A grade and breakdown of each candidate’s performance.
Hilary Clinton A-
Hilary was assertive, direct and strong whenever she was on the mic. She was not afraid to take on Bernie on gun control and she defended her past failures -ie. voting for the Iraq war- as effectively as she could’ve hoped to. The email debacle seems to be nearly behind her, and Sanders jumping to her defense will only help aid its disappearance from the headlines. She was poised and confident in responding to attacks and assertions from the other candidates and her wealth of experience, and significant political stature seemed to dwarf the others on the stage. In a vacuum, her performance did not outshine Sanders -it was tough to call overall, but a tie goes to the Clinton. Some light shed on a few bad decisions from her past may have dented the armor a bit, but she came in as the top dog and this debate did little to dethrone her.
Bernie Sanders- B+
Sanders was Sanders. He performed well, he spoke with passion and had moments of brilliance, but he didn’t do quite enough to bridge the gap. The significant base he has solidified over the last six months was undoubtedly behind every syllable, but for those on the fence, or those with one toe in the Hilary camp, his performance was simply not dominant enough to sway them his way. But he was very solid overall and, as he always does, he spoke with heart and conviction. There were a few moments that became a bit repetitive, however, and he never fully asserted himself over Clinton, or differentiated his approach in broad enough lines. His only debatable slip was his mildly inarticulate response to Clinton’s and O’Malley’s attack on his gun control voting record, and his best moment was defending Hilary in the email scandal. It was a classic Bernie moment where politics were put aside in place of honesty. Unfortunately, this particular honesty helped his biggest opponent as much -if not more- that it did himself.
Martin O’Malley- C+
O’Malley was the best of the outsiders, but that’s not really saying much for his overall performance. When speaking on foreign policy he was a complete mess, but he did get some solid screen time when he was attacking Bernie for his voting record on gun control -and his closing remarks were quite good. His gun control remarks may have hurt Sanders a little, but O’Malley didn’t land any truly significant blows. Overall though, his performance potentially bolstered his profile a bit and thus, his shot as a potential running mate for the democratic nominee.
Lincoln Chaffee- D
Not that he really had much of a shot at making an impact anyway, but that opening statement was as wooden and banal as it gets—his speech has the cadence of a 5th grader reading a book report. And his admission to voting for the Glass-Steagall bill without knowing what he was voting for was flat out embarrassing. He twice touted that he’d had “no scandals” while in office – a clear shot at Clinton and one of the only times his content was interesting. When asked by Anderson Cooper why the American public should trust a man who has changed from a Republican to an Independent to a Democrat within two years, Chaffee said, “on the issues, I’m granite” to which Cooper responded, “pretty soft granite.” This was Chaffee’s worst and best moment of the night.
Jim Webb- D-
Apparently, he was waiting to speak for 10 minutes – we know because he kept prattling on about it. It’s never a good idea to spend a significant amount of time complaining at a debate, it makes a candidate look childish and petty. And when he wasn’t speaking about his lack speaking time, he basically came off as a moderate conservative. His opening statement meandered haphazardly and didn’t say much of anything as to who he is as a candidate. All in all, Webb did nothing to raise his profile above the bottom rung.
Anderson Cooper- A
Can Anderson Cooper please moderate every debate from here to eternity. He was in charge; the whole time he was in charge and there was no question as to his level of authority. He asked tough questions, he was assertive and direct and he kept the debate in order, never letting it veer too far off course. He seemed to know precisely when to indulge a tangent and when to end it and move on. As far as debate moderations go, it was a masterful performance.
by Jesse Mechanic