Here are the winners and losers from the CNN Democratic debate.
1). Hillary Clinton – Former Sec. of State Clinton came out strong by playing up her knowledge of the state and history as the Senator from New York. Except for her usual stubbornness on releasing the Goldman Sachs speech transcripts, there were no stumbles for Clinton. Hillary Clinton gave her usual solid performance. Clinton doesn’t make mistakes and beat herself in these debates. Clinton’s message has played better in closed Democratic primaries and in states with more diverse populations.
Clinton said nothing in this debate that should cost her votes with the Democratic electorate or put her odds of victory in New York in jeopardy. The Democratic candidates are clearly tired of each other, and the tense tone of the campaign was clearly visible during the debate. Hillary Clinton has been consistently strong in the Democratic debates, and Sen. Sanders was unable to knock her off of her game.
Clinton was able to broaden the conversation towards November while discussing Social Security and scored major points by discussing the fact that candidates have not gotten a single question on a woman’s right to choose in eight debates.
Hillary Clinton came into the New York debate leading, and she will likely exit the debate still well ahead in the Empire State.
1). Bernie Sanders – Bernie Sanders needed a game-changing debate performance, and too many of his answers were based on his stump speeches. Sanders continued to struggle on guns. Bernie Sanders couldn’t provide a straight answer on how he would release hundreds of thousands of prisoners to keep his promise on reducing the prison population. Sanders offered up a vague answer of working with the states, which is fine unless the states don’t want to work with him.
There was nothing in this debate that shifted the dynamic of the New York primary. Sanders needed to appeal to Democratic primary voters, but his answers remained tailored for Independents. Bernie Sanders didn’t have a bad debate, but his performance was just like all of his previous performances. Sen. Sanders drew groans from the crowd when he said that he would withdraw the nomination of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, and it is unclear how his answer will play with Democratic voter in the closed primaries. Sanders was more confrontational, but being more aggressive while offering many of the same answers that he has been using for months likely wasn’t enough to cut into Hillary Clinton’s double-digit New York lead.
2). Democratic Voters – It is clear that this was a debate that Bernie Sanders pushed for, but it wasn’t really necessary. The Democratic primary electorate is tired. Clinton has a big delegate lead, and it would take a string of miracle upsets for Bernie Sanders to catch up to her. Clinton and Sanders delivered a strong debate, but except for Clinton saying that she would sign a $15/hour minimum wage bill as president, there was little new said by both candidates during the debate.