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Updated 8:45 PM |

What Went Down At The Univision Democratic Debate

Filed under 2016 Election


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Harry Enten 11:37 PM That’s A Wrap

Tonight, we saw a capital-D Democratic debate. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders argued over who was more liberal on immigration, economic inequality, energy and other topics. Some questions were asked both in English and Spanish. But did Clinton or Sanders put together a game-changing performance? My guess is that neither of them did, and my colleagues mostly agreed.

When asked to grade each candidate’s debate performances on how much they helped or hurt their chances of winning the nomination, Sanders came out slightly ahead of Clinton; he averaged a B+, and she averaged a B. (I gave both of them a B.)

Bernie Sanders B+ A- B-
Hillary Clinton B B+ C
FiveThirtyEight’s Democratic debate grades

Clinton faced tough questions from the moderators about her emails and Benghazi, which put her on defense more than Sanders. Sanders, for his part, faced tough questions on his immigration voting record and his views on socialist regimes in Latin America.

One other thing that became clear from tonight’s debate is that Clinton and Sanders are getting on one another’s nerves. In the last debate, Sanders snapped at Clinton for interrupting him. This time Clinton snapped at Sanders for interrupting her. That’s a far cry from the squabbling in the Republican debates, but it’s clear that both of them recognize they have a lot on the line.

Sanders knows that he must capitalize on his win in Michigan yesterday. He trails Clinton by more than 200 pledged delegates, and the terrain next Tuesday isn’t great for him. While there’s been a lot of concentration on Ohio (where the polls have been bouncy), Clinton is a heavy favorite heading into the delegate-rich states of Florida, Illinois and North Carolina, where the polling averages give her leads of anywhere from 20 to 37 percentage points. Sanders better hope that either the polls are off in those states like they were in Michigan (a possibility), or the public saw tonight differently than we did (also a possibility). Otherwise, his victory in Michigan will simply be a battle won in a war lost.

Farai Chideya 11:04 PM

One of the people commenting on our live blog started her own mini-debate about whether Clinton has morphed ideologically to match Sanders. As we move forward, both candidates will have to begin thinking about how their primary battle will shape the general election. It will be interesting to see how and when both parties start tacking back to the center, and whether the primary voters activated by non-establishment candidates will remain as passionate during the general election.

Harry Enten 11:00 PM

As we come to a close here, I wanted to put in perspective what a large audience Democrats are getting on Univision. According to a 2013 Pew Research Center report, Univision has more viewers than the Fox network and nearly the same number as ABC. Moreover, Univision tops all of the English-speaking networks in terms of viewers ages 18 to 49.

Andrew Flowers 10:55 PM

Is Puerto Rico a state or a country? It’s a facetious question, since it’s neither, but the issue is important economically. The island is in the midst of a debt crisis, because it owes about $70 billion. To put that in perspective: that’s only 70 percent of Puerto Rico’s GDP, which is very high compared to other U.S. states but very low compared to other countries.

Twitter 10:55 PM

Jody Avirgan 10:49 PM

I think it was a legitimate misunderstanding on Sanders’s part. He thought he was being called on. After what we saw in the GOP debates, it’s funny that political Twitter is now criticizing candidates for too closely paying attention to the moderator’s instructions.

fstone538 10:48 PM

This was a moment debated in political Twitter, with most people I follow saying Sanders came off poorly, both for interrupting his opponent and for whining about his speaking time. What did you all think?

Farai Chideya 10:47 PM

On a recent trip to Cuba, I found that people over 35 generally did not want to speak to me, and my translator warned me they were afraid of the government. Cuba has a famously complex two-currency system, as well as a hard-to-quantify economy that relies in part on cash payments by tourists and remittances from relatives abroad. Obama is gearing up to visit the nation in two weeks, and many American companies are planning to invest.

Andrew Flowers 10:45 PM

I find it perplexing that Sanders hasn’t brought up trade more in tonight’s debate. While we don’t know definitively that his hammering of Clinton on NAFTA and other trade deals helped him win Michigan, it’s possible it did. With the Ohio primary coming up next Tuesday — and its 159 delegates at stake — it seems tactically smart to bring up the issue again.

Harry Enten 10:43 PM

Lifting the Cuban embargo would be quite popular among Democrats and Latinos. According to a September Marist survey, 78 percent of Democrats and 70 percent of Latinos support it.

Farai Chideya 10:43 PM

A query about Wall Street for the candidates was framed by a quote by Sen. Elizabeth Warren about what she sees as a “revolving door” between Wall Streeters and the White House. Those ties can also be indirect, as we’ve seen during the current administration. In 2013, Lawrence Summers, the economist and former Harvard University president, withdrew from consideration to be chair of the Federal Reserve because of criticism of both his policy stances and his taking fees for speeches to financiers. Warren has been famously silent while Sanders and Clinton duke things out. She’d be a big get as an endorsement.

Andrew Flowers 10:40 PM

Obama is a divisive figure, not equally appreciated by the bases of the two Democratic candidates. As FiveThirtyEight contributor Dan Hopkins pointed out: Clinton supporters like Obama a lot more than Sanders’s voters do.

Carl Bialik 10:39 PM

Harry, to your point that many are seeing these candidates for the first time: There are signs that the television audience composition for debates is changing. Sunday night’s debate audience was, according to Nielsen, 9 percent men ages 18 to 34, 15 percent black and 9 percent Hispanic — all highs to date (not counting Telemundo’s simulcast of last month’s debate).

Twitter 10:34 PM

Twitter 10:34 PM

Harry Enten 10:32 PM

Something I need to keep reminding myself is that most Americans don’t watch politics as closely as I do. For many, this debate is the first time they’ve heard the candidates speak. That’s especially the case for this Univision debate. It’s the reason it’s important to have more than just a few debates, which was the original plan of Democratic Party officials.

Carl Bialik 10:31 PM

Sanders isn’t exactly right that the U.S. is “the only major country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee health care to all of our people,” but the U.S. certainly is in the minority among the most developed nations. He’s on firmer ground in questioning Clinton’s claim that 90 percent of Americans are covered — insurance coverage isn’t a yes-or-no proposition, and plenty have lousy plans.

Farai Chideya 10:30 PM

Jobs and the frustration of Americans with an economy where the average real household income is less than it was 10 years ago is driving the candidacies of both Sanders and Trump. Both Clinton and Sanders are pushing different plans for paying for education and dealing with student debt, with Sanders proposing free college education at public institutions. Clinton, on the other hand, talks about refinancing student debt. It’s worth noting that student debt cannot be discharged in a bankruptcy, and a few seniors have even seen their Social Security checks garnished for student debt.

fstone538 10:23 PM

We’ve heard it a lot tonight: The unemployment rate for Latinos/Hispanics is higher than the national average — specifically, it was 5.4 percent in February 2016, compared to the national rate of 4.9 percent. But the gap has been narrowing since the Great Recession, when it was more than 3 percentage points higher.


Carl Bialik 10:22 PM

A: Good question. Bill Clinton typically gets paid almost $200,000 per event, though he once made $750,000. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has made $270,000 for a speech. Former Vice President Al Gore once pocketed $156,000 for a half-hour speech. There’s plenty more on politicians-turned-paid-speakers from ABC News, Fortune, The Washington Post and the Daily Beast. Turns out it can pay better to be considered a business success than to be a political one: Trump has made $1.5 million a pop for speeches at the Learning Annex.

Farai Chideya 10:20 PM

Following up on the Twitter wars about the comparison by Sanders and Clinton of guest worker programs to slavery, Darren Hutchinson (@dissentingj) tweeted me to point out that the Southern Poverty Law Center report called for reforming guest worker programs, not ending them. It was also titled “Close to Slavery,” which is not quite the same as Sanders’ direct parallel comparison to slavery.

jody538 10:18 PM

Sanders’s performance in Michigan was unquestionably an eye-opener, but as we’ve said repeatedly the thing to keep those open eyes on is the delegate count. Our friend Dave Wasserman (star of many a FiveThirtyEight live blog) was in the office today and we got a chance to talk about the race, using our really cool delegate tracker. Here’s a little video of me trying to barely keep up as Dave maths it up like crazy.

Carl Bialik 10:10 PM

Sanders brought up Clinton’s citation of praise from Henry Kissinger. Does this help Sanders connect with voters? We’re not sure — when he used this line of attack in a debate last month, we tried and failed to find any recent polls on Kissinger’s approval rating.

Andrew Flowers 10:10 PM

Many Americans might be asking themselves: “Who are the Koch brothers?” (Clinton said the Kochs, who run an industrial empire, had praised Sanders for opposing the Export-Import Bank.) According to a 2014 poll by George Washington University, 52 percent of Americans had no idea who Charles and David Koch are. For those who did know the billionaire conservative donors, a majority had an unfavorable opinion.

Farai Chideya 10:07 PM

The Congressional Research Service and studies by U.S. Customs and Border Protection found that the U.S.-Mexico border wall that exists today cost $16 million to $21 million per mile. In several spots, it’s also undermined — literally — by narcotraffickers. Critics including former Texas Gov. (and former Presidential candidate) Rick Perry say the price and logistics are unworkable. Other critics believe it’s un-American, with Vice President Joe Biden saying “building walls is fundamentally contrary to what made this country what it is.” But the United States is just one of 65 nations choosing to wall its borders. That’s four times as many nations as when the Berlin Wall fell.

Harry Enten 10:06 PM

Most Democrats think Clinton has been honest about Benghazi. According to a November Fox News poll, 67 percent of Democrats said “yes… Clinton has been honest with the American people about the State Department’s role in the events surrounding the Benghazi terrorist attacks.”

Carl Bialik 10:05 PM

Why did the crowd boo the Benghazi question? Maybe because “the public’s interest in the September 2012 attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, and the subsequent investigations into Clinton’s responsibility for the death of two U.S. diplomats while she was secretary of state, has dropped considerably since the events,” our colleague Leah Libresco reported last fall.

Twitter 10:02 PM

Harry Enten 10:02 PM

I’m somewhat worried, Micah, but let’s not go bonkers. We had a big error in New Hampshire in 2008 in Clinton’s favor, but the rest of the campaign didn’t feature major polling errors in her favor. If there’s a state I’m worried about most, it’s Ohio, which is like Michigan in a lot of ways.


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