Micah asked earlier how we thought the candidates did and whether we expect Saturday’s debate to affect the race at all. Well, we solicited our usual staff debate grades, and — according to our quick, night-of impression — this debate was not a game changer.
Unlike the first Democratic debate, we didn’t see Hillary Clinton as the clear winner. Her average grade was basically the same as Sanders’, who did about as well as he did in the first debate. Clinton and Sanders did beat O’Malley, who earned his second C+ average from the FiveThirtyEight crew.
Of course, this was a Saturday night debate. Most of the perception of who won and lost will be shaped by the media coverage in the days to come. The terror attacks in Paris on Friday are also likely to shape the race, and how this debate is remembered. The Democratic candidates’ most memorable moments came during the domestic policy section of the debate, but how much attention will the media pay attention to them with the story in Paris still unfolding? What we think was important tonight may not be what we think was important this time next week.
And, this makes me happy! Our live blogs can be consumed many ways: as a live “second screen” experience to the debate; as a live second-screen experience while you’re doing something else (like commenter Kyle Ten Berge):
Appreciate you guys doing this. I’m not afraid to admit I mostly watched college football throughout the debate, but appreciated getting good information here.
Or, later, not live at all.
Nate, I didn’t view it as “mediocre” as much as an attempt to tread water until more people care about the race. But as you mention, Clinton had a couple of moments where her words could be used by critics.
Thanks for hanging out with us on a Saturday night, everyone. If you hang on a little longer, we’ll have a couple more closing thoughts and some debate grades.
I thought it was a weird debate, with mediocre performances all around (except for John Dickerson and the other CBSers, who were sharp). It’s not clear to me that O’Malley has any real strategy for how to defeat Clinton. It’s not clear that Sanders has any strategy for how to improve his appeal beyond his base. Clinton was playing prevent defense for the first 30 minutes of the debate, and while her tone/demeanor was forceful for the final two-thirds, there were a couple of awkward answers — like on Wall Street and 9/11 — that could later become fodder for commercials.
First, Micah, give your adorable dog an ear-scratch from me. Second, I didn’t see anyone act out of character. Trump, for example, has evolved into nice Trump/not-nice Trump. Everyone here stayed in their lane.
No. Not really, Micah. I guess the thing I’m going to be on the lookout for is whether Democrats will get feisty in the field of national security. If not, and national security starts riding up the ladder of important issues for voters, they may be in trouble.
So Farai, Nate, Harry, we’re wrapping up here. Closing thoughts? Standout moments? Anything that will have a lasting effect on the race?
I’d thought there was a good chance of a media narrative about a Martin O’Malley “surge” at some point, just because the media has clearly been bored to tears by the Democratic race and is desperate to invent new storylines. But the dude is just so milquetoast as a candidate that I don’t know if he can pull it off.
This is an interesting op-ed-style Washington Post essay by professor Kali Nicole Gross of UT-Austin, who argues “Black women are Obama’s most loyal voters — and his most ignored constituency.” The subhead is “Obama has treated issues affecting black men as synonymous with those affecting the entire black community.” So there’s always the question of whether black voting patterns, which are overwhelmingly Democratic, are detrimental in some way. I leave you to read/think.
Also on Trump, Harry: Donald Trump is the only Republican presidential candidate mentioned by any of the debaters tonight. O’Malley, of course, described him as an “immigrant-bashing carnival barker,” and Clinton said, “I don’t think taxpayers should be paying to send Donald Trump’s kids to college.”
I should note that O’Malley did get Donald Trump’s attention.
I want to note something about Martin O’Malley, who is often an afterthought. Even if he is having a good night, he needs to be having two dozen great nights to really get into this race. O’Malley’s only at 3.8 percent in the Iowa polls. That’s far behind Clinton at 50.1 percent. To get any delegates at district and county level, he needs to be hitting 15 percent. Otherwise, he earns no delegates.
Also, a black voter doesn’t help you if she doesn’t turn up at the polls.
My belief, Farai, is you never take any vote for granted. You work for every vote. Yes, more blacks and Latinos will vote for the Democratic candidate, but winning 95 percent of the black vote as President Obama did versus 88 percent as John Kerry did in 2004 can be the difference between winning and losing.
Clinton went through a laundry list of the families of black victims of police or vigilante violence who she has met with. The Clintons historically had a very, very strong link to the black community, and of course Bill was called “The first black president.” And then, in 2008, after winning strong endorsements from black elected officials at first, Clinton saw them begin to switch allegiance to Obama. I remember when Congressman John Lewis switched his endorsement from Clinton to Obama, shortly before Obama won the 2008 South Carolina primary. Clinton then watched more of her endorsements evaporate. So … Nate, Harry — do you think Clinton — and all the other Democratic candidates — have to hustle for black and Latino votes? Some people consider those demographics a Dem lock, particularly given the early Trump rhetoric about Mexico. I don’t ever think anything is a lock. (See: Clinton endorsement, John Lewis.)
I’m from Baltimore and must point out this story about the mother who smacked her kid around to get him out of a violent protest. She was championed by many people … and now, she is barely scraping by. Her politicized moment in the sun did not do much for her. A good read just for context.
She should be doing more of both those things, Micah and Nate. The favorable rating of the Republican Party among Democrats, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll, was just 5 percent. In the same survey, 81 percent of Democrats approved of the job President Obama has done.
As the question turns to race relations and policing, I can’t help but think of how often Chris Christie has made a point of coming out as a pro-police candidate. You can be pro-healthy race relations and pro-police, but is that coded language? And is there peril on the other side, meaning the Democrats, if they don’t explicitly make an appeal to being “pro-police”?
Also just about the first time, Micah, that anyone mentioned their support for President Obama, who remains extremely popular among Democrats.
Bernie Sanders just said that working-class people are joining his campaign. More of them, however, are joining Clinton. You can see that in a Marist College poll released this week. Clinton is beating Sanders by 36 percentage points among Democrats in households making less than $50,000.
That seemed like the first time Clinton really focused on the Republicans; I thought she would do more of that tonight.
One thing I should note: The debate got a lot more testy when we went to domestic policy. If the terrorist attack in France changes the national dialogue, are Democrats going to be left out in the cold in terms of speaking to the concerns of most Americans?
Margaret Keen Harris, who’s on our live blog, points out that the Annie Oakley line O’Malley trotted out was delivered, with more vigor, by then-Sen. Obama. And Obama was then sharply criticized by former vice presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro as sexist. But Ferraro’s critique was viewed as too strong, so the Clinton campaign got a drubbing as racist, and Ferraro quit her post in Clinton’s finance committee. Remember 2008? Knives. Drawn.
Politics is all partisan, Nate. Each side cheers things that don’t always make a lot of sense.
Clinton’s response to that Twitter question on the strange linkage she drew between Wall Street and 9/11 made very little sense, and yet the crowd in Iowa cheered it. Democrats should remember that the next time they jibe a Republican debate audience for cheering a nonsensical applause line from Donald Trump or Ben Carson.