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Our staff scored tonight’s debate as a tie, with both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders getting a B+ grade. (Grades are meant to reflect how much we think the candidates helped themselves toward winning the campaign.)
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Personally, I was slightly on the lower end of the group consensus, giving both candidates a B. As I’ve said after almost every Democratic debate, I’m still looking for signs that Sanders can expand his coalition beyond his predominantly white, liberal base. And I didn’t see a lot of those; instead, Sanders was too willing to indulge in questions about who’s the bigger progressive, when almost half of Democratic primary voters identify as moderate or conservative.
Clinton, meanwhile, spent a lot of time in the first half of the debate trying to defend her “theory of change” and making Sanders seem as though he was all talk and no action. It’s important long-term strategic work for Clinton to turn Sanders’s ideological purity into a disadvantage. But I’m not sure that it will pay immediate dividends or how the testier exchanges will play.
It’s hard to know. As I said after the GOP debate last week, we’re in the phase of the campaign where reporters aren’t hearing the debate with fresh ears, and that makes it hard to know what voters at home will think.
The moderators tonight tended to step back and let the candidates question each other, so I tracked the topics being covered each time someone spoke, rather than by what the moderator said. Defining who counts as a progressive took up 20 percent of speaking slots, and discussion about the horserace and scandals made up an additional fifth of the comments. Still, more than 50 percent of comments spent on the issues is probably a win.
I thought it was the best debate for the things that happened toward the beginning: the two of them sort of poking at each other on questions of electability and progressivism. But I didn’t like some of the questions on points that I think voters won’t really care all that much about — TV ads, data breaches, scuffles with unions. They wanted Clinton to attack Sanders on that and she just didn’t bite and it felt like dead space in the debate. Although, I guess there’s only so much these two disagree on.
Yes, once they got their pre-written talking points out of the way early on, they gave the audience a fairly close look at their real selves, and not always in a flattering light. It was one of the best this season.
I found the one-on-one format refreshing — looser and more nimble than even the three-person debates with O’Malley, let alone the GOP debates with their much larger cohorts. The question is whether the congeniality these two contenders generally have shown each other (disagreeing on policy but not going ad hominem) will persist as these one-on-one debates continue.
I agree with Micah — especially when the differences in their policy positions are pretty nuanced.
I agree it was good, apart from the very boring section on politics in the second half. The best parts were when the moderators shut up and let the two candidates duke it out. They actually engaged with each other, didn’t just give their stump speeches.
No. I think the moderators absented themselves for long stretches and let the candidates compete on sentiment without holding their feet to the fire on their policy differences or acting to fact-check the claims being made (“Experts say,” etc.).
A two-person debate is just more likely to be engaging and substantive at the same time.
Seeing a lot of talk on Twitter and now on MSNBC that this was the best debate so far. Do you all agree?
I’m struck by Clinton’s repeated references to the age of Sanders’s supporters. I know it’s meant as an appeal, but it risks sounding pleading rather than enticing.
Why would Sanders name Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell when the candidates have named so few other Republicans in this debate? Well, for one thing, if either of these debaters wins the presidency, he or she will need to work with the Senate majority leader. McConnell is also unpopular — even in his home state, where 52 percent disapprove of him, according to a November poll by Morning Consult. It’s by far the highest disapproval rating for any senator in his or her home state.
One big challenge for immigration reform: The immigration debate is still stuck in the 1990s. The debate, for example, tends to focus on immigration from Mexico, but immigration from Asia has now topped immigration from Latin America. And for all the rhetoric, particularly from Republicans, illegal immigration has been largely flat for years.
It does seem, though, like a good way to underline her claim that she gets things done while Sanders calls for unrealistic responses — like Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s resignation. That message was picked up by this Huffington Post reporter.
I’m a bit more cynical, I suppose. As a Michigander, I’m really happy that presidential candidates are visiting and talking about Flint. But the timing is unusual — you don’t usually take off on the Sunday before the New Hampshire primary — and it seems like a way for Clinton to lower the media’s expectations for how well she’ll do on Tuesday.
Speaking of Flint, Michigan, Clinton is headed there on Sunday. According to Rebecca Leber at The New Republic, Clinton has chosen to make the water crisis in Flint a high priority for her campaign for two reasons: “to shore up the African-American vote, and to bolster her general-election narrative about the need for good governance.” Does that seem right?
A few moments ago I noted that economists are split on the likely impact of the TPP. But they aren’t split at all on trade: They’re for it. A survey of top economists from across the political spectrum in 2012 found that 85 percent thought free trade was good for both consumers and the overall economy. And 85 percent also believed that NAFTA, which Sanders opposed, made Americans better off on average.
Trending on Twitter: a pushback to this comment by Bob Cusak, editor in chief of The Hill. Many commenters are decrying it as sexist; he says it applies to all candidates.
How inside the beltway is the Trans-Pacific Partnership as an issue? According to Google Trends, there are twice as many searches per capita for the trade deal in Washington, D.C., than in any of the 50 states.
Economists are split on the economic benefits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the big trade agreement known as the TPP. A team of economists from Tufts University recently concluded that the trade deal would destroy jobs and worsen income inequality. Earlier this week, however, the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a Washington think tank, released what was probably the most in-depth analysis of the TPP’s impact to date. The institute, which is typically pro-trade, found that the deal would increase U.S. exports, raise incomes and boost the economy as a whole.
To understand how the water in Flint got so dangerous, and the public-health impacts so potentially enormous, that the crisis merited a question in the debate, see this FiveThirtyEight article by Anna Maria Barry-Jester, with graphics by Ritchie King.
Clinton says she supports the death penalty in federal cases but is more ambivalent about it at the state level. Federal executions, however, are rare, and it’s taking longer and longer to carry them out. The federal government hasn’t put anyone to death since 2003.
The commercial breaks give us a window into the political process. An ad by the group NumbersUSA advocating lowering immigration has been showing repeatedly during the debates, including this one.
If Sanders’s position on immigration had a social media tag, it would be #itscomplicated. Sanders has stated: “I frankly do not believe that we should be bringing in significant numbers of unskilled to workers to compete with [unemployed] kids. I want to see these kids get jobs.” But one recent research study by academics from Indiana University and the University of Virginia found that immigrants help create jobs. Others point to the declining overall labor participation rate in America and argue that immigrants are diminishing the opportunities for native-born Americans. Japan, a nation which has below-replacement birth rates and does not allow widespread immigration, slipped into a recession again late last year, with many analysts arguing that it must open its borders in order to find a path to recovery.
In the United States, of course, immigration affects much more than labor markets. A 1965 immigration act broadened access to immigrants from the developing world, who were previously largely shut out. Since then, our nation’s demographics have transformed.
There’s another interesting dynamic, too, which is that there are actually quite a view Democratic-Republican swing voters in New Hampshire. Unaffiliated (independent) voters can vote in either primary. Believe it or not, some of them might be deciding between, for instance, Bernie Sanders and John Kasich. Stressing how conservative all of the Republicans are on social issues might have been a good strategy for Sanders, since those independents in New Hampshire are fairly socially liberal.
Are we surprised that these two haven’t been going after the GOP candidates at all? Who would have bet that more than 90 minutes in, Trump would have just one mention, and Cruz and Rubio wouldn’t have been mentioned at all?
That’s something that probably deserves a whole post instead of a quick liveblog take! (And Harry has dived into this.) The short answer is that Sanders would probably cost the Democrats a couple of percentage points, other things held equal, but not necessarily produce a McGovern/Goldwater type disaster. The longer answer involves mentioning that McGovern and Goldwater weren’t just “extreme” ideologically but also very divisive nominees, so some of it would depend on how much Sanders was able to unite the Democratic Party behind him.
Nate, would Sanders really be a Goldwater/McGovern-esque general election candidate?
The question about whether Sanders can win a general election gets to the heart of the debate facing Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. Clinton talks about earning the support of young, energized Sanders voters. And of course the question is whether some of these strong Sanders supporters will simply sit out 2016 if their candidate doesn’t win the nomination.
The inevitable Iowa caucuses question! Sanders said he loves the Iowa caucuses, but he thinks “we need improvements in the process [of the] way results are determined.” That’s something both the Iowa Republican and Democratic parties agree with — which is why they tried modernizing the process in a partnership with Microsoft to develop a results-reporting app. But no matter what developments are made, the Iowa caucus count will never be perfect.
Bernie just mentioned that Democrats win when young voters are excited. Indeed, winning young voters is really important for Democratic candidates. In her opening statement, Clinton listed several social justice issues — topics, according to Pew Research, that are especially important to young voters, who are racially and ethnically more diverse and secular than older voters. According to Pew, 18- to 29-year-old voters leaned Democratic in 2004, 2006 and 2008. They did so again in 2012. And Sanders won a big majority of 17- to 44-year-olds in Iowa this week.
Here’s the Des Moines Register editorial both candidates essentially agreed with. It called for an audit of this year’s caucuses, improvement to the caucus system but not, necessarily, an end to it.
As Sanders said, he has been active on veterans issues during his congressional career and until recently chaired the Senate’s Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. It isn’t surprising he’s been so active on the issue: According to data from The Guardian, Vermont has lost more soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, per capita, than any other state.
There’s been a little talk in this debate about care for veterans. And while there hasn’t been a lot of talk about the Republican presidential candidates, veterans affairs is a spot of fundamental difference with the GOP candidates that either Sanders or Clinton could have pointed to. Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush support plans to to privatize elements of VA care.
Clinton and Sanders oppose privatizing the V.A. So did nearly two-thirds of veterans polled in November by the Vet Voice Foundation.
Finally, here are the projected vote shares for Clinton and Sanders:
And here’s our weighted polling average for New Hampshire:
Commercial break forecast update:
Can North Korea hit the U.S. with a nuclear bomb? It’s not at all clear — partly because of the “isolated” nature of the country’s regime that Sanders cited. It certainly could target U.S. interests in Asia.
Of the 29 Democratic senators to vote for the Iraq War resolution in 2002, six or seven subsequently ran for president: Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, John Kerry, Joe Lieberman, and arguably Evan Bayh (who formed an exploratory committee before the 2008 race). Just one of the 21 Democrats who voted against the resolution would later run for president — Sen. Bob Graham, of Florida, who briefly ran in 2004. (Sanders was in the House in 2002, and did vote against the Iraq War resolution, while Barack Obama was still an Illinois state senator.)
Sanders just said, “I fully, fully concede that Secretary Clinton, who was secretary of state for four years, has more experience. That is not arguable in foreign affairs, but experience is not the only point. Judgment is.”
If he were vying for the Republican vote, that line of thinking might work — an October Pew poll found that twice as many Republicans value “new ideas” over experience in a candidate. But Democrats were split a little more evenly, and at 50-42, experience and a proven record won out over new ideas.
As Clinton and Sanders discuss U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan, it’s worth noting the death of 10-year-old Wasil Ahmad, who was assassinated by the Taliban just days ago. Ahmad battled the Taliban with other troops in a siege and was killed in retaliation. The debate over American troops pulling out entirely will challenge the next president to figure out how — and, frankly, whether — we as a nation have the power to protect Afghanis already battling extremists without being on the ground.
While Clinton might have an advantage when discussing national security, it’s not an issue at the top of Democratic voters’ minds. In the Iowa caucuses last week, just 6 percent of Democrats said terrorism was their most important issue, according to the entrance poll there. By contrast, 25 percent of Republicans did so.
Carl, not only is this not Sanders’s comfort zone — it’s playing directly to Clinton’s strengths. That same poll found that even though 54 percent of Americans disapproved of the way Obama is handling terrorism, and 57 percent disapproved of his handling of the Islamic State, she’s the most trusted presidential candidate on the issue. The closest second is Jeb Bush — in a one-on-one matchup, 46 percent trusted Clinton more, and 43 percent trusted Bush more.
Sanders is no longer in his comfort zone now that the debate has shifted to how to fight the Islamic State and terrorism. In a December Washington Post-ABC poll, 64 percent of Democrats said Clinton would be better at handling the threat of terrorism; just 26 percent thought Sanders would.
I’m trying to track attacks in this debate, but I’m logging almost nothing from Clinton. Neither candidate is attacking the other by name very often, but Sanders has aggressively attacked “Wall Street,” the “1 percent” and “super PACs” at least 15 times so far. Clinton has offered tempered critiques of parts of Wall Street, but never quite strongly enough for me to be sure whether to tally them.
Quick commercial break programming note: Tune in tomorrow for our coverage of the monthly jobs numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Two things to watch for: How is the economic slowdown overseas affecting hiring in the U.S.? And are we seeing faster wage growth to go along with falling unemployment? Both questions have big implications not just for the primary races but also for November’s general election.
Hillary Clinton hit a chord among liberals with a memory earlier this evening by invoking the name of Paul Wellstone, the 1990s senator from Minnesota who died in a plane crash in 2002. She pointed out that Wellstone voted for the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, a bill that allowed states to refuse to recognize the same-sex marriages allowed by other states. (Its key section was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013.) That one act, Clinton suggested, didn’t disqualify Wellstone from his membership in the progressive pantheon. In fact, Wellstone deeply regretted his vote on DOMA, as two of his sons have noted on their blog. “What troubles me,” Wellstone wrote in 2001, “is that I may not have cast the right vote on DOMA. When Sheila and I attended a Minnesota memorial service for Matthew Shepard, I thought to myself, ‘Have I taken a position that contributed to a climate of hatred?’” His sons wrote that they believe he would have proud of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the law.
Wondering why Clinton name-checked the relatively small Turing Pharmaceuticals as among the companies “that are increasing prices without any regard to the impact on people’s health”? Because its former chief executive, Martin Shkreli, has become the face of the issue. Oh, and he threw a $23,000 yacht party while at the company.
Wall Street may “just be one street,” as Clinton said. But only one major investment bank, Deutsche Bank, still has its headquarters there; the rest long ago scattered to other parts of New York.
Sanders’s focus on Glass-Steagall is popular with the Democratic base, but from a policy perspective it’s a bit odd. The financial firms that helped bring down the economy in 2008 weren’t the big, diversified banks that would be split up by Glass-Steagall, which keeps investment banks separate from commercial banks. They were pure investment banks like Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, and non-banks like the insurance giant AIG. It’s certainly true that banks were big before the financial crisis and have grown bigger since, and many economists remain concerned about the problem of institutions that are “too big to fail.” But it isn’t clear that Glass-Steagall itself would have much impact on that issue.
It’s interesting that this debate has been so dominated by economic issues when Democrats control the White House. I keep expecting Republicans to focus on the economy in their debates, given Americans’ deep-seated anxieties about their futures. Despite improvements in most major economic indicators under President Obama, there’s plenty of room for the GOP to criticize his record on wages, inequality and other issues. Yet it’s the Democrats who tend to focus their debates on pocketbook issues.
Sanders and Clinton just had a moment of head-nodding agreement when talking about what Sanders called the “antiquated” public financing system that we have in place for running for president. He said he decided not to use it because if he did, he would have virtually no chance of winning the presidency.
Just a reminder that at one point, Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard Law School professor and public intellectual, was in this race, though he was not a candidate known to most voters. His only goal was to change the campaign finance system. He dropped out in November because he couldn’t make any of the debates.
We’ve talked a lot about Hillary Clinton’s lead in endorsements, but the fact that she’s so dominant over Sanders among members of Congress is intriguing. According to the statistical system DW-Nominate, about 30 percent of Democrats in Congress are closer to Sanders than Clinton on the issues. And yet, Sanders has received only two endorsements from members of Congress so far.
In the GOP debates, candidates keep attacking Clinton as the presumptive Democratic nominee, but tonight neither Clinton nor Sanders has attacked any of the GOP candidates. (Clinton had a zinger about making sure that “middle class kids, not Donald Trump’s kids” could afford college, but didn’t attack Trump as a politician.)
Bernie Sanders has railed against Wall Street for years. But Hillary Clinton dredged up the one vote he cast against financial regulation. In 2000, Sanders voted for the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which blocked the government from regulating “credit default swaps,” a then-obscure financial product that ended up playing a critical role in the financial crisis eight years later. The act was signed into law in December 2000 by – wait for it – President Bill Clinton.
Micah, I think it was contentious and substantive but still within the broad realm of civility. The fact that this debate is a two-person format is really the game-changer. There’s an unfettered ability to joust and parry that simply wasn’t possible with O’Malley on the stage.
Yeah, and it seemed like that was more about Clinton working to undermine the premise of Sanders’s campaign than to necessarily curry favor with New Hampshire voters (I have no idea how it will play in the near term). She thinks he’s all talk and no action, she takes that personally, and she wants her voters to know it.
It was a strong moment from Clinton, but she’s trying to pull off a complicated argument: She is in favor of campaign finance reform, but she rejects the insinuation that she could be influenced by campaign finance, and calls it a “smear.” Why support reform if politicians can’t be influenced?
Absolutely. Which I think says something about how kid-gloves-y these two candidates have been so far. But Clinton was smart to basically draw the line at “provide concrete proof that I’m bought” instead of letting Sanders paint a general picture of her as too enmeshed with big money interests.
Yeah, Clinton was basically baiting Sanders into attacking her personally by saying that he should just come out and say what he means about people being bought by Wall Street … and he didn’t really bite.
But I mean, he spun into talking about Wall Street deregulation in the 1990s, aka, when her husband was president.
That seemed like the most contentious moment of this campaign so far, no?
“Secretary Clinton does represent the establishment,” Sanders said, touting members of the progressive caucus as his own supporters. The definition of who’s progressive seems destined to become a running verbal battle between Clinton and Sanders throughout tonight’s debate.
But remember Elizabeth Warren? That senator resisted calls from progressives to draft her into the presidential race. And not only that, she has remained neutral thus far. Her politics are arguably closer to Sanders’s, particularly when it comes to her perspective on the banking and finance industry. But Clinton supporters have exhorted Warren — one of 20 women in the U.S. Senate — to stand up for Clinton in the hopes that her doing so will buoy the chances of a first female president.
My question is this: As Clinton and Sanders battle for the title “progressive,” who will be seen as the most important endorsers for undecided Democrats who care about the label?
Sanders got the substance of his earlier claim about that 1988 House race right, if not the exact numbers. He said that when he ran as an independent, the Republican candidate beat him by three points and the Democrat was the “spoiler.” Sanders lost by four, but he did indeed have twice the vote total of the Democratic candidate, Paul Poirier, suggesting he was the more plausible challenger to Republican Peter Smith.
If the policy differences between Sanders and Clinton seem relatively minor, that’s because they are. The two of them voted the same way 93 percent of the time for the two years they were in the Senate together, according to research by Derek Willis.
“The reality is that we have one of lowest voter turnouts of any major country on Earth,” Sanders said. He’s right that U.S. voter turnout is remarkably low compared to other developed nations. According to a Pew Research Center report last year, just three of the other 33 members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development had lower turnout rates in their last national elections.
I absolutely think he should be looking past New Hampshire. There are times when the margin of victory matters for the spin that comes out of a state, but Sanders is winning by SO much that I’m not sure anyone’s going to care if he wins by 15 or 20 or 25 points. He should be thinking about Nevada and South Carolina instead.
Nate and Clare, what do you think Sanders’s and Clinton’s strategic goals are tonight? Should Sanders (and Clinton) be looking past New Hampshire?
Sanders says 29 million Americans still don’t have health insurance. Different sources produce slightly different numbers, but that’s about right. Last fall, we looked at who those remaining uninsured are. Many are immigrants, documented and otherwise. Many others live in states that didn’t expand Medicaid under the health law. And many more are young people who have decided health insurance costs too much to be worth buying. But there are still 14 million uninsured Americans who don’t fall into any of those categories. It isn’t clear why they don’t have insurance.
Clinton said she’s “been fighting for universal health care for many years.” It’s a smart statement during the primaries: 81 percent of Democrats said in a December Kaiser Family Foundation poll that they support a form of universal health care called Medicare-for-all. But 63 percent of Republicans oppose it.
How much does it help Sanders in New Hampshire to be from a neighboring state? More than you might think. On average, candidates from New England have beaten their national polling average by 15 points in the New Hampshire primary.
In differentiating herself from Sanders, Clinton just said: “I also believe in affordable college, but I don’t believe in free college because every expert that I have talked to says, ‘Look, how will you ever control the costs?’” Community college presidents agree: In a survey last year, just 39 percent of community college presidents said they believed their state legislature was likely to support a free community college plan, even with federal support.
One interesting bit of context for those economics-focused opening statements: Earlier today the Pew Research Center released a report showing that 77 percent of Democrats think the federal government does “too much” to help rich people, while 68 percent say it doesn’t do enough for the middle class. (Republicans have starkly different views: Just 44 percent say the government does too much for the rich.)
Sanders hit campaign finance reform in his opening statement, and indeed, his fundraising looks very different from Clinton’s and most Republican candidates’.
A: It’s hard to know what would be seen as a disappointing performance for Sanders, but since the press pack tends to think in big, round numbers, something in the single-digits would look less impressive than a double-digit margin. I’m not sure how much it matters, though. It’s not like anybody’s going to declare the race over if Sanders wins by “only” 8 percentage points. The question remains how high his ceiling is once we get to more diverse states.
A: Patricia, in 2008, about half of Democratic voters in the primaries identified as liberal, though the proportion varied significantly from state to state. The share has probably increased to some degree now, as a variety of measures suggest that Democratic voters have become more liberal. Still, Democratic voters perceive Clinton to be slightly closer to them on the issues than Sanders, on average. So it’s a little bit surprising to me that Sanders is calling Clinton out for being a moderate when lots of Democratic voters are moderate, too, and Sanders needs to gain headway with that group.
While there’s a fair amount of uncertainty in the Republican race in New Hampshire (Donald Trump leads, but Marco Rubio is gaining, and multi-candidate races can change in a hurry) there’s little doubt about who’s likely to prevail on the Democratic ballot here. Bernie Sanders leads Hillary Clinton by nearly 21 points in our weighted polling average and is approximately a 99 percent favorite to win the New Hampshire primary next week, according to both our polls-plus and polls-only forecast models.
But wait — what about Clinton’s famous comeback in New Hampshire in 2008? That year, she was only about 8 points behind Barack Obama; her deficit with Sanders today is more than twice as large. We aren’t ruling anything out, but if there’s going to be a 21-point shift back to Clinton, she’s going to have to start by knocking it out of the park tonight.
CORRECTION (9:00 p.m.): An earlier version of this chart incorrectly gave the net favorability figure for Hillary Clinton. It is 53 percent, not 59 percent.
Greetings from an anonymous Holiday Inn in Manchester, New Hampshire! Your FiveThirtyEight team is here on the ground and a mere 35 miles away from the debate stage in Durham (we can almost smell the hair spray and flag pin polish), where tonight, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will debate one-on-one for the first time this election, having lost third wheel Martin O’Malley earlier this week after his dismal showing in the Iowa caucuses.
This is the first of four additional debates that Sanders and Clinton have agreed to — there will be a debate in March in Flint, Michigan, the site of a massive public health crisis affecting the drinking water of thousands of residents, and two more in April and May. (Clinton announced just before tonight’s debate that she will take time out of her New Hampshire schedule to visit Flint this weekend.)
What to look out for tonight: the tone between these two after a darn close result in the Iowa caucuses on Monday. Last night they squared off at a CNN town hall event and squabbled over who was more progressive, and, more existentially, what the meaning of progressive even is. Sanders hit Clinton for her Wall Street funding and connections, while Clinton said that Sanders has positioned himself unfairly as “the gatekeeper of who’s progressive.” Expect to see that tension continue tonight — differences over approaches to health care, guns and electability are sure to come up. Let the fun begin!