Saturday, February 6, 2016

More reactions to the Democratic debate: Democrats won!

It's easy to characterize any of the Republican "debates" as a food fight in an elementary school cafetaria or an alley brawl by gang members stabbing each other in a bid for supremacy. You cannot say that about the Clinton-Sanders debate. We Dems were treated to a substantive debate between "fierce advocates of two competing approaches to politics and policy" says Steve Benen at MSNBC/MaddowBlog.

Those hoping for some fireworks in last night’s Democratic debate in New Hampshire weren’t disappointed. In their first one-on-one debate of the cycle, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were fierce advocates of two competing approaches to politics and policy.

Was there a winner? Benen says the victory belongs to Democratic voters.

So, who won? As is nearly always the case, it’s a subjective question and I don’t think there’s any real consensus about one candidate dominating the other. That said, Political Wire’s Taegan Goddard, who described the debate as “truly great” and “easily the best of the campaign so far,” made a comment that stood out for me.

“The real winners were Democratic voters,” Goddard wrote overnight. “Anyone who watched learned a lot. It made the Republican debates look like over-produced game shows.”

I think that’s both true and important. I don’t doubt that Clinton’s and Sanders’ backers can make spirited cases why their candidate prevailed, but I hope they won’t miss the forest for the trees: for two hours, Americans saw two very capable candidates engage in a deeply substantive, engrossing discussion that mattered.

In the aftermath of the Republican debates, it’s hard not to ask, “What’s wrong with these people?” Last night, however, I found myself thinking, “These two are good.”

Towards the very end of the debate, Sanders said, “You know, sometimes in these campaigns, things get a little bit out of hand. I happen to respect [Secretary Clinton] very much, I hope it’s mutual. And on our worst days, I think it is fair to say we are 100 times better than any Republican candidate.”

“That’s true,” Clinton added a moment later. “That’s true.”

See Benen's post for more on both candidates' strengths and liabilities.

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