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Democrats tussle in New Hampshire debate

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In a spirited one-on-one exchange at the University of New Hampshire that lasted almost two hours, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders sparred over not only what Democrats should be fighting for, but also the limits of that political agenda.

This fifth Democratic debate wasn’t supposed to happen right before the New Hampshire Primary – but the two campaigns overcame the objections of party leaders, as MSNBC brought the showdown to viewers in New Hampshire and around the country.

Some quick thoughts on how it went:

The debate won – After reporting on GOP debates that have had as many as 11 candidates on the main stage, it was somewhat interesting to have only two people in the spotlight, as there was no place to hide. You either had enough facts to make a good argument, or you were swimming upstream. It made me quickly think about which Republicans would be best suited to such an extended discussion, which dug deeply into many issues foreign and domestic.

The DNC debate strategy lost – 10 days ago, the Chair of the Democratic Party wanted no part of this extra debate before the New Hampshire Primary:

By late Thursday night, Debbie Wasserman Schultz had changed her tune:

It wasn’t Ali-Frazier, but – If you are going to watch any of the debate, check out the first segment, which held some of the more contentious exchanges between Sanders and Clinton. There were no knockouts or gaffes, which will lead supporters of each candidate to argue that they were on the winning side. It’s a reminder that without their third wheel, Martin O’Malley, this debate was much more enlightening than any other on the Democratic side so far. And it might well be the best debate so far of this election cycle.

Echoes of the Republican race – I continue to be struck by the similarity of some of the arguments in both political parties in 2016, and this debate was no different. Just close your eyes and try to imagine who might accuse their opponent of “representing the establishment,” while they represent “ordinary Americans” – it could be a number of Republicans, as well as Bernie Sanders, who accused Hillary Clinton of basically being a protector of the bureaucratic status quo. It could be a Donald Trump line, too.

The Bottom Line – I really don’t think the debate changed anything, but it was another positive part of this extended 2016 election race. And it was a reminder that as the field gets winnowed down in both parties, we can watch those candidates delve ever more deeply into the issues, which are somewhat impossible to do when you have 7 or more candidates on stage.

Carly Fiorina left out – While I’m writing about the Democratic debate, we should include the news that Carly Fiorina won’t be on the stage for Saturday night’s GOP debate, even after three Republicans dropped out this week. ABC had determined that they would not hold an undercard debate, and Fiorina did not qualify according to the polls ABC was watching. Fiorina argues that she bested two others on the stage in this week’s Iowa Caucus, and that alone should put her in the debate.


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