outsider” line but I was more annoyed at the idea Libya was “smart power” — but she did what she had to do, and it’s not like anyone challenging her for the nomination was willing (or even able) to point out the platitudes as empty.

  24. Ben Wolf says:

    @michael reynolds: Bernie isn’t my boy.

    @Tillman: I agree. She explicitly stated it was worth smashing a country for one election and years of chaos. It illustrates her “look forward not backward” approach to policy in which failure means never having to say you’re sorry.

  25. al-Ameda says:

    Bernie Sanders seems to me to be the type of candidate who would get a solid 40% in the general election, and I’m not sure his candidacy would motivate any Democratic constituencies apart from traditional White middle class liberals.

    He’s clearly on the left and, to his credit, he does not shy away from his positions and policies on the left. However, I believe he’d be soundly defeated in the general election, I happen to think there are many more voters on the solid well-to-the-right than there are on the well-to-the-left, and I’m not sure about the so-called middle. IMO, Sanders heading up the ticket would not end well for Democrats.

  26. dmichael says:

    @James Joyner: I believe I understand what gVOR08 meant. Let me try this: Your comment comparing Trump and Sanders was engaging in standard media false equivalence analogous to “both sides do it” or “high Broderism.”

  27. Frank Wheeler says:

    Yeah!!! For Hillary. I hope she wins big. So her loss in the general election next November sends her back to Arkansas.

  28. Todd says:

    @James Joyner:

    Both parties have a large core of disaffected types who are losing at life and looking for someone to blame.

    lol, ok so if I don’t like Clinton, but do kind of like Bernie Sanders, I’m “losing at life” .. got it .. thanks James.

  29. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Frank Wheeler:

    Why would a loss send her back to a state she hasn’t called home in 23 years?

    I hope Bush loses so hard he’s sent packing to Connecticut…

  30. Todd says:

    @al-Ameda:

    However, I believe he’d be soundly defeated in the general election

    It’s funny, on a pure, across the board ideological basis, most of you who comment here are probably more liberal than I am. I don’t agree with Bernie Sanders on a few issues (TPP and NSA to name two), but it blows my mind that so many of you are so timid that you buy into the BS that he can’t win a general election. This is not 1972. The great recession, and the grossly uneven recovery has had an impact on the electorate. Bernie Sander’s message will resonate … and not just with young liberals.

    Hillary Clinton is much more like Al Gore than Barack Obama, and if she’s the nominee, I have a strong feeling that Democrats will wake up on November 9th 2016 with nightmare flashbacks to 2000 rather than the hopeful feelings of 2008.

  31. stonetools says:

    Hmmph, looks like the Internet ate my earlier comment here. Shorter version: The commentariat (and I) thought Hillary won, but social media was solidly for Bernie. Looks like Bernie has his fans here too. So far as I’m concerned , the main thing is that a Democrat ends up in the Presidential chair come November 9, 2016.

    This is not 1972. The great recession, and the grossly uneven recovery has had an impact on the electorate. Bernie Sander’s message will resonate … and not just with young liberals.

    I’d like to believe that, but I’m not SURE of it. No doubt the Mcgovernites were sure the country was ready for True Liberalism in 1972 too. Unfortunately, there is no margin for error to roll the dice or play purity politics in 2016.

  32. Modulo Myself says:

    @Todd:

    I think Sanders could win a general election with the Democratic party machine behind him, especially given the clown show that the GOP has put forth. However, he’s going to have serious trouble once he gets out of Iowa and the northeast.

  33. James Joyner says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The OTB front-pagers welcomed the TP and sneered at Occupy.

    That’s not my recollection, at least on the first part. While I may have defended the Tea Party from some of the attacks, I always thought it was bizarre and unhelpful. It took me a while to come around on Occupy, mostly because the protest itself seemed aimed at nothing–it was ranting without a unified theme aside from bitterness over how to pay off the loans for four years of partying at an Ivy League school while working on a degree in Medieval Basket Weaving. Once the message finally coalesced around the “1%” message, I wrote a lot of supportive posts about the message while still wondering what it is they actually wanted to do about the issue.

  34. James Joyner says:

    @dmichael: I’m not saying they’re exactly the same, only that they’re the same in one key sense—appealing to the id of their party without having substantive, achievable policy means of getting there. I rather like Bernie Sanders while I viscerally dislike Donald Trump. I think Sanders is ranting about legitimate issues while Trump is ranting about meaningless ones in a harmful way.

  35. James Joyner says:

    @Todd: I’m sure there are many successful people attracted to Sanders, and even to Trump. But there’s a hard core in both parties that are simply frustrated at their lot in life and looking for some “other” to blame. While I prefer bankers gaming the system as a target vice the desperate souls flooding across our Southern border, it’s mostly id rather than real policy.

  36. stonetools says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    I think Sanders could win a general election with the Democratic party machine behind him

    It’s not really clear that Sanders would get the wholehearted support of the Democratic machine, given the fact that he is not really a Democrat. Yet another reason not to roll the dice with him in the general.
    I have a hard time seeing Bernie catching on outside the Northeast, too. And ( I’ll say it, because no one else seems to want to) there is a hard core of Americans who won’t vote for a Jew. It’s an ugly fact, like a turd in a swimming pool, but it is a fact.

  37. steve s says:

    the number of democrats who call themselves liberal has risen from 27% to 41% in 15 years. Bernie, while he won’t be ultimately successful this time, is a symptom of how our young people have much better values than their elders. Bernie’s not the end, he’s part of a new beginning.

  38. gVOR08 says:

    @dmichael: You are correct, thank you. The comment struck me as a typical Inside the Beltway false equivalence, one I’ve seen made by other pudits and VSPs – the R’s have a crazy uncle so we have to portray some D as a crazy uncle. @James Joyner: I am very relieved to see your comment. I had thought that extending the comparison by referring to Sanders as the id of the D party seemed inappropriate, as explained by @DMan: . Fairness and equality are not characteristic of the id. If we’re going to push Freud, that seems more superego. Perhaps you at least partially agree with us.

    I do have a visceral reaction to comparing Bernie’s long considered social democrat policy statements to Trump’s calculated blowing red meat for the base out off of his arse.

  39. DrDaveT says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’m not saying they’re exactly the same, only that they’re the same in one key sense—appealing to the id of their party without having substantive, achievable policy means of getting there.

    The problem with even that comparison is that, while Trump legitimately has zero experience or knowledge or influence that would allow him to accomplish the things he promises, Sanders has years of proven success at drafting legislation and getting it passed.

    You really don’t see an important, simile-breaking difference there?

  40. Tillman says:

    @Todd:

    I don’t agree with Bernie Sanders on a few issues (TPP and NSA to name two), but it blows my mind that so many of you are so timid that you buy into the BS that he can’t win a general election.

    Why are you surprised? Hasn’t the attached meme for Democrats long been they are spineless wimps who allow Republicans to dominate media cycles and messaging? Hell, Clinton herself made the point at the debate that this was about keeping Republicans out of power more than any grand vision. I find that dangerously uninspiring in an election that will depend more on base turnout than persuasion in a very polarized country, but I’d still prefer Clinton over any Republican at this point.

    Sanders, for his part, is an imperfect messenger of his policy. While Clinton has a sleazy, duplicitous image (the recent flip on TPP and the weak defense of it at the debate did her no favors), Sanders honestly reminds many people of a crazy relative. Insightful, certainly, but I remain dumbstruck his hair played by the rules for the whole night. Remember that time he was shouting about the inefficacy of shouting your rhetoric as a method to get things done? Clinton’s image is off enough to cost her a competitive race, but Sanders’s image is on a different level entirely. We’ll know more about his appeal in the coming weeks and polls. Till then, it’s not worth speculating too much about who has the most support on the ground.

  41. MarkedMan says:

    Great, as if I haven’t wasted enough valuable time today, now I’m going to have to look up “Underpants Gnome”….

    ….
    …..

    The Underpants Gnomes are gnomes that travel the world stealing underpants. They are featured in the episode “Gnomes”. They later reappeared in “Red Sleigh Down” and “Imaginationland”. They are voiced by Trey Parker

    Ok, not really helpful. I don’t get the allusion. Anyone?

  42. grumpy realist says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I seem to remember that the strategy of the Underpants Gnomes was written down as the following:

    1. Steal underpants.
    2. ???
    3. Profit!

    …somewhat akin to Harris’s cartoon “…a miracle happens here” beloved by scientists.

  43. stonetools says:

    @MarkedMan:

    See here

    PROFIT” is used in numbered lists to explain how to reach a goal. The basic template is:
    1. Step one
    2. Step two
    3. ????
    4. PROFIT!!!
    Origin
    This meme comes directly from South Park‘s season 2, episode 17 (30th in total) which aired on December 16th, 1998. In this particular episode, the children’s underwear are being stolen from them by gnomes for the purpose of “profit.”
    The process, as explained by thee gnomes goes something like this.
    Step 1. Collect underpants.
    Step 2. ?
    Step 3. PROFIT

  44. stonetools says:

    @Tillman:

    Matt Yglesias’ take on the difference between Clinton and Sanders:

    When the debate briefly took a turn toward Wall Street regulation, Clinton took a surprising tack and argued that her plan to curb financial risk is actually tougher than Bernie Sanders’s mantra of breaking up the big banks. She offered a reasonable argument on this point, noting that many troubles in the financial system came from institutions that were either not especially big (Lehman Brothers) or not even banks (AIG) and thus could slip the grasp of Sanders’s rather crude plan.

    Sanders did not reply to this in detail or mount a specific defense of his emphasis on size per se. Instead, reflecting his overall view of the ultimate significance of political economy above all else, he went lofty with the idea that what’s fundamentally needed is systematic change to curb the power of finance over the political system. As he later put it, “the power of corporate America is so great” that we need “a political revolution when millions of people come together and say we need a government to work for all of us and not just billionaires.”

    This is the fundamental difference between the two. Clinton is a detail-oriented, practical-minded literalist, while Sanders is much more of a big-picture guy. On the stump, which is all about passion and oratory, this makes Sanders considerably more compelling. But in the context of a reasonably friendly debate, Clinton seemed comfortable and always on point….

    The policy-heavy dynamic ultimately played directly into Clinton’s hand. On a stage of earnest, policy-oriented pols, she was simply the best briefed and the best able to fluently address a seemingly endless array of issues. She effortlessly pivoted from criminal justice reform to early childhood education to foreign policy to trade. Everyone else had several issues on which they were strong (except maybe Chafee, who just seems lame), but Clinton was rock-solid across the board.

    Now Yglesias is a proud policy wonk, which might explain his preference for the Clinton approach, but it seems most of the commentariat agrees.Clinton looked to me not only better than any other Democratic candidate , but so far superior to the leading Republican candidates that it wouldnt be even a contest debating them.

  45. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Stan: You obviously didn’t read James’ answer above. They are angry at having to live with a bunch of disaffected losers and of having to deal with them and their loserness.

    Who wants to be infected with loser cooties?

  46. michael reynolds says:

    @James Joyner:

    Doug was definitely a Tea Party defender early on, though he outgrew it. And he loved to sneer at Occupy, though I agree with a lot of what he (and you) said about them. They never moved beyond drum circles and frankly annoying the hell out of people by banging on a plastic tub isn’t exactly the I Have a Dream speech, still less the Civil Rights Act. But they were right, nonetheless, and simply by being right, however incompetently, they helped to shape the debate going forward while the Tea Party is even worse and more destructive than I thought they’d be.

    On a related note, I had doubts about the Black Lives Matter movement because it was looking very drum circle to me. But they have produced a pretty smart,pretty real-world agenda: Campaign Zero.

  47. J-Dub says:

    Webb needs a style consultant. Not only does a button-down collar look silly with a suit but it looked like he could use another inch in the collar. And what’s with his hair? Part your hair on the side like a grown-up.

    And Chafee looks like Sam the Eagle from the Muppets: http://charmcitywire.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/muppets-sam-the-eagle-1982-590×350.jpg

  48. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Ben Wolf: James was paying attention; he just doesn’t like what he was hearing. In the dark night of his soul, he knows that the most idiotic, venal, and incompetent Democrat (whoever one might assign that role to) will be a better choice than the most competent, public-spirited Republican and can’t cope with it.

  49. al-Ameda says:

    @Frank Wheeler:

    Yeah!!! For Hillary. I hope she wins big. So her loss in the general election next November sends her back to Arkansas.

    (1) Would we send Ted Cruz back to Canada or Cuba?

    (2) Would we send Ben Carson back to any Popeye’s so that he could point out to potential robbers just who the cashiers are?

    (3) Would we send Donald Trump back to bankruptcy courts in New York, New Jersey, or Florida?

  50. Paul Hooson says:

    If Hillary is not too damaged to be electable, then she’s perhaps the best bet to win in November. But, I didn’t see any evidence that she won the debate, only that she had a good performance. In all polling I’ve seen, Sanders came out on top with 65-68%, Webb second at 18%, Hillary at 15% or a little better, and O’Malley and Chafee with only marginal approval.

  51. Tillman says:

    @stonetools: I’m deferring more to Nate Silver and Josh Marshall. She had a fine debate, but the reaction that’s followed, that she had a fantastic night and is poised for a grand comeback, is overinflated. The media was wrapped inside its own narrative of her failing candidacy and is pleasantly shocked to see otherwise.

    Again, this is all biased speculation. The polling in the weeks to come will offer proof one way or the other.

  52. michael reynolds says:

    There were only two people on that stage who might conceivably be elected and Bernie Sanders was not one. He is too far left, and I really hope Democrats won’t start falling for their own version of No True Scotsman. Bernie is authentic and a good guy, but Anderson Cooper laid out the basic attack: You supported the Sandinistas, honeymooned in the USSR, and say you’re not a capitalist but a socialist.

    Too much, too far. Liberals should beware of having their erogenous zones stroked and imagining that everyone else is turned on, too. I know everyone thinks Bernie did well, and so do I, but he has no space for growth. He’s got his college kids, but that’s about it. When has the candidate of the universities ever actually managed to be elected?

  53. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    It took me a while to come around on Occupy, mostly because the protest itself seemed aimed at nothing–it was ranting without a unified theme aside from bitterness over how to pay off the loans for four years of partying at an Ivy League school while working on a degree in Medieval Basket Weaving.

    If that’s what you thought it was about, you’re weren’t paying any attention at all, and have also revealed yourself to be, once again bizarrely gullible and susceptible to right-wing propaganda. Seriously, why, whenever the conversation turns to economic issues, can you not stop thinking in cliches?

  54. grumpy realist says:

    @michael reynolds: Wow, I guess I never did outgrow college, then….

    I’m voting for Bernie to put pressure on Clinton to adopt some of his policies. Strategy, man, strategy.

    My major worry is that Clinton is going to drive the insanity on the Republican side to tops on the Richter scale.

  55. anjin-san says:

    @ James

    who’s serving as the Democratic John Kasich.

    Are you saying he seems to embarrass himself every time he speaks, like Kasich does?

  56. MikeSJ says:

    I like Bernie. He seems like a good guy with a good heart. I have no doubt the country would be better off if his policy proposals were implemented.

    But…

    He honeymooned in the USSR? For starters who does that? What a freaking oddball thing to do.

    The idea that someone with this record could get elected President is a childish fantasy. The last time we got to experience this fantasy was with good ole Ralph Nader.

    I’d like to think the Democratic base has learned a lesson from that debacle but I’m not feeling that optimistic.

  57. David M says:

    @MikeSJ:

    Luckily for all involved, Sanders isn’t planning an independent run to help the GOP.

  58. michael reynolds says:

    @grumpy realist:

    If she’s dragged far enough left she becomes as unelectable as Bernie.

    I think this time her campaign may be smart. I’ve been saying for a long time I suspected she was playing rope-a-dope, letting the Republicans beat up on her, lowering her expectations from ‘anointed queen’ to ‘dubious frontrunner.’ Last night was Hillary come off the ropes, rested, prepared and having fun.

    I think they’re running a fem-dom campaign, focusing on motherhood issues, equal pay, so on, the low-ball stuff the pundits dismiss. She’s got plenty of red meat for the more rational lefty, without destroying her chances in the general. I don’t think she will be pushed further left and I don’t think it’s a good idea to try and push her further left. There’s a reason why we all know Bernie can’t win: he’s too far left, where you want her to go.

  59. Grewgills says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I think they’re running a fem-dom campaign

    I don’t think that term means what you think it means.

  60. michael reynolds says:

    @Grewgills:

    It’s sweet that you think I don’t, and that I didn’t choose it deliberately to have a little word fun.

  61. Tony W says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’m sure there are many successful people attracted to Sanders, and even to Trump.

    Count me as an idealistic high income supporter of Bernie Sanders. And yes, supporting Bernie is not in my selfish best interest. That’s why I affiliate with the Liberals – I can see past the fence in my backyard.

  62. Tyrell says:

    The weakest performance was by CNN. 100 % fluff, meaningless questions that dodged real issues. The statements were Sanders’ and Hillary’s total repudiation of the Obama economic program of the past seven years, which they described as a colossal failure.

  63. Grewgills says:

    @michael reynolds:
    and now that image is stuck in my head

  64. MarkedMan says:

    @Tillman:

    The media was wrapped inside its own narrative of her failing candidacy and is pleasantly shocked to see otherwise.

    This is classic Hillary. Or rather I should say the classic media cycle with Hillary. People work themselves into a lather painting her in some way, usually negatively. Then the debate/speech/congressional session arrives and they are all “wow she’s different now!” But she is rarely different. She’s a wonk who prepares really hard and, unlike most politicians, is not unusually concerned about how much people like her. In policy, she’s always been the same. There are a a bunch of social changes she fights for, but she will drop anyone of them if she sees the opportunity to advance another. Media people just don’t know what to make of that. I find it refreshingly pragmatic and focused, especially considering she’s a politician.

  65. michael reynolds says:

    @Tyrell:

    I’m glad you think so. It’s utter nonsense of course, Anderson Cooper hit Hillary hard right out of the gate.

    But the fact that you think so means you absorbed it from right-wing sources. And that means they’re nervous. They realize how much better the Democrats looked, how much better-prepared, how much more rational, how much more united they are.

    So the people who fill your head, Tyrell, are developing an explanatory narrative for folks like you to parrot. It’s essentially an excuse for the relative imbecility of the sad, sick little sideshow your candidates put on. So, blame CNN. Right.

    It’s an absolute lie, but you’ll fall for it, and you’ll repeat it.

  66. Todd says:

    @James Joyner:

    But there’s a hard core in both parties that are simply frustrated at their lot in life

    One of the “hits” on the Bernie Sanders’ campaign, and among the reasons many think he won’t overtake Hillary Clinton, is that for the most part he’s not reaching the disaffected part of the party. His support is primarily from white (mostly middle class) liberals who are doing relatively fine for ourselves, but worry about the future; for our children and grandchildren.

    For me personally, Bernie Sanders’ appeal has nothing to do with animosity towards the rich. I have some good friends who are quite well off, and like (possibly too) many Americans, I of course still have the spot in the back of my mind that believes I too may still be “rich” one day before I die. But I honestly believe that things like universal health care, college education that doesn’t result in 5 or 6 figures of debt, a reintroduction of some form of Glass-Steagall to insulate the public from the worst excesses of Wall Street gambling, and yes even a much higher marginal tax rate at the extreme top of the income scale, would all be good for the economy (and the public) over the long-term.

    I still believe in capitalism, but I also believe that our form of it is in desperate need of a brake change (to use a car analogy). We were extremely lucky to have Barack Obama in the White House coming out of the 2008 collapse. But despite the protestations from the tea party crowd, he’s a true a moderate, and as a result nothing has really changed on Wall Street. If something isn’t done soon, the next collapse will be even worse.

    I’m not under any illusions that most of Sanders’ agenda would have any chance of passing and being implemented. But his election would be a step in the right direction.

  67. Todd says:

    @Tillman: Yes, like you, I would obviously still prefer Clinton over any Republican. And yes, I do have some reservations about Senator Sanders. Not necessarily about his appeal on the campaign trail, or his electability, but how he’d handle foreign policy if he did get to the White House. I’ve always said that to the extent that I’m a “one issue” voter, that’s my issue … and that’s the primary reason I would still prefer that Joe Biden be sworn in as our next President.

    My concern about Democrats in regards to Hillary Clinton is their misguided belief that she would somehow have an “easy” time in a general election contest with Republicans. I think they are dangerously mistaken. Also, the subtext of Bernie Sanders’ message during the debate was that electing him alone won’t really change anything. Democrats need big, huge turnout to have an effect on Congress too. Hillary Clinton will almost certainly not drive that kind of general election turnout. It’s possible that Sanders wouldn’t either, but he’s the better bet of the two.

  68. Todd says:

    @stonetools:

    Now Yglesias is a proud policy wonk, which might explain his preference for the Clinton approach, but it seems most of the commentariat agrees.Clinton looked to me not only better than any other Democratic candidate , but so far superior to the leading Republican candidates that it wouldnt be even a contest debating them.

    And here we have a perfect example of the point I was making in my last comment.

    Also, if you look around on the same VOX site as the Yglesias article, you’ll find this one which paints a different picture. While Clinton may have “won” with the commentariat, by many other objective measures (especially among more “regular” type people), Bernie Sanders actually had the better debate.

  69. Todd says:

    For context on the silly “honeymooned” in the Soviet Union thing: Polifact

    This is what infuriates me about Clinton supporters. You’re so worried about potential Republican attacking points that you’re willing to spread them yourselves, without even bothering to Google first.

  70. WR says:

    @michael reynolds: As fond as I am of Bernie, I don’t think he could be elected, either. But it’s not so much because of his politics, challenging as they may be — I just can’t see this country electing someone this grumpy. Our idiot electorate loves smiling, positive “winners,” not angry truth-tellers. Reagan didn’t win a national election until he’d stopped advocating for the execution of hippies and started practicing his “optimism.”

  71. WR says:

    @Todd: I’m a Clinton supporter who thinks it’s moronic that anyone should care where any candidate has visited on honeymoon or otherwise, and that it’s shameful any actual journalist would even bring it up. It reminds me of Bush1 trying to smear Bill Clinton for having been to Russia.

    I’m also a Clinton supporter who is pretty tired of a certain type of Democrat who believes that his preference is the only pure and true one, and that anyone who supports his candidate’s opponent is corrupt, cowardly or stupid. It doesn’t make the one hurling these charges look wise or sophisticated, and doesn’t do his candidate any good, either.

  72. WR says:

    @Todd: “You’re so worried about potential Republican attacking points that you’re willing to spread them yourselves, without even bothering to Google first.”

    And PS — It’s pretty hilarious to see this charge coming from one self-styled Democrat who has been endlessly reciting Republican hits against Hillary Clinton for months. But hey, maybe you Googled first, so it’s okay.

  73. stonetools says:

    @Todd:

    It’s good that you Googled. Now show me that the RW media gives a f#rt in a wind storm whether they care about the truth of the “vacation in the USSR”, so long as it can be effectively exploited in a smear campaign.