There were four winners and four losers in the first Democratic presidential debate of 2016, which is fairly impressive since there were only five candidates on stage.
Sen. Benard Sanders
He scored the most points, played most to the crowd, had the most populist one-liners and even found a way to distance himself from Hillary Rodham Clinton while uttering the most memorable line of the night to defend her: “The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.” His biggest failure, however, was to credibly explain why Americans would elect a socialist as president.
His idea to live-tweet the event effectively injected himself into the rival party’s debate and made a good case he has more media star power than any of the Democrats on stage Tuesday night.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
Certain to be the subject of the hardest questions and toughest criticism, Hillary Rodham Clinton found a way to keep her composure. Her answers were polished, even when they were contradictory or evasive, and she smiled plenty, engaged her colleagues in a friendly manner, embraced President Obama’s racial policy legacy and didn’t lose her cool. Those things played to the Democratic base, which is how you win primaries. She won by avoiding a big loss that was quite possible given the landscape.
Vice President Joseph R. Biden
His absence from a debate that proved dull and professorial at times, and lacking in star power, is only likely to increase the yearning for him to enter the race.
Former Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee
He did little to change any minds or gain much support, and probably remains an outcast as a former Republican in a liberal Democratic party.
Former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb
He was stiff and seemed irritated at times by the lack of attention, and his answers played to a moderate Democratic Party more in tune with Bill Clinton in the 1990s that has since shifted further left under Mr. Obama.
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley
He didn’t score any punches, and his most detailed answer was about a banking law that few Americans know or care about. Ultimately, his populist appeal among liberal Democrats likely trails far behind Mr. Sanders or Mrs. Clinton.
After two lively GOP debates, Anderson Cooper and his team couldn’t create any memorable debate moments in what felt like a college lecture at times. And who wanted to wait 45 minutes for the email question, which has deeply affected the trajectory of Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy.