Forty-eight hours after Bernie Sanders crushed Hillary Clinton in the New Hampshire primary, the two Democratic candidates faced off in the sixth debate of the presidential primary season. I picked some of the best and the worst of the night that was.
Hillary Clinton: Beginning to end, this was Clinton’s best debate of the election. In the first half-hour, Clinton poked a series of holes in Sanders’s health care proposal and broadly cast the Vermont Senator as someone who talks a big game but simply can’t hope to achieve his goals. She was calm and cool throughout — even when fighting on Sanders’s home turf on wage inequality. Clinton also effectively cast Sanders as insufficiently loyal to President Barack Obama, a point that will resound with black voters among whom Obama remains extremely popular.
Clinton was helped by the dearth of questions about uncomfortable topics for her — paid speeches, State Department investigations. When pressed on her super PAC being financed heavily by a few individuals, Clinton was uncomfortable and gave one of her worst answers of the night. But, those moments were few and far between. If she — and her campaign — were knocked back after her massive loss in New Hampshire, it didn’t show. She was in total control all night.
Barack Obama: It’s sort of hard to believe that the Hillary Clinton currently embracing Barack Obama on every issue actually ran — and ran hard — against him for two years back in 2007 and 2008. At every turn, Clinton found ways to praise Obama’s bravery, his forethought and his judgment. And, even Sanders, put on defense by Clinton’x rabid pro-Obamaism, did what he could to tie himself to the outgoing president — going as far as to note that Obama campaigned for him in Vermont.
My bedtime: Look, this has been a very long week. So, thank you PBS, for not only ending the debate on time but actually ending it seven minutes early. You have no idea what this means to me.
GIFs: Sanders’ reaction shots during a debate are what these little beauties were created for.
Bernie Sanders: If the challenge for Sanders was to show he could be a candidate for people other than those who already love him, he didn’t make much progress toward that goal Thursday night. Sanders did come across as more well-versed on foreign policy than in debates past — a low bar — he struggled to score clean hits on Clinton during the first hour of the debate, which focused exclusively on domestic policy, which should have been his strong suit. Sanders, at times during that first hour, sounded like a broken record — citing millionaires and billionaires and Wall Street to explain almost anything he was asked.
“Sen. Sanders, what’s your favorite ice cream flavor?” “Wall Street billionaires.”
Then there was Sanders’ insistence he would be better on race relations than President Obama, a slip you can be sure the Clinton campaign will make sure African-American voters hear about — and then hear about some more — in the coming days and weeks.
Opening statements: Why. Do. These. Still. Exist. No debate should have opening or closing statements. The last thing voters need to hear is another recitation of the candidates’ stump speeches. Let’s make America great again and get rid of opening statements.
Henry Kissinger: Who the heck would have predicted Kissinger would a) come up in the debate or b) come under such withering attack from Sanders. Both happened!