Democratic Party Primary Debate: October 13, 2015

Tonight, five candidates seeking the Democratic Party presidential nomination will meet in Las Vegas at a debate telecast on CNN (8:30pm Eastern time).

UPDATED with Transcript from WaPo:
The CNN Democratic debate transcript, annotated
(“annotated” means that they have added ‘fact checking’ and additional information in pop up links)

The stage has been set and these are the candidates:

From left to right:
– Jim Webb, former Democratic Senator from Virginia, Secretary of the Navy under Republican president Ronald Reagan
– Bernie Sanders, independent Senator from Vermont
– Hillary Clinton, former Democratic Senator from New York, former Secretary of State under Democratic president Barack Obama.
– Martin O’Malley, former Democratic Governor of Maryland
– Lincoln Chafee, former Republican Senator from Rhode Island, former independent Governor of Rhode Island.

One thing is clear: running against the policies of President Obama is not likely to be a path to success in the Democratic Party primaries. From Pew Polls:

Democrats have remained very loyal to President Barack Obama.
In our September poll, Obama’s overall job rating is 46%, but Democrats are overwhelmingly supportive of the president. Fully 83% of Democrats approve of the way Obama is handling his job, compared with 43% of independents and just 9% of Republicans.

Democratic voters want the next president to continue Obama’s policies.
In our most recent survey, 61% of possible Democratic primary voters said they would be more likely to vote for a presidential candidate who offers programs similar to the Obama administration.

Commentary from news outlets below the fold …

From NPR: Clinton and Sanders Debate Styles

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will face off for the first time on stage Tuesday night, along with fellow Democratic candidates Lincoln Chafee, Martin O’Malley and Jim Webb.

Both Clinton and Sanders have said they are running positive campaigns, but if their previous debate experience is any indication, that could change on debate night. In the past, both have shown a willingness to turn tough on their opponents.

Here are seven moments we dug up from past debates that tell us more about what Clinton and Sanders will bring to the stage


From CNN: Sunday Talk shows preview “fight night”

Both Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley are turning up the contrast between themselves and the party’s front-runner, who, despite having faced heavy scrutiny all summer for her email use as secretary of state, appears to have stabilized her dominance in national polls.

In a not-so-subtle jab at Clinton, Sanders highlighted his “consistency” Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” saying he’s been in sync with the party’s electorate on issues like trade and income inequality much longer than the former secretary of state.

“So people will have to contrast my consistency and my willingness to stand up to Wall Street and corporations, big corporations, with the secretary,” Sanders said.

And O’Malley played up his record on issues like gun control and immigration on CNN’s “State of the Union,” saying that “it’s about the doing, not the saying.”


From Vox: The 6 biggest policy differences between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton

[While] Clinton and Sanders may be using somewhat similar rhetoric these days, the differences between them on economics remain vast. Sanders wants his party to challenge the power of the wealthy and corporations far more directly, both rhetorically and substantively. But Clinton would rather turn them into allies — mobilizing support from the 1 percent, rather than demonizing them.

Now, keep in mind that despite the current turmoil in the House of Representatives, it’s generally expected to remain in Republican hands for quite some time — so when it comes to actual legislation, a Democratic president’s strategic approach to Congress and executive power might actually matter more than which specific new laws he or she wants.

But on some issues, like trade and foreign policy, the president has broad authority to take the initiative. And it’s clear that there, President Sanders and Clinton would act in very different ways.


From Reuters: Clinton’s tack to the left to be on display in Democratic debate

After two raucous Republican debates that drew big television audiences attracted by the fireworks generated by front-runner Donald Trump, the Democratic encounter, hosted by CNN and to be held in Las Vegas, is likely to be a tamer affair.[…]

Sanders, a self-described socialist, has excited the party’s left wing and generated big crowds with a persistent message of eradicating income inequality and reining in Wall Street.

In response, Clinton took stances on several key issues recently that align her with Sanders. She reversed course to announce her opposition to the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that she had praised when she was secretary of state, and she rejected the Keystone XL pipeline that she had said in 2010 she was inclined to approve. Sanders is a longtime opponent of both projects.

Sanders, who has repeatedly refused to directly attack Clinton, signaled over the weekend he would make an issue in the debate of Clinton’s tardiness on some of those topics, noting he opposed Keystone and the TPP “from day one.”


From ThinkProgress: 7 Tough Questions Progressives Want Answered At The Democratic Presidential Debate

The last two presidential debates have basically been exercises in outrage for progressives. Save for the moment Carly Fiorina smacked down Donald Trump’s sexism, the Republican events were the stuff of liberal nightmares — defenses of the Iraq War, expressions of admiration for Kim Davis, a botched discussion of climate change, and silence on racial injustice.

So there’s likely some relief among progressives that Tuesday’s presidential debate will be between Democratic candidates whose worldviews might align closer to theirs. But that doesn’t mean the candidates will have it easy. There are key distinctions the Democratic candidates will need to make between themselves and their opponents — both on the Republican and Democratic side of the aisle — before voters make their choices.



  1. I have an opinion!

    I do not think that “coming late to the game” is as important as being on the right team when the game starts. And I don’t think that moving left when your party is moving left is somehow dishonest. Hillary Clinton moved left with a lot of other Democrats and many of her positions in 2015 simply reflect her party’s:

    I will be watching closely how the candidates treat each other because we are a party that respects people and their opinions and our candidates should remind everyone of that.

    • Thanks for this, Jan—you make a very good point. Responding to your base or your constituents is NOT being wishy-washy. It’s being attentive to the wishes of the voters.

      We’ll be watching with interest at our house, hoping it does not turn rancorous.

      Can’t think what on earth Jim Webb, Martin O’Malley, and Lincoln Chafee are hoping to bring to the race. From where I sit, they just look like three more aging white guys. At least Bernie has ideas and a vision, even though I prefer Clinton’s ideas and vision.

      • Bernie is passionate about his causes and his energy will bring energy to the race. I don’t disagree with many of his issues, my concerns with him as a candidate is that his white hot focus on income inequality misses too many other issues that are important. I am focused on civil rights and women’s reproductive rights and criminal justice and gun control, things I consider life or death. Whether the banks get broken up (unicorning, in my opinion) is not even in my top 10 list of issues.

        You’re right … I am not sure what the other candidates bring. I suspect that O’Malley is bringing “youth” but since it is attached to his awful stand on broken-window policing and the mess in Baltimore, youth, in this case, is not enough.

  2. Some pre-debate Tweets:

    Judd Legum @JuddLegum

    Media previews Dem debate as “sleepy” because it will focus on policy rather than blaming Jews for the Holocaust


    And this Tweet about a despicable “ad” from Stop Hillary PAC:

    Shame on you, CNN!

    • Judd Legum followup on ThinkProgress: Major Media Outlets Warn The Democratic Debate Will Probably Be Super Boring, Focus On Policy

      So far, the campaign for the Republican presidential nomination has focused on exciting issues like the merits of Carly Fiorina’s face, the height of the new wall between the United States and Mexico, and whether the Jews were responsible for the Holocaust.

      The Democratic debate scheduled for Tuesday night, meanwhile, is expected focus on issues like climate change, criminal justice reform, and zzzzzzzzzzz…

      Major media outlets would like you to know that it will probably be a snooze-fest.

      The Washington Post reports that the Republican debates have been “appointment television” featuring lots of personal insults and attacks. Meanwhile, the Democratic debate will focus on “substantive” issues like “how each would pay for his or her higher-education overhauls.” It’s possible, the Post warns, you will be “bored senseless.”

      If anyone needs to know why politics in America sucks, look no further than that sentence.

  3. Excellent pre-debate round-up. Thank you Jan.

    I don’t think I’ll be reading the live blog at orange – too much negativity. I hope I can watch without having to listen to pundit opinions – they annoy me. Will make up my own mind.

    • I will be watching but I have to be quick with the mute button if CNN is going to be selling ads to people like the Stop Hillary PAC and the RNC. I don’t need negativity either. Outrage works for some but I prefer calmly and quietly working on GOTV for 2016.

      I will probably follow Twitter and “favorite” some Tweets to share tomorrow morning. The debate will end past my bedtime so I might have to DVR the end of it. Or maybe I will have seen enough in the first hour.

  4. Here are some excellent questions from Paul Waldman at WaPo:

    “The real audience isn’t hoping for a ‘gaffe’ or an angry confrontation; they actually hope that this event will help them decide their votes.”

    I want to know the answers to these questions, too. No one should be giving out free ponies and if they are, they should be called out.

    • Nothing on foreign policy, especially in MENA. That’s disappointing. And I would like something on the death penalty.

      • I hope we get some foreign policy questions too. Apparently all hell is breaking lose in Syria right now and people on this stage need to say clearly that we are NOT going in there. Period.

  5. Good morning Meese

    Watched the debate with the hubby, who has no major horse in the race.

    He picked Hillary for the win, Sanders as a runner-up – but not Presidential, O’Malley as maybe he’ll get a job in the next administration, Webb as a Republican and Chafee as lost.

    Stayed away from orange, went to sleep. Got up to look at people touting freeped online polls – which is simply silly. I remember all those “polls” Ron Paul used to win. While scanning the news – up popped a piece from the vile National Review – I won’t link but here’s the headline – “Republicans Should Help Bernie Sanders to Weaken Hillary”

    In other news – The National Council of La Raza is angry about SNL selecting Trump to host the show:

    “This is not about lacking a sense of humor. Everyone knows that SNL is not just a comedy show. For the last 40 years, it has become a highly coveted platform for candidates from political parties who are looking to reach and connect with the American public. It is appalling, then, that a show with that history and that role to showcase a man whose campaign has been built on bigotry and demagoguery for the sake of buzz and ratings. NBC made the right decision last June to sever its ties with Trump over his blatantly anti-Latino campaign announcement. Since then he has only gotten worse and more divisive, so this change of heart is even more troubling,” stated Janet Murguía, President and CEO of NCLR.

    “It is especially galling that this golden opportunity for Trump to mainstream his message of hate has come from a show that in its 40 year history has had just one Hispanic cast member, has never had a Latina cast member on the show yet has consistently engaged in Latina stereotyping over the years, and has brushed aside our community’s concerns when we have pointed that out. This is a slap in the face to the millions of Hispanic viewers who watch SNL, NBC, and the rest of the NBC/Universal family. We urge that SNL and NBC re-consider this ill-advised decision,” concluded Murguía.

    • Poor Lincoln Chafee! He was not ready for prime time, was he? His defense of the Glass-Steagel repeal was just sad “My Dad had just died and I just got appointed to the Senate and I didn’t have time to read the bill and all the other guys were voting for it!!”. But his defense of his litmus test for the presidency, that anyone who voted for the AUMF is disqualified, was befuddling … the Iraq War was the greatest foreign policy disaster in American history? And that is clearly true because Bernie Sanders just said so on that very stage? I hope he is satisfied with his “9 min 05 seconds” of fame (per NPR) because I cannot see any reason for him to return to the debate stage.

      It is too early to declare winners and losers, probably, but the one clear loser was Joe Biden. There is no reason for him to rush to the rescue and the debate stage does not need another center-left white guy.

      I think that the DNC should have more debates. Our candidates got to describe to the American people what Democrats do when they are put in charge of government. I want more!!

      • No problem! It is a good place for debate discussion! It is not like it is difficult to find comments here. :)

    • On the SNL thing, the off-again and on-again bromance of Donald Trump and Rupert Murdoch at Fox News is being repeated at NBC. The siren song of ratings has lured them onto the rocks and they don’t care about what is right or wrong. Trump is correct: ratings are king and his brand of hateful rhetoric sells commercials. I hope this stays a big story in the Latino community because it is important for everyone who has a vote to vote next year against the Party of Trump.

      • It will as long as Trump is in the race and continues to drag other R’s into dissing Latinos to keep up with him.

        • Did you see the gawdawful racist Tweets that Mike Huckabee was tweeting out? Someone needs to tell him that he will never break through the GOP noise by being more racist than Trump or Carson. All he is doing now is making sure his one-time reputation for being charming is permanently nuked.

          • yup – the ones about Koreans eating dog.

            Huckabee is trying to climb on the racist bandwagon – let him alienate Asian-American voters. That will work out well for R’s.

          • My Asian-American daughter was pointing out to me that Asians are 58% of the world population. He will alienate more than just Americans with those kind of comments. Maybe he can hook up with Jim Webb who apparently wants to start a war in the South China Sea because CHINA!!!

  6. Ed Kilgore on Anderson Cooper:

    [The] aspect of the debate that struck me apparently more than most observers: the exceptional hostility of the questioning from moderator Anderson Cooper, who seemed to be trying to defy expectations that he’d be less savage than Jake Tapper was in CNN’s GOP debate. Pretty quickly, Cooper became a stand-in for all the media folk trying to make the Democratic contest about emails and Benghazi! and “socialism,” and you got the sense the candidates and the immediate audience united in disdain for the superficiality of where the hosts wanted the discussion to go.

    Unity in our disdain for superficiality. Let’s build on that. And this:

    The feral roar that greeted Bernie Sanders’ statement that Americans were tired of “hearing about [Clinton’s] damn emails”—followed by HRC shaking Bernie’s hand—was the signature moment of the night. And this wasn’t just some “gift” from Sanders to Clinton, as it was called by several talking heads last night. It was a party-wide rebuke to the MSM for how they are covering this campaign.


    Ed added a link to his commentary on TPMCafe: Last Night’s Debate: Democrats Vs. CNN

    … there were two main takeaways from this debate.

    First, there just wasn’t the sense of a party in crisis that Republicans have projected again and again in the two debates, the two “undercard” events, and many exchanges on the campaign trail. Virtually no GOP presidential candidates have a kind word to say about their party’s leadership in Washington. Even challenged directly to distinguish themselves from Barack Obama, the five candidates were careful not to criticize him. In the Republican field, one candidate has called another a “egomaniacal madman”; another routinely calls several of his rivals “losers”; and the candidate most beloved of party elites is disliked by a majority of rank-and-file voters. There’s nothing like that on the Democratic side at present.

    Second, the absence of clear-cut policy clash in the Democratic debate accentuated the importance of style points, and as a result, Clinton and Sanders both pleased their supporters.

    On Clinton and Sanders:

    Clinton was very fluid and even-tempered, and only raised her voice when identifying with women and bashing Republicans. Her answer to Chafee’s challenge on Iraq, noting that Obama trusted her judgment enough to make her Secretary of State right from the start, may have put that perpetually thorny issue to rest for good.

    Sanders was in a word defiant, and if you shared his outrage at inequality and corporate power his tone was appropriate. But otherwise, his rising volume and abundant gesticulations came across as over-the-top. Since this was Sanders’ debut on a truly national change, one could make the argument that he benefited most from “being himself.” But in disappointing the lick-lipping MSM/GOP ghouls expecting her to screw up and invite Joe Biden into the contest, Clinton probably gained the most strategically.

    There is more at the link.

  7. Wonkette … just because:

    It was awesome. Two Democrats, a socialist, a bicurious dude from Rhode Island, and dickbag Jim Webb stood on a stage and delivered coherent thoughts, in complete sentences, and not one of them, not a single time, cried about the sharia threat of teenage Muslim science nerds, or whipped out their dicks to prove how much they will bomb Iran, or vowed to straight-marry Kim Davis as soon as she has an opening, or shook their angry fists of fury about BABY PARTS!!!!1!, all of which, to this idiot, Gov. Bobby Jindal, that was a bad thing:

    But, like we said, idiot. And the one phrase he’s never going to hear? President Bobby Jindal. Zing. Snap.

    Plus, emails!!

    … the message is pretty crystal mofo-ing clear: Republicans and the New York Times can ALL CAPS EXCLAMATION POINT about Hillary’s emails all day long, but her Democratic rivals (except for maybe former Republican Lincoln Chafee, but he doesn’t count) aren’t going to attack her on petty hyped up bullcrap that doesn’t matter to the American people. Isn’t it so refreshing to watch some actual grown-ups run for president?

  8. First ratings information: It turns out that the debate did very well online, not surprising because Democrats like the Internets (and quite a few don’t have cable). Democratic debate live stream outdraws GOP debate

    CNN’s first Democratic debate of the season scored a bigger online audience than its first Republican debate, according to the network’s internal measurements. The live stream peaked at 980,000 concurrent live streams around 10:20 pm Eastern Time, a CNN spokesman said. That means nearly one million homes were watching simultaneously. The debate ended at 11 pm. The network’s GOP debate on September 16 peaked with 921,000 concurrent streams.

    The TV ratings won’t come out until later today.

    • Overnight Nielsen’s:

      CNN’s Tuesday night debate averaged 15.3 million viewers, easily making it the highest-rated Democratic debate ever.

      The total viewer number was much lower than the totals for both recent Republican debates, but there was still a surprising surge of interest in Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, Lincoln Chafee and Jim Webb’s first time together on stage.

      The 15.3 million total far exceeded most expectations, including among CNN executives.

      For comparison’s sake, the previous Democratic debate record was set in 2008, when Clinton and Barack Obama squared off in prime time on ABC. That debate had 10.7 million viewers.

      Heading into Tuesday night, there was unanimous agreement that the total audience would be lower than the 25 million who tuned in for Fox’s Republican debate on August 6. That debate — fueled by Donald Trump — shattered all previous primary debate records.

      The Republican rematch on CNN September 16 averaged more than 23 million viewers, essentially confirming that the GOP debates are the highest-rated new “show” of the fall TV season.

      CNN executives said the Republican and Democratic debates were “apples and oranges” and that they expected ratings for the Clinton-Sanders face-off to be on par with past Democratic debates. But they outperformed.

  9. Brian Buetler, TNR:

    It took until nearly the end of the first Democratic presidential debate for anyone to make the point that will define the general election—and it came from the candidate who outperformed everyone else.

    “We cannot afford a Republican to succeed Barack Obama as president of the United States,” Hillary Clinton said. […]

    … it provided Clinton the first opportunity she’s had in months to remind nervous supporters why they assumed she’s had a lock on the nomination all along, and served as a reminder that a Democratic president in 2017 won’t first and foremost be a font of liberal reform, but a bulwark against a conservative counterrevolution against the Obama era. […]

    Clinton staked out the sweet spot between aspirational and pragmatic politics, when she dubbed herself “a progressive, but…a progressive who likes to get things done.” […]

    The candidates spent depressingly little time explaining how they’ll grapple with that kind of obstruction, apart from striving for consensus. But Clinton more than the others seemed to grasp the importance of reminding the audience that the obstacles a Democratic president will face will be a small price to pay for not handing all three branches of government over to the right.

    Essentially, “we are NOT going to get all these things” so let’s go into this with the strongest candidate AGAINST the Republicans. Amen.

  10. Peter Beinart at The Atlantic, Where Bernie and Hillary Really Disagree

    The most revealing moment of last night’s Democratic presidential debate came near the end, when CNN moderator Anderson Cooper asked the candidates to “name the one thing—the one way that your administration would not be a third term of President Obama.” Bernie Sanders replied that, unlike Obama, he would “transform America … through a political revolution.” Hillary Clinton answered that, unlike Obama, she’s a woman.

    The responses reminded me of a distinction Chris Hayes makes in his excellent book, Twilight of the Elites, between “institutionalists,” who want to make existing institutions function better and “insurrectionists,” who want to tear them down and start again.

      • Not a bad chart – but Hillary is also for refinancing existing student loans – and a cap on % of income payments. She’s also for reining in the Financial sector and keeps pointing out that shadow banking is the problem and renewing Glass-Steagall won’t address that but she got plans to do it. Oh well, maybe they just ran out of room, right? sigh.

        • I suspect that as with all “quick graphics” there is only so much room for the details. For example, “Reinstate Glass-Steagall” is easy to put on the list but might not be the fix that is needed. Hillary has indeed put out a comprehensive plan (“Wall Street Should Work for Main Street”) to, as she says, “save capitalism from itself”. It does not specifically reinstate Glass-Steagall but has other methods to stop the dangerous speculative financial deals that crashed the economy. By the way, voting against TARP should not be a badge of honor. That was reckless. Something needed to be done, that was the only offered solution. People who don’t vote for things we need so as to not sully their hands leave the difficult votes to others. That may be “the courage of convictions” in some people’s eyes but rejecting the pragmatic is not good governing.

          Hillary Clinton’s College Compact has a provision to make student loan repayment income-based as well as cutting the interest rate. That would seem to be the same as “refinance student loans” but said in a different way. Obviously, if it would change to income-based, the loan would need to be refinanced.

        • And here is Paul Krugman (via Ed Kilgore, who is free to read) agreeing with me and Hillary about Glass-Steagall:

          Mr. Sanders has been focused on restoring Glass-Steagall, the rule that separated deposit-taking banks from riskier wheeling and dealing. And repealing Glass-Steagall was indeed a mistake. But it’s not what caused the financial crisis, which arose instead from “shadow banks” like Lehman Brothers, which don’t take deposits but can nonetheless wreak havoc when they fail. Mrs. Clinton has laid out a plan to rein in shadow banks; so far, Mr. Sanders hasn’t.

          Ed asks the $64,000 question:

          But won’t HRC fall back into her sinful ways the minute she wins the Democratic nomination? Probably not, says Krugman, because Wall Street just isn’t a Democratic constituency, even as a hedge, any more:

          [I]f Wall Street’s attitude and its political giving are any indication, financiers themselves believe that any Democrat, Mrs. Clinton very much included, would be serious about policing their industry’s excesses. And that’s why they’re doing all they can to elect a Republican. […]

          By any normal standard, President Obama has been remarkably restrained in his criticisms of Wall Street. But with great wealth comes great pettiness: These are men accustomed to obsequious deference, and they took even mild comments about bad behavior by some of their number as an unforgivable insult. […]

          … financiers bitterly resent any constraints on their ability to gamble with other people’s money, and they are voting with their checkbooks. Financial tycoons loom large among the tiny group of wealthy families that is dominating campaign finance this election cycle — a group that overwhelmingly supports Republicans. Hedge funds used to give the majority of their contributions to Democrats, but since 2010 they have flipped almost totally to the G.O.P.

          You can attack her husband’s economic policies all day long, and excoriate Hillary Clinton’s positions when she was in the Senate where, as she candidly admitted Tuesday night, Wall Street was literally a New York constituent. But if you’re going to look cynically at the connections between Wall Street and certain kinds of Democrats, then you need to acknowledge those connections have significantly eroded.

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