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Updated 8:30 PM |

PBS Democratic Debate: Live Coverage

Filed under 2016 Election


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Chadwick Matlin 11:39 PM Good Night!

And that’ll do it for tonight. If you’re coming to this page after the debate, start reading at the bottom and scroll up from there. Henry Kissinger makes several cameos, so you have something to look forward to.

We’ll have more about the election in the coming weeks, of course, and be sure to keep an eye on our primary forecasts as more polls come in. Thanks for reading!

Nate Silver 11:37 PM Grading The Debate

Our post-debate grades — which FiveThirtyEight’s debate-watchers submit anonymously and grade based on how much the candidates helped themselves in the quest for the nomination — saw this as another close debate, with Hillary Clinton getting a B-plus grade and Bernie Sanders a B.

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

I’ll de-anonymize myself to say that I thought the difference was a little clearer between the candidates (I graded Clinton as an A-minus and Sanders as a B-minus). There are two reasons for that.

First, while there’s room to argue about whether Clinton’s constituency-building approach or Sanders’s more targeted one is a more effective strategy overall, I think Clinton did a better job of executing her strategy tonight. She was able to present herself as a full-spectrum Democrat, especially in her closing statement. Sanders, conversely, had more trouble focusing on his core issues such as income inequality.

Second, Clinton appeared more relaxed and confident tonight than she did in the New Hampshire debate. I’m generalizing from small samples, but it was more reminiscent of the first Democratic debate (after which Clinton rebounded in the polls) than some of Clinton’s more recent efforts. Conversely, Sanders dated himself a bit with references to Henry Kissinger and Winston Churchill, something he’s perhaps been smart to avoid given his supporters’ demographics lean younger.

I could be completely wrong. As I’ve said after the past few debates, it’s hard for journalists who are knee-deep in the campaign to see the debate through the relatively fresh eyes of viewers at home. Nothing tonight was a “game-changer,” I don’t think. But my opinion is that Clinton did a better job of speaking to the more diverse audience that the candidates will be seeing in Nevada and South Carolina.

landonsimone 10:59 PM

Clinton’s closing statement spoke directly to Wisconsin politics, while Sanders didn’t really seem attuned to the local political environment. This could be read a couple of ways, though: as Clinton being carefully handled, or as Sanders taking the 10,000-foot view of politics.

landonsimone 10:53 PM

Clinton finished strongly with her closing statement. She managed to make the case that she agrees with Sanders on his core issue of income inequality and its roots in corrupt campaign finance. At the same time, she said, she is also the candidate for voters who care about many other issues.

Clinton also briefly cited the poisoned water of the children of Flint, Michigan — which is a good reminder that if you haven’t yet read our colleague Anna Maria Barry-Jester’s article on what went wrong in Flint and who gathered the data to show it, you really should.

Julia Azari 10:51 PM

Sanders is trying to be the successor candidate to Obama and the candidate of revolution. Probably not sustainable.

Nate Silver 10:50 PM

As his former secretary of state and someone who holds 97 percent of the same policy positions, Clinton’s not going to be able to gain any separation from Obama even if she wants to. So she might as well embrace him now — and hope that Obama’s approval rating is 53 percent and not 42 percent in November.

Harry Enten 10:49 PM

It’s a smart strategy. Obama’s approval rating is basically even among all Americans. Among Democrats, it’s north of 80 percent.

Chadwick Matlin 10:49 PM

Hillary Clinton is really trying to highlight that she believes she’s the only pro-Obama candidate in this primary. Is that a wise move in a primary where the voters are stalwart Democrats?

Carl Bialik 10:47 PM

Nate mentioned Sanders’s curious decision to go back to the 1970s. Now he goes back to the 1930s and 1940s in citing Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill as leaders who would influence his decisions on foreign policy. Clinton goes with more current choices: She cites Nelson Mandela, who died in 2013, and then gives fulsome praise to sitting President Obama — praise she contrasts with Sanders’s recent criticism of Obama.

Harry Enten 10:45 PM

Lots of polls on this, but even in this September Quinnipiac University poll in which just 26 percent of all voters supported the Iran nuclear deal, 52 percent of Democrats did.

Chadwick Matlin 10:45 PM

All of this talk about Iran has me wondering what the voter opinion splits were by party on the Obama administration’s Iran deal. Harry, that’s what you’re here for, right?

Reuben Fischer-Baum 10:43 PM Sanders Is Leading The Facebook Primary

Bernie Sanders has about three times as many Facebook likes as Clinton nationwide, but the former secretary of state does lead in a few South Carolina counties!


In Nevada … it’s a clean sweep for Sanders.

Hayley Munguia 10:42 PM

The European migrant crisis is highly divisive along partisan lines: According to a September Pew poll, “by more than two-to-one (69 percent to 29 percent), Democrats approve of the U.S. decision to increase the number of refugees it accepts. By about the same margin (67 percent to 30 percent), Republicans disapprove.” Half of Democrats say we should go even further, while just 11 percent say we should do less.

Twitter 10:38 PM

Anne Li 10:38 PM
100401ANNE_LIAnne Li

Debate No. 6 is more than 90 minutes in and abortion has barely come up. Rubio complained in the last debate that the Democratic candidates have not been asked about their stances on abortion once in their past five debates, and even Sanders’s digital director Mike Casca is getting impatient.

Nate Silver 10:35 PM

We can’t find any recent favorability ratings for Henry Kissinger — yes, we looked — but it’s interesting that Bernie Sanders has brought the debate back to the 1970s, when that’s generally something he has avoided. Usually, it’s Clinton whose answers are steeped in historical references while Sanders is more focused on the here-and-now — perhaps a small part of the reason why younger Democrats prefer Sanders while older ones prefer Clinton.

Julia Azari 10:34 PM

I think these debates could matter more, if Sanders continues to do well.

Harry Enten 10:33 PM

They’re going to matter less, in my opinion. The simple reason is that this race will become one of demographics. We saw how much demographics mattered in 2008 on the Democratic side and in 2012 on the Republican side.

Chadwick Matlin 10:33 PM

As primary campaigns go on, do debates matter more or less?

Twitter 10:31 PM

Carl Bialik 10:30 PM

Although Clinton would dispute the relevance of 2002 on foreign policy in 2016, a 2002 poll did find that 56 percent of Americans approved of Henry Kissinger to head a commission to investigate the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks; just 22 percent disapproved.

Carl Bialik 10:28 PM

No: 24 percent of New Hampshire Republican voters said in exit polls that terrorism was the issue that matters most; just 9 percent of Democrats did.

Chadwick Matlin 10:28 PM

Is foreign policy the issue on the Democratic side that it is on the GOP side?

Carl Bialik 10:24 PM

Sanders’s snide remark that Clinton isn’t in the White House yet wasn’t great for him, but I agree with Harry that there haven’t been any moments like Rubio’s repetition at the last Republican debate. Which is to be expected — there are lots of debates and few have a major, immediate impact on the race.

Harry Enten 10:24 PM

I’ve seen nothing. No terrible moments for either one. No “game changers.”

Chadwick Matlin 10:24 PM

Has anything happened so far that’s going to nudge this race one way or another?

Nate Silver 10:23 PM
If you put any stock in the grades the FiveThirtyEight staff issues after each debate, which are intended to reflect our impressions of how much each candidate helped his or her nomination chances, then both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are consistent but somewhat risk-averse debaters. Other than Clinton’s A-minus in the first Democratic debate, all of the other grades we’ve given to Clinton and Sanders are B’s and B-plusses.

Oct. 13 A- B
Nov. 14 B B
Dec. 19 B+ B
Jan. 17 B+ B+
Feb. 4 B+ B+
FiveThirtyEight staff grades for previous Democratic debates
Carl Bialik 10:22 PM

Clinton spoke forcefully against Donald Trump’s comments that could alienate American Muslims, such as calling for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country. She said American Muslims must feel welcome in the United States. Democrats have warmer feelings toward Muslims than Republicans do, but the sentiment remains chilly, according to my colleagues Ben Casselman and Harry Enten.

Twitter 10:19 PM


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