CNN/Facebook Democratic Presidential Debate

If you missed the first Democratic Presidential Debate, here are the evening’s highlights:

CNN opened the debate with a video message from President Barack Obama in which the President urged Democrats to come together and get out to vote; he also listed some of his administration’s greatest accomplishments, as a few images of Vice President Joe Biden briefly appeared on screen. The choice to acknowledge “the candidate who wasn’t there” might have been a nod to Democrats who had hoped the Vice President might participate in the debate; the move also, however, could end up adding fuel to the “will he or won’t he” speculation. Ultimately, Vice President Biden only has a few more weeks to make his decision as November filing deadlines are swiftly approaching.

Out of the Gate

  • Lincoln Chafee—Chafee fumbled even before the debate began. Trying to be coy, Chafee smirked as he let voters know that he had high moral and ethical standards; the subtext, of course, was that some of the candidates on stage with him couldn’t say the same. He also went on to list his qualifications rather than jumping in to address the issues—one can only assume because most of America still has no idea who Lincoln Chafee is.
  • Jim Webb—Webb’s opening remarks represented his best moment of the night, but they still managed to fall flat. After talking briefly about the corrupt political process and his service to the country, Webb went on to tout his foreign policy experience, seeming to forget that he was standing on stage with President Obama’s former Secretary of State. In other words, if he was looking for a way to set himself apart, foreign policy might not have been the best choice.
  • Martin O’Malley—O’Malley spent his 90 seconds discussing his qualifications and letting voters know that he was “very clear about [his] principles.” Perhaps a subtle jab at others on stage who might have changed a few positions in recent months? At any rate, it was executed far more expertly than Chafee’s gibe.
  • Bernie Sanders—Sanders, as expected, skipped any discussion of his qualifications and dove straight into the issues, railing against income inequality and our broken campaign finance system. Sanders also earned a brief applause break for his views on climate change.
  • Hillary Clinton—Though Clinton touched on her experience, for the most part she spent her time on issues. Where her rivals chose to focus on a few specific issues in their remarks, Clinton spoke in broad concepts allowing her to show herself as the candidate who was ready to discuss anything.

From Right to Left

The five candidates revealed early on where they stood on the political spectrum. Webb, for instance, discussed his views on affirmative action and limiting diversity programs. In the process, he proved just how tone-deaf he really is with regard to race. Also, Anderson Cooper called out Chafee for actually having been a Republican not that long ago. Chafee responded by arguing that though his party affiliation had changed, he’d been “a block of granite when it comes to the issues.” Hillary Clinton focused on the fact that she holds a “range of views” that she says are “rooted in values and experience.” When asked if she was

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