Who Won The First Democratic Party Primary Debate?

Lincoln Chafee, Hillary Clinton, Martin O'Malley, Bernie Sanders, and Jim Webb faced off in the Facebook-CNN sponsored debate. Who won?

The individual who "won" is the individual whose poll numbers went up the most, and we don't know that yet. But there are other ways to win, and other ways to talk about winning.


Barack Obama I am pleased to note that the candidates running for the Democratic nomination were not running away from the President. That proved to be a bad strategy for House and Senate Democrats during the last election, and we are not seeing it today. One of the questions asked during the debate was, "How would your presidency not be a third Obama term?" The ideal answer might have been, "Oh, it will be a third Obama term in many ways," or even "My first term will be a second version of Obama's second term." No one said that, but some implied it, and it was clear that no candidate was trying to distance themselves from Obama. Within Democratic party politics, that is meaningful, and it was an endorsement of President Obama.

The Democratic Party I believe that there are people out there who were either Republicans or who were Independents who watched the GOP debates and then watched the Democratic debate and became Democrats. If you need to know why, you didn't watch the debates.

Climate Change I am also please to note that climate change was a key issue in the debate, even if CNN did not try very hard to make it so. Many of the candidates mentioned climate change without prompting, and when climate change was brought up it was addressed. Most of the candidates had the "right" answer -- that climate change is real, and important.

Martin O'Malley O'Malley is a climate hawk, and also, has a strong position on gun regulation. But, he is relatively unkown. Most democrats and progressives seemed to think he did well in the debate and he made a good impression. He is not likely to move out of the single digit zone, but he has become a factor. Many commenters are suggesting that he advanced into the possible VP slot because of this debate.

Bernie Sanders and Millions of Americans Sanders articulated his central position and did not falter or screw up in any way. Sanders supporters are able to say he won hands down, Sanders opponents can not say he did poorly. But something else happened here. Sanders made a point to a national audience that he has been making all along, which is very important. Like many idealist candidates before him, he has positions that can't turn into reality because of strong opposition by the Republicans and because of Citizens United. Sanders' answer to that is to agree, these positions will go nowhere. Unless... Unless millions of people show up outside the windows of the elected officials in Washington to scream at them. He's right. Having that sociopolitical tactic acknowledged and part of his campaign would make Sanders the best candidate and an effective president if a) he wins and b) the millions of people actually show up. That prospect is now on the table.

Hillary Clinton Many commenters have noted that Hillary Clinton won the debate because she was the best debater. An example of her skill came when her ability to make good decisions was questioned vis-a-vis her vote on Iraq. Her answer was, essentially, that President Obama trusted her with the Secretary of State job, so what the heck? That and several other comebacks served her well. Clinton is a traditional fire and brimstone Democrat. Given a podium for ten minutes she can capture the crowd and bring everyone to a teary-eyed state of Progressive Frenzy with great skill. In the debating context, this is hard to do because the train just starts to leave the station when you get cut off. But on those few occasions when Clinton had the time, she got the train out of the station. Did you notice that? (In contrast, Sanders is a chunker. He has these great, fiery, hard as brick chunks of rhetoric he can slam into any conversation in less than 19 seconds. He showed that ability many times last night.)


International trade deals Sanders made the point that there have been no good international trade deals. Clinton, who was in on the early negotiations of the Trans Pacific Partnership threw the TPP under the bus. No one came to the rescue of international trade deals. It will be interesting to see if the Gops make this a point in the election. Their knee-jerk reaction will be to do so, but it will hurt them because nobody likes sending jobs and money overseas, and Romney has inoculated the voting populous in this area already.

Lincoln Chaffee Chaffee just did not come off well. Also, he was the only candidate repeatedly questioning everyone else's ethics with the passive aggressive comment that HE was the one with ethics. Then he fell into the tiger trap by admitting that his 1999 Senate vote to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act, which he now sees as having been a bad vote, was made because he had no idea what he was voting for and had some personal problems and stuff. In all fairness, that was a conference vote, which is routinely near 100% even if more were opposed to the original bill, and he never had a chance to debate or vote against the bill earlier on. This is the Senator Problem, where the rules of the Senate are such that most experienced Senators can be singled out as having voted against something they are for, or for something they are against, unfairly. So, it may be unfair to write off Chaffee because of that one gaff. But it was more than just a gaff. It was more like digging a tiger pit for the other candidates then flinging oneself into the hole.

Guns Not every candidate was saying the same things about guns, but here's the thing. The biggest differences between candidates were exposed in the light of very few issues, and gun regulation was one of those issues. But, it seems that at least within the context of the Democratic Party, the candidates are being judged on how anti-gun they are. Guns lose.

Benghazi and Email Scandals Benghazi was already hanging from the end of a taut rope, but still got beat up during the debate, along with Sanders' remark that the Republicans need to take Hillary Clinton's emails and shove them where the sun don't shine. OK, he didn't say that exactly, but that is what he, and everyone else, was thinking.

Wall Street Obviously.

So, who really won the debate?

Sanders or Clinton won the debate. The commenters I've read seem about evenly divided between the two candidates. However, on line polls are wildly supportive of Sanders over Clinton. Perhaps this means we have to say Sanders won the debate. I personally felt better about both of them after the debate, but it is hard to say if I felt more better about one or another.

Regarding the online polls, I've placed a bunch of screen grabs HERE so you can see how that looks. And, this brings up another interesting point.

Notice that I've avoided mentioning Jim web in the winners vs. losers sections. Personally, I thought he came off as a whinging wonk, not a potential president. Also, he's wrong on several issues. Most commenters seem to feel the same. But if you look at those on line polls, oddly, Webb has surprisingly high marks in some of them. Overall, if we look only at the on line polls, Webb came in a solid third, even though most commenters are writing him off. Why?

More like this

Who won? Vladimir Lenin.

"The goal of socialism is communism."

By See Noevo (not verified) on 14 Oct 2015 #permalink

An Obama third term would be a huge benefit to the USA and most of the rest of the world, except for the people Obama believes must be butchered by bombs from high altitude.

By Desertphile (not verified) on 14 Oct 2015 #permalink

See Noevo, I've been meaning to ask you. Are the incredibly stupid things you say your own way of communicating with your followers, who are not the sharpest knives in the drawer, or are these things you say stupid because you yourself are actually stupid?

Have faith Greg: sn really is that stupid.

I wonder if Jim Webb's sporadic spikes in on line polls was an effect of climate science deniers pushing buttons.

Greg -- That was my suspicion, too.

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 14 Oct 2015 #permalink

"See Noevo, I’ve been meaning to ask you. Are the incredibly stupid things you say your own way of communicating with your followers, who are not the sharpest knives in the drawer, or are these things you say stupid because you yourself are actually stupid?"

There are political reasons why so many people pretend to be ignorant fools; it is often not the case that they are as stupid as they pretend. The most common reason is to squander the time and effort of sane people, who often feel it their civic duty to educate idiots; that wasted time could be much better spent educating people who want to be educated.

The second reason people like "SN" here pretend to be morons is to divert discussion away from the actual subject of a blog entry.

By Desertphile (not verified) on 14 Oct 2015 #permalink

I agree, generally, with everything here. I think Sanders and Clinton came out about even in terms of presentation, with my own personal policy preference nod to Sanders but with a strong nod on presentation and aesthetics to Clinton - but with O'Malley a VERY close third and a guy who I think would make a fine President. I'd be thrilled to have any of the three win the office, understanding that for me, none are perfect but all come closer than anyone on the right or center. Jim Webb I found to be too far right for my own tastes. I really like Chafee, both historically and as a person, but I think he's sort of too goofy and scattered - unprepared maybe - for either the debate or the office.

I think Sanders's poll numbers online - and maybe in upcoming formal polling - are the effect of people finally getting to see what he's made of. I wish O'Malley could now get equal time, because he seems to have some really solid ideas in mind, ready to roll out in a more extensive discussion. I hope the next debate or forum on MSNBC is more egalitarian.

By Bruce Jensen (not verified) on 14 Oct 2015 #permalink

Yes, but you could argue that, in the end, a nihilistic wingnut postmodernist amounts to being just plain stupid anyway.

It's just that the process of how someone becomes totally FUBAR and spreads the contagion is clinically fascinating. However, don't confuse the process with the resulting idiot.

By Obstreperous A… (not verified) on 14 Oct 2015 #permalink

FWIW, my previous comment (@~9) was re SN.

By Obstreperous A… (not verified) on 14 Oct 2015 #permalink

Your synopsis matches my perception. While Bernie's delivery is somewhat rough, I am more focused on his point of view in the context of his past (previous policy positions, voting record, etc...). Hillary is polished and her presentation is much smoother. She's more "fun" to listen to, but she's not going to be an agent of change. Her husband signed off on the repeal of Glass-Steagall even though (*sigh*) I know I shouldn't hold that against her.

I like your analysis re the "distancing from Obama". Rankled th sh*t out of me when the Dems did their normal weenie routine last time out. Gore did that vis-a-vis Clinton and I think it [and our 3 world court/gerrymandering system] did him in , yet the Dems refused to learn from that....Obama can rightfully be taken to task for not being bold enough on many many issues as well as punting on say, drone warfare policy or arctic drilling. Still, as we watch the GOP in the throes of their own self immolation , we can see what this Pres has been up against. Grow a spine and be proud of our Pres !... Interesting to read more and more articles insisting that Sanders has some decent level of populist support among folk who normally would be firmly entrenched in the good ol boy/ quasi Tea Party camp. Wonder when the establishment media will finally cover him to the same extent they cover all the GOP numbskulls who cannot poll or draw nearly his numbers?

By curtis goodnight (not verified) on 14 Oct 2015 #permalink

I will watch the debate online this weekend. O'Malley is not getting much love here in Baltimore. He is taking a lot of heat as the implementer of a stop and frisk policy that eventually led to the Freddie Gray debacle, and zero tolerance policies in arrests and sentencing. David Simon, of The Wire, wrote that before O'Malley there was at least a code that cops followed.


"The drug war began it, certainly, but the stake through the heart of police procedure in Baltimore was MARTIN O’MALLEY. He destroyed police work in some real respects. Whatever was left of it when he took over the police department, if there were two bricks together that were the suggestion of an edifice that you could have called meaningful police work, he found a way to pull them apart."

If I were eligible to vote it would certainly be for Bernie. I don't trust Hillary at all. I don't think she is sincere, but instead says what she thinks will get her elected this time. Bernie absolutely reeks of sincerity and has the record to prove it. Hillary does not.

By Douglas C Alder (not verified) on 15 Oct 2015 #permalink

"I don’t trust Hillary at all. I don’t think she is sincere, but instead says what she thinks will get her elected this time."

There appears to be evidence that shows Ms. Clinton has paid for "social media" spammers to inflate her twitter and facebook followers, in an attempt to make her appear more popular than she is. That reason alone is enough for me to not only vote against her, but to censure her and her behavior.


By Desertphile (not verified) on 15 Oct 2015 #permalink

In reply to by Douglas C Alder (not verified)

@5.Greg Laden & :the OP

"Most of the candidates had the “right” answer — that climate change is real, and important."

So I take it that means Jim Webb was the one exception there? What's his problem?

FWIW I like Hillary Clinton. I also like Bernie Sanders. I think Hillary has come in for some pretty unfair treatment from a lot of the media and is more realistically electable than Sanders and I think its time for a woman POTUS. I'm kinda looking forward to seeing how much that makes Republican heads explode and get the are they more sexist than racist or about equally so comparison over the next decade or so!

I also think Bernie Sanders is a good man with a lot of good ideas and would also make a good POTUS. If he helps defuse the word "socialist"as an insult and make it more popular in the USA then that's a great thing.

I wonder if a unity ticket of Clinton & Sanders would be possible or workable?

I do know that who the US President is affects the whole planet especially our Aussie client kingdom that tends to ask "How high" when the USA says to "Jump!" so, please Americans, please choose wisely!

@15. Desertphile & #14. Douglas C Alder : " I don’t think she is sincere, but instead says what she thinks will get her elected this time."

Call me cynical here but isn't that true of all politicians?

Also the paid internet followers thing isn't new and has been done by others globe wide for a while I think.

Eg. our (& how I love to be able to say this now!) former Rightwing climate denier "Captain Catholic"" whackjob PM Tony Abbott here :


Not that it makes doing so right of course. If Hilary Clinton did this it would be wrong of her and also, sadly, predictable typical cynical politics.

@1. See Noevo : FYI Lenin (Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov) died in 1924 and his Communist (NOT socialist) system was relegated into history's dustbin many decades ago.

You clearly don't know what the words 'socialist' and 'communist' actually mean. I suggest you go find out and stop trolling here please.

I'd could with equal accuracy equally offer the counter-argument that Genghis Khan won the Republican debate but in reality he'd be far too left-wing and compassionate for them. I could say that England's Hannoverian dynasty mad King George III won the republican debate but then he'd be more sane and nice than their actual candidates too!