Live Blog: First Democratic Debate of 2016

11:02 PM: A few post-debate thoughts:

-Clinton and Sanders showed why they are the front-runners tonight.  Sanders, as previously mentioned, effectively knocked aside many of the questions that have come up about his proposals, and made an honest attempt to shore up almost all of his weaknesses as a candidate, achieving the goals that I set out for him in my initial post.  Hillary Clinton was prepared and anticipated a lot of the specific questions on her candidacy that arose, and addressed most of them very well.  She also avoided making any major gaffes, which is the task of any front-runner.

-Webb and Chafee damaged their candidacies, in my opinion.  Webb looked whiny, provided the Republicans with fodder, and had an inconsistent performance.  Chafee did little to distinguish himself.

-Martin O’Malley had some good moments, but I don’t think this performance is going to change much in regards to where he stands in the race.

-Remember, almost more so than the debate performance itself, the post-debate spin is the most important part.  That will give us an idea of who might benefit most from their performance tonight.  Candidates not only need to win the debate, but they need to win the news cycles afterwards.  If I had to guess, I think Sanders will get a small bounce from this debate, but he’ll need to build on that if he wants to overtake Clinton.

-I think whoever emerges as the Democratic nominee will benefit from the fact that this debate seemed a lot more professional and measured than the Republican debates.  There was a clear contrast in tone and rhetoric that could help any of them draw contrasts with the Republican nominee.

Thanks to everyone who followed my live blog, and I hope you’ll tune in as I continue to cover the 2016 presidential race! 🙂

11:00 PM: I think some people thought that Bernie Sanders would go off script, but he largely stayed on message while still having an effective night.

10:58 PM: Chafee’s and O’Malley’s closing statements were a lot better than their openers.  Chafee touted his ethical record and judgment without putting me to sleep, and O’Malley sought to cast himself as the adult in the room as compared to the Republican candidates.

10:53 PM: Creative question from Anderson Cooper, “Which enemy that you made during your political career are you most proud of?”

10:47 PM: The marijuana question may provide another opportunity for Bernie Sanders to connect with black voters and activists.  He spoke directly to the incarceration problem stemming from marijuana laws, and while Clinton did too, she waffled a bit by not taking a position on legalization.

10:42 PM: Good answers by Hillary Clinton on women’s issues, drawing clear contrasts with Republican candidates on paid family leave and abortion rights.

10:39 PM: Jim Webb is right.  All the climate change legislation in the country won’t matter if we can’t get China and India on board, who are bleching more CO2 into the atmosphere than any other country.

10:22 PM: Bernie Sanders’s answer on surveillance is going to play better with the progressive base.  He railed against the NSA and its surveillance program, where Clinton has been a little more measured, defending her Patriot Act vote on its face.

10:17 PM: In addition to sounding whiny with his arguing on the debate rules, Jim Webb has now provided a sound bite that would be replayed by every Republican candidate should he somehow win the nomination: “Would you support illegal immigrants getting Obamacare?” “I’d have no problem with that.”

10:13 PM: Bernie Sanders is having a good night, knocking aside a lot of criticisms he’s received, as he just did on immigration.  It will be interesting to see if that translates into favorable coverage in the post-debate spin.

10:08 PM: If there’s one moment so far that could get replayed on the post-debate spin, it’s Lincoln Chafee dodging on Glass-Steagall.  He really does sound like he didn’t know what it said.

10:06 PM: Jim Webb isn’t going to win by taking on the moderators, which will play badly in the post-debate spin.  He needs to state his positions and get over it.

10:04 PM: Despite what appears to be heated arguing, most of the candidates on stage agree on regulation of Wall Street and the big banks.

9:58 PM: When Hillary Clinton said that the economy does better with a Democrat in office, that is likely a reference to her husband’s time in office, which was one of the most prosperous economic times in American history.  How much Bill Clinton, or any president, has to do with that is debatable, but it’s still something she can point to.

9:53 PM: Bernie Sanders addressed concerns among black activists that his campaign has not talked about racial injustice head-on with his answer.  Hillary Clinton largely agrees with him on this as well.

9:47 PM: Hillary Clinton finally gave a clear answer on her emails, “I’ve answered the questions.”  Bernie Sanders also passed up an opportunity to attack Clinton on this issue, which was probably a good political move.  He and Clinton have mostly maintained a positive campaign and refrained from attacking each other, which could help the eventual nominee to emerge less damaged.

9:42 PM: Jim Webb has subtly dodged bringing up climate change tonight.  But he’s the first to bring up cyber warfare, which is a national security threat that doesn’t get talked about as much in the political conversation.

9:38 PM: How does applying to be a conscientious objector disqualify someone from being a Commander in Chief?  If I were Sanders, I’d be insulted by that question.

9:37 PM: Jim Webb says no Americans were at risk in Libya.  Hillary Clinton said Quaddafi had American blood on his hands.  Which is it?

9:25 PM: This could be a moment that comes up in the post-debate spin.  Clinton was asked to explain her Iraq vote, and she didn’t.

9:24 PM: Bernie Sanders draws a significant distinction with Clinton here.  He has been consistently anti-war, while Clinton voted for the war in Iraq.

9:21 PM: Somebody woke up Martin O’Malley.  Good statement of how he passed comprehensive gun legislation.

9:15 PM: The main distinction that Hillary Clinton has drawn with Bernie Sanders is on gun policy.  Not surprising to see her go after him on that.

9:12 PM: Jim Webb is the first Democrat I’ve ever heard argue against race-based affirmative action.  Supports the idea that he’s running to the right of the Democratic field.

9:10 PM: Martin O’Malley is trying to make an emotional appeal, and he’s coming off about as robotic as Robin Williams in Bicentennial Man.

9:06 PM: Kind of a puzzling answer by Clinton.  I’m not sure if she was agreeing with Sanders or drawing a contrast with him.

9:04 PM: I kind of wonder if “I’m a progressive who knows how to get things done,” was a veiled shot at Sanders by Clinton.

9:01 PM: I hope Anderson Cooper keeps holding the candidates to an answer on their the questions asked.  Fox News did a great job of that at the first Republican debate, and I hope CNN does that here too.

8:59 PM: As much as Hillary Clinton has a reputation for being stiff, she’s come off as decidedly more human than at least two of the candidates on stage (O’Malley and Chafee).

8:55 PM: As predicted, Bernie Sanders has come out firing with much of the passionate rhetoric that has attracted the attention of the Democratic grassroots.  He’s already made an attempt to connect with minority voters, mentioning the black and Hispanic unemployment rates.  Interestingly, he said very little about himself and his accomplishments, which may not help voters get to know him better.

8:51 PM: Jim Webb is coming off as more genuine and compelling than Chafee.

8:49 PM: It took one minute into the debate for a veiled shot at Hillary Clinton.  Congrats on being the first, Lincoln “No Scandals” Chafee.

8:42 PM: Nothing to do with politics, but I’ve always loved Sheryl Crow’s voice.

8:30 PM: Welcome to The Jam’s third live blog!  This one will cover the first debate in the Democratic primary for President.  While most of my readers know that I lean Democratic on most issues, I am going to approach this debate from an analyst’s perspective, and try my best to put aside any personal biases I might have.  Most people know two of the candidates, but I’ll give a quick rundown of everyone who’s here, and what they need to accomplish tonight.

Hillary Clinton, former First Lady, Senator from New York, and Secretary of State: As the current national frontrunner, Hillary Clinton has the most riding on this debate.  She’s going to have to strike a delicate balance.  Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has ignited the progressive grassroots by discussing many of their most important issues, such as income inequality and money in politics.  Clinton will need to appeal to a wide swath of Democratic voters while throwing enough red meat to the base to keep more of them from bolting to Sanders.  She’s still in a pretty solid position, but any gaffes could make her life much more difficult.  Expect her email server and her flip on the Trans-Pacific Partnership to be brought up.


Bernie Sanders, Vermont Senator: Bernie Sanders’s biggest task tonight is to introduce himself to more voters.  He’s been campaigning hard in Iowa and New Hampshire, and his numbers have since risen there.  But voters in most other states don’t know him yet, and he has room to grow.  He must extend his appeal beyond white liberals in order to win the nomination, and this stage is his big chance to do it.

Martin O’Malley, former Maryland Governor: What O’Malley does at this debate could signal his intentions going forward.  If he goes after Clinton, it could be because he thinks the debate could give him a polling surge that could make him a factor in the race.  If he goes after Sanders or stays the course, he could be treating the debate as an audition for the Vice Presidential slot.

Jim Webb, former Virginia Senator: Webb is the longest of long shots.  Even with a solid performance, he probably won’t be a factor in the race.  But he represents the few conservative Democrats left in the party, and he could help moderate the discussions.

Lincoln Chafee, former Rhode Island Senator and Governor: He’s tried to distinguish himself with some pretty… shall we say interesting statements on the campaign trail, such as arguing passionately for the US to switch to the metric system, so if anyone makes an unexpected statement tonight, it’ll probably be him.  His best hope of having any impact on this race hinges on a surprise that connects him with voters.

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