With the New York primary only days away, tonight’s CNN Democratic debate was about as close to “must-see” television as you get in politics – especially considering how contentious the two campaigns have been over the last few weeks. Long gone are the days where the candidates barely mentioned the other’s name in an attempt to keep the focus on “the issues.” By now we all know where each candidate stands on all of the issues. This debate, more than any other, was a test to see which candidate could attack the other most effectively.
My only hope heading into tonight was that nothing was said or done that couldn’t be “undone” once the nominee is picked and we all need to come together to defeat Republicans this November.
From the start, it was clear that this debate was, indeed, going to be more “hostile” than prior ones.
I think Hillary Clinton did exceptionally well. From the get-go she was energized, confident and ready to “battle,” so to speak. Though I think the “moment” of the night for her came when Sanders was asked to name a single instance from her time as senator where she favored Wall Street – and he couldn’t do it. One would think if she’s such a “Wall Street shill,” her voting record after eight years in Congress would be littered with many examples where she favored big banks. The only thing Sanders said when asked to provide an example of this were the speeches she gave to Goldman Sachs, something she did as a private citizen. However, as she normally does, she looked weak when she was pressed on why she won’t release the transcripts to those speeches.
Now when it comes to the gun issue, she crushes Sanders. Not that I think he’s “pro-gun,” but he’s definitely more “pro-gun” than your typical liberal is when it comes to guns. This does hurt him a little bit in areas like New York that aren’t exactly the most pro-gun states in the country – unlike Vermont, which is far more gun-friendly. So it’s only natural he would be slightly more “pro-gun” than she is. When Clinton says Sanders voted against the Brady Bill five times, it’s true because he governs in a state that’s quite anti-gun regulations.
She also did better than Sanders when it comes to discussing international issues, which should be expected considering she’s a former Secretary of State. While Sanders has his go-to line about the vote for the war in Iraq, there’s a lot more to foreign policy issues than just that one vote. When the two discuss international issues, the Middle East and terrorism in general, I feel she’s far more well-versed and detailed on these issues.
Bernie Sanders didn’t do poorly, but he didn’t seem as “on game” as he has in a few of the previous debates. Again, not that he did bad tonight, but I’ve seen him do better. Even when he was pressed on breaking up the big banks, a key talking point throughout his campaign, he struggled a bit to answer why he would allow the banks to break themselves up. This goes along with issues he had during his infamous interview with the New York Daily News where he also struggled with specifics related to how he would do it and how he would use Dodd-Frank to get the job done. That’s a pretty big deal considering a massive cornerstone of his campaign has been predicated on breaking up large banks.
Though no matter how much he may slightly struggle with a few aspects of his answers, he’s still much stronger than Clinton when it comes to the issues of income inequality and taking on Wall Street. It’s his “bread and butter” and it’s showed in every single one of these debates. While his campaign has other issues on which it focuses, income inequality and tackling greed on Wall Street is, by far, the overall theme of why he’s running for president.
He’s also slightly stronger than she is when it comes to pushing for stronger changes to combat climate change. Not that I think Clinton is weak on this issue, but Sanders is clearly more anti-fossil fuels than the former secretary. However, I don’t feel there’s a huge difference between the two candidates no matter what either side claims. I would say Sanders gets an A+ when it comes to combating climate change and Clinton gets a B+. Still strong, but clearly she’s “weaker” than Sanders when it comes to taking on the fossil fuel industry.
Overall, I’m not sure how this debate would push anyone toward either candidate. I think if you liked Clinton going into this, you think she did well. I think if you liked Sanders going in, you’re pleased with how he performed. Personally I would give a slight edge to Clinton – but not a great deal. Ultimately, Tuesday will tell us all we need to know.
Well, as I expected, tonight got incredibly heated at moments. It’s to be expected after about a year of campaigning, multiple debates and a crucial state up for grabs on Tuesday. Even at the most combative moments from tonight, things never devolved into the absurdity that we’ve seen transpire at many of the Republican debates.
Though as I’ve said for months, no matter who you support, it’s vital that when the nominee is chosen we all come together to #VoteBlueNoMatterWho. There’s just far too much at stake this election to let Republicans take back the White House.