Who Won Tuesday’s Democratic Presidential Debate?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


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Sen. Sanders and former Sec. of State Clinton

GoLocal reached out to academics for their perspective on the Las Vegas political forum, and the straw poll pegged Hillary Clinton as coming out on top.

"Hillary Clinton was the clear winner of this debate. She came across as very confident and knowledgeable in her grasp of the issues.  None of her opponents were able to dent her lead in the national polls," said Darrell West, VP of Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and former head of the Tau.  "She clearly is very popular among Democrats and the audience applauded her on several occasions. On the email issue, she took responsibility and benefitted from Bernie Sanders decision not to attack her on that issue."

Rhode Island College's Professor of Communications Val Endress noted what she saw as one potential outcome of a strong Clinton showing -- possibly deterring Vice President Joe Biden from entering the race. 

"Clinton also needed to do what she could to discourage Biden from running.  Was she good enough to achieve that goal?  Not in this debate," said Endress. "She was strong and competent, but not formidable."

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Former Sec. of State Hilary Clinton

Clinton Factor

"Tuesday night's debate was a good one for Hillary Clinton, who was composed, articulate, substantive, and showed the occasional spark of passion and sense of humor," said Roger Williams Professor of Political Science June Speakman. "With some help from Sanders, she fended off the email issue, and deftly handled questions about her insider status and her "evolving positions" on the Keystone Pipeline and the trade deal.  She'll need to sharpen these answers if she is to face a Republican."

"It was also a good night for Bernie Sanders, who stayed on his popular anti-Wall Street anti-billionaire message," continued Speakman. "He too will have to sharpen his answers regarding gun control and how to fund Medicare for all, universal free higher education and universal family leave."

Chafee Slip

Former Rhode Island Mayor-turned-Senator-turned-Governor (and Republican-turned-Independent-turned-Democrat) Lincoln Chafee's performance -- and one "truly baffling answer," as pegged by the The Atlantic -- did little to help his chances. 

Wrote the Atlantic, "Despite dire predictions that the first Democratic presidential debate would be a snoozefest, the Las Vegas summit actually offered everything: Substance, humor, tension, and one truly baffling Lincoln Chafee answer."

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Former Gov. Lincoln Chafee

"Chafee's motives remain a mystery--even after the debate.  His quirkiness attracted attention while he surfaced on the campaign trail, but it's patently obvious that he isn't a contender.   He simply can't attract contributors or volunteers or be taken seriously as a presidential candidate  without a rationale for his candidacy, a clear and comprehensive vision and effective articulation of that vision.  I saw no indication in the debate that Chafee belonged on the national stage," said Endress. 

"There was no breakout moment for Chafee, and there's a real possibility that he won't be returning to the debate stage," added Endress. 

Biggest Surprises

According to Speakman, one of the biggest unexpected moments was when Sanders let Clinton off the hook for her email scandal.

"Sanders saying to Clinton:  "The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails." Sanders is not a typical politician and this statement is further evidence of that," said Speakman. "Another surprise was Chafee's explanation for his vote on Glass-Steagall--he was new to the Senate and his father had just died.  Here, as with Sanders, we see Chafee being Chafee--honest to a fault, and to his detriment."

As for another "winner'?  Time Magazine tapping Republican Donald Trump as a victor -- of sorts.

"Donald Trump won Twitter during the Democratic Debate," it quipped. 


Related Slideshow: 2016 Presidential Candidates by Net Worth


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