January 25, 2016
CNN and the Democrats didn’t get the ratings a normal debate would have, but the audience was large enough to make the 2 hour advertisement worth it for all parties. Good Trumpian combat is always fun, but an unobstructed 120 minutes to sell progressive liberalism, liberal progressivism, democratic socialism, etc. is useful too.
Republicans should strongly consider adding a couple of similar events once their field narrows to three or four candidates. A stronger sale to a smaller audience is often a better deal. Who made the best sale tonight?If you ask the post-game panel on CNN, it was Hillary Clinton. They spent a full hour singing her praises, being somewhat neutral on Bernie Sanders and, like most of America two minutes after he was done speaking, forgot Martin O’Malley existed.
Are they correct?
I don’t think so. Hillary did do well. She’s good in this format, most of the questions were easy, and those that weren’t, she survived and then built up momentum as she hacked through the answers. Anyone more than slightly leaning her way got their preference reinforced.
Bernie was more personable. He definitely kept his people fired up, and may have converted some undecided voters. Fewer people watched the commentary on the event than the event itself, so they wouldn’t have found themselves biased by the commentators.
Moderator Chris Cuomo was a little tougher on Bernie and I thought the audience questions were more challenging too. This probably helped him. Each of the questions and moderator redirections covered things undecided or mildly leaning voters were already wondering about.
He explained himself well, and had a chance to refute various concerns regarding his readiness to take office and the economic impact of his health care proposal. For those who have only seen him yelling from the ramparts about making the billionaires pay up, he showed some charm.
If a majority of undecided Democrats decide to vote with their heart, he’s home free. But will they?
Polls show Democrats are far more concerned with the economy, taxes, economic fairness, etc. than foreign policy and terrorism. Bernie spent virtually all of his time on the economic issues that are his favorite. If the polls are correct, that was wise.
Hillary had the advantage of going last, managing to refute some of Bernie’s attacks without mentioning him by name. She got foreign policy questions and did her normal thing. Regardless of who you support, Clinton is always more credible in this area.
Just like the most recent debate, Hillary clung to President Obama early and often. Conveniently, the topic of the president’s latest interview came up. In it, he signaled a preference for Hillary’s practicality over Bernie’s more ambitious aims. His comments were referenced by Cuomo in questions to both candidates.
She also took advantage of several opportunities to mention her husband’s administration and her role in it. Making a reference to Bill Clinton’s economic record is never a bad idea in any debate or forum. Alternately moving from running for his third term to Obama’s third left Hillary lined up as the next link in the chain.
So emotionally Bernie was stronger, strategically Hillary was. He was more likeable, she was more presidential. He linked himself to Democratic policy traditions, she linked herself to recent Democratic presidents.
Sounds like a tie, or very close to one. If more viewers were loyal Democrats, Hillary probably got a better result. If more viewers were strong progressives, Bernie will benefit more. Only one more week to find out which it was. It doesn’t appear tonight got the two candidates any major separation.