CNN Audience – Within the opening few minutes of the debate the CNN audience proved that for them, this debate was meaningless. Lincoln Chafee offered up the first two minute personal description, and I’m sure somewhere his campaign manager was ecstatic. Chaffee delivered the near perfect formula for a 2016 Democrat: he smoothly delivered his political background, including his votes against Bush-Cheney tax reforms, and set out his own ideas on the environment, staying out of wars, and solving income inequality. The audience rewarded this call for liberal action with a brief, lukewarm applause, possibly matched only by those given to Webb and O’Malley after their two minutes. Of course, Chaffee has not been polling well, with under one percent favorability in nearly all polls (abcnews.com). Still, debates are supposed to be an opportunity to both expose the candidates policies and flaws and better inform the American people. As far as the voters in the audience, it seemed they had already made up their minds.
Bernie Sanders – Now, while the humble “I’m-not-a-politician” politician persona may work at a Sanders rally, it most certainly did not at the debate. Polls might have put Bernie up, but when it comes down to an executive, he just wasn’t to that caliber. If his old age and bad posture weren’t enough, rather than projecting, he shouted in his thick Brooklyn accent and leaned aggressively over the podium. His expression mirrored his fatalistic approach to every question—the only time the audience got any warmth from Sanders was in his shining moment of shutting down the Clinton email scandal conversation. Although he recovered from his campaign incident with a solid answer on “Black Lives Matter,” he blundered early on in claiming socialism. Whatever statement Sanders is trying to make about the state of economics in this country, he fails to recognize that simply explaining socialism doesn’t wipe away the paranoia the word strikes in the Land of the Free or that most Americans see capitalism as a means to achieve that freedom.
CNN Tech– Did anyone else feel like those opening slides were something out of The Hunger Games? The mostly 18+ audience doesn’t need every graphic effect available to watch the debate, nor is it necessary to make this feel like a game show. It’s going to be a little boring, but people are going to watch anyway; act accordingly CNN.
Hillary Clinton– Say what you will about career politicians but Clinton was by far the most presidential candidate on that stage. Especially beside the failing-yelling-over-excited-mess that was Bernie Sanders, Clinton emerged as calm and composed. She even took advantage of what should have been Bernie’s shining moment: when he interrupted the email debate, saying no one cared about her “d*mn emails,” she was the one to turn to him and shake his hand. Clinton showed she was friendly and earned some brownie points; Sanders cracked his first and last smile of the debate but ultimately was overshadowed then and for the rest of the night.
Facebook– Maybe you saw that the official debate title was actually “The CNN-Facebook Democratic Presidential Debate” and thought, “Get it together CNN.” But in reality, this is just what you can expect from Facebook−a last ditch attempt to get your parents and the remainder of middle aged Americans to join. Fingers crossed that the “Fox-Vine Debate” isn’t next.
Friendship (and sass)– Although this certainly was a more mature debate than the ones we’ve seen from the conservatives, that’s not to say it was completely bland. When things seemed to get personal, it turned out all of the potential candidates were actually great friends! For example, when Martin O’Malley criticized Clinton’s plans for Syria, she began her response with, “ You know, I have to say, I was very pleased when Governor O’Malley endorsed me for president in 2008, and I enjoyed his strong support in that campaign. And I consider him, obviously, a friend.” Take that O’Malley, you flip-flopping endorser. An even more unlikely friendship was formed after Webb denounced Sanders’s conscientious objector status during the Vietnam War. After Webb stated his own marine past Sanders rejoined with, “let me applaud my good friend Jim Webb for his service to this country in so many ways.”
Was in the Wrong Debate
Jim Webb– You knew it was going to be a rough night for Jim Webb when Anderson Cooper brought up that Webb “wrote an op-ed saying [affirmative action] discriminates against whites.” It only got worse when we found out the NRA gave Webb an A rating, which Webb defended by saying that he did, in fact, largely oppose gun control. Perhaps he was in the wrong debate, and perhaps he was never meant to make it this far. Even after Webb continuously blundered through his questions, he rudely interrupted to ask for more time. “You let a lot of people go over their time,” Webb told Cooper at one point in the debate. If only he had known that was a right reserved for serious candidates only. Then again, his behavior would have been well suited to a conservative debate. Maybe he and Kasich should swap spots?