Tonight was the last big Democratic event before next week’s Iowa Caucus officially launches the 2016 election. Though being that it was a town hall event setup by CNN rather than a full-fledged debate, expectations were a little lower. (Of course, in “town hall” formats there’s always the chance for unexpected gaffes or fireworks.)
Tonight went pretty much how I expected it to. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders kept to their usual go-to talking points they’ve been using against one another for the last few weeks, while Martin O’Malley made his last-ditched effort to try to salvage a better showing in Iowa than practically every single poll that’s been conducted has said he will do. But ultimately it showed what happens when three adults discuss issues aimed at helping the average American as opposed to the clown car of Republicans pouring out to spout off absurd talking points for cheap applause.
First up was Bernie Sanders. He hit his usual lines very well, threw in a few funny jokes and seemed very relaxed. The only real fault I found was when he was asked how he plans to pass these big promises on which he’s running. His answer was that he has a history of working with Republicans when there’s “common ground.” Which is fine, except – there’s no common ground on these big promises he’s making. Republicans will not support raising taxes on the rich, socializing public universities, “Medicare-for-all” and raising the minimum wage to $15 – so I’m not sure where you find “common ground” on any of that to get any of it passed. Other than that, Sanders did well. I don’t think he said or did anything that will make anyone abandon him, though the question is whether or not he said enough to sway people to his side. We’ll soon find out.
Martin O’Malley was up next, and he also did well. As I’ve said from the beginning on this, O’Malley is mostly using this to get exposure and set himself up for another run. I think if he “brands” himself right and keeps his name growing among Democrats, he can be a future presidential candidate. This campaign will be a huge benefit for him going forward in his political career.
Lastly, we heard from Hillary Clinton. While I’m not sure she convinced many Sanders folks to rush her way, she did come off extremely “presidential” tonight. One of the biggest problems with Clinton has always been convincing people she’s not what those who attack her say she is – fighting against perception rather than reality. With each of these debates or town halls, she always strikes me as the candidate who’s best suited (and most experienced in a variety of issues a president would face) for the job. Will that translate to other voters who might be skeptical of her? Only time will tell, but I certainly don’t think she did anything tonight that would cause anyone to turn against her.
Was there a winner? I don’t think so. I would say Sanders was the more personable, humorous one while Clinton seemed more presidential and well-rounded – but I didn’t see anything tonight that struck me as that was a moment that’s going to swing the pendulum one way or the other.
As I’ve said each and every time I’ve written one of these summaries, I would be proud to vote for any of these three candidates. While each has their pros and cons, listening to these three talk about the issues is incredibly refreshing considering the sideshow that I’ll be forced to cover on Thursday when Republicans take the stage for their last debate before the Iowa Caucus.
While I know some people will disagree with what I say next, as always, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for Democrats to come together once the nominee is picked to make damn sure Republicans do not retake the White House. From the Supreme Court to same-sex marriage to women’s rights and health care, a Republican winning this November wouldn’t just erase all the progress we’ve made over the last few years – it would set this country back decades.
We cannot allow that to happen.