Photo from Twitter @HillaryClinton
First of all, the broadcast itself started out like a farce. CNN promoted the heck out of the 8:30 p.m. debate time and then it actually didn't get rolling until closer to 8:45 with all the commercials and hullabaloo. With the National Anthem sung, I firmly expected Anderson Cooper to announce CNN legend Bernard Shaw was going to come out of the bull pen to throw out the first question.
Once things got settled down, the debate ran efficiently and effectively. Anderson Cooper was a tremendous moderator who didn't let the candidates get away without answering the questions posed. He needs to be included in the Presidential Debate rotation. Dana Bash was also very effective as was Don Lemon and Juan Carlos Lopez. There was some criticism thrown at CNN for having certain anchors matching certain ethnic/racial backgrounds ask certain questions. Point well-noted, but I thought the panel was strong.
Jim Webb might disagree.
As far as the participants go, I thought Hillary Clinton was very solid in her performance. She was able to absorb attacks and turn them around most of the night. She stumbled a bit on Cooper's question about whether or not she changes her positions based on political expediency, but she came out of it well. Clinton won the debate easily, but she was also the most experienced and accomplished debater on the stage. Between her runs for Senate in the past and President in 2008, she has this format down.
Bernie Sanders also didn't fall all over himself in this debate. I would have called the debate closer, but Sanders has a penchant for yelling. People don't like to get yelled at. Certainly Bernie supporters crowded into house parties and ran up the opinion polls. He was the people's choice in this debate because he spoke about the people's issues. He was weakest on foreign policy and gun policy.
Martin O'Malley emerged as the alternative to Clinton and Sanders candidate in this debate. He was smart, well-prepared, and usually had an answer for every question. His "we already did that..." mantra wore a little thin and his ending every sentence with a smile style also seemed a little less than sincere. O'Malley is by far the youngest candidate of the major ones running, and he will be a force to be reckoned with in years to come. Unless something major happens, he will be on someone's shortlist for a Vice Presidential nominee.
He's smart. He's tough. He's experienced, but he's also not good on his feet. That was Jim Webb. Constant complaining about time really got old fast. His positions seemed to fulfill that moderate niche, but his demeanor lacked that of a President. Webb is not the oldest candidate, but he sure acted like a disgruntled old man sitting on his porch telling the neighborhood kids to keep the dogs out of his posies. Webb should, however, be considered for a cabinet post if someone can work with him.
Finally, there's Lincoln Chafee. Chafee appeared at times to have wandered in out of the Wynn Resort's Casino. He might be scandal free, and he might be a beloved Rhode Islander. He unfortunately for him came off last night as the least Presidential of the candidates in my mind, and he constantly found his attacks at the other candidates often blowing back up on him.
Overall, the debate was an adult conversation of many issues. As one might expect, the discussion was much broader than that of the Republican side's debates which have centered mostly around foreign policy, faith, and immigration.
The performance by the top three Democrats in this race made me proud to be a Democrat. I can't say that I'd be proud to be a Republican after watching that mess. Then again, I'm biased.