The Hillary & Bernie Show (aka The First Democrat Debate)

PolitiChicks.comWhat happens in Vegas… Well nothing happened.

Five Democrat presidential candidates squared off for their first debate in Sin City and if you expected a smack down, like the two Republican debates, then you thought wrong. In reality, after watching this debate it should have been renamed the ‘Hillary and Bernie Show’ since both dominated the stage while the other three candidates struggled to gain momentum.

The stakes were high for all three, especially for Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley who was expected by many to be the Democrat break-out version of Carly Florina. However, O’Malley couldn’t find the flame to ignite the torch.  And truth be told, the entire night belonged to Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

The contrast between the top two candidates began early in the debate over a single theme:  Capitalism. Sanders, a self-described “Democratic Socialist”, defended his political identity when asked by Cooper, “How can any kind of socialist win a general election in the United States?” Sanders responded by explaining why he is a Democratic Socialist:

“It is immoral and wrong that the top one-tenth of 1 percent in this country owns almost 90 percent – almost – own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. That when you look around the world, you see every other major country, providing health care to all people as a right, except the United States. Those are some of the principles that I believe in, and I think we should look to countries like Denmark, like Sweden and Norway, and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people.”

Hillary criticized Sanders for embracing a political system like Denmark. “We are not Denmark, I love Denmark, but we are the United States of America,” Hillary said. “It’s our job to rein in the excesses of capitalism so it doesn’t cause the kind of inequities we are seeing in our economic system.”

The spar would continue with both candidates when it came to the issue of gun control.  Hillary took the opportunity to draw a sharp distinction between Sanders and herself regarding whether Sanders was stronger than her on gun control. “No, not at all,” Hillary flatly answer.

“Senator Sanders did vote five times against the Brady bill. Since it was passed, more than 2 million prohibited purchases have been prevented. He also did vote, as he said, for this immunity provision. I voted against it. I was in the Senate at the same time. It wasn’t that complicated to me. It was pretty straightforward to me that he was going to give immunity to the only industry in America.”

Sanders defended his mixed views on gun control where he is considerate a moderate based on his gun control voting record. He supported legislations that protected gun manufacture from lawsuits over misuse of firearm, and expanding background checks, but opposed allowing concealed carry between state lines and the Brady bill in 1993. Sanders said,

“As a senator from a rural state, what I can tell Secretary Clinton, that all the shouting in the world is not going to do what I would hope all of us want, and that is keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have those guns. We need to strengthen and expand instant background checks, do away with this gun show loophole, address the issue of mental health, and then we can finally do something to address this issue.”

As the only woman running in the Democrat primary, Hillary emphasized the historic nature of her candidacy by potentially becoming the first female president in U.S. history. Despite flip-flopping on issues such as free trade, Obama immigration policies, and same-sex marriage, Hillary basically told viewers to forget her changing her positions and focus on her new campaign slogan: “Vote for Skirt!” (Even though she wears hideous pantsuits…) Throughout the debate, Hillary sought to frame the reasoning she is running is because, plainly speaking, she has a vagina. Her opening statement concluded that “fathers will be able to say their daughters can grow up to be president.” When asked questions on why she shouldn’t be elected based on her last name, or how she is not an insider but an outsider, and how she would not be a third term President Obama, Hillary used the gender card. She made it clear to voters not to vote for her because of her last name but because she is a woman. (We get it Hillary; you are a woman but so is Republican contender Carly Fiorina. And by the way, in a head to head match, Fiorina beats Hillary 42%-39% without using the gender card.)

Standing on the stage with four men in the small Democrat field, Hillary was up against the angry, 74-year old, grumpy socialist, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.  Sanders practically yelled throughout the debate. The youngest Democrat candidate, Martin O’Malley, is 52-years old.  O’Malley struggled to gain any traction during the debate but gave a strong closing remark. He also had a slip up when talking about the recent situation occurring with Russia and Syria by confusing the Russian President with the Syrian President, something that went unnoticed by his rivals on stage. But media pundits caught the statement and posted on twitter, “I think Assad’s invasion of Syria will be seen as a blunder.”

Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee came across as a very confused candidate, and viewers unfamiliar with him were probably wondering how he was elected as a Senator and Governor in the first place. He gave vague answers to questions about changing his party affliction over the years and his vote of Glass-Steagall in the Senate.  And when asked if he believes Edward Snowden to be a traitor or hero, he had everyone (including himself) confused to what was he talking about.

Little-known candidate former Virginia Senator Jim Webb is a decorated combat vet who possibly scared some Democrat viewers when he said his “biggest enemy” was a guy he killed who made the mistake of throwing a grenade at him in Vietnam. Receiving hardly any applause for his answers, liberals consider Webb an enemy due to the fact he can appeal to Republicans and is the most conservative out of all of them. I mean, how dare he be pro-Keystone and have an A rating from the NRA?

Gotta give CNN moderator Anderson Cooper credit for actually asking tough questions to each candidate on their weak spots. He did a surprisingly great job moderating the debate compared to Jake Tapper, who moderated last month’s GOP debate. I personally expected Cooper to be soft on questions to protect the Democrats, but he proved me wrong and I will go on record in saying that Cooper was my favorite in Tuesday night’s debate. From the start, he confronted Hillary about flip-flopping on issues “based on political expediency to say anything to get elected.” He questioned Hillary on her e-mail scandal and her upcoming Benghazi hearing. Cooper grilled Sanders on his views of gun control and asked how a socialist could ever be elected President. He reminded viewers that O’Malley was the mayor of Baltimore, a city that recently exploded in riots because of, according to the top prosecutor, O’Malley’s “zero-tolerance policies for sowing the seeds of unrest.” And Cooper pressed Lincoln Chafee to explain why he could be considered a “legitimate member of the Democrat party” after switching from Republican to Independent before becoming a Democrat. A few times Anderson forced the candidates to address the issues of the questions asked when he was unsatisfied with the answers given.

In the Hillary and Bernie Show, a series of aggressive exchanges occurred between both when it came to issues of gun control and capitalism. They avoided direct attacks but both candidates have the same basic ideology for America, in that “going forward” means growing government and giving away free stuff.

All the candidates agreed on domestic issues such as making college free or affordable, raising the minimum wages, and reducing “inequality” by simply raising taxes on the wealthy to cover the expenses.

With foreign policy and national security in danger, none of the candidates offered detailed strategies about how they plan to protect America. Instead the candidates simply blamed Bush for the Iraq War and avoided providing details about how they would be the next Commander in Chief. When asked what they believe is a national security issue, all but Webb stated…climate change.

The long exchanges between Hillary and Sanders made the other candidates seem like extras in the Hillary/Bernie Show. Hillary quickly seized the moment, playing on the offense by going after Republicans instead of her Democrat opponents, confident in her belief that she alone will be the Democrat nominee a year from now. She diverted attention from questions about her e-mails (an issue that continues to haunt her campaign) by attacking Republicans in the House.  She claimed it’s all based on a “politically motivated committee” aimed at destroying her candidacy. “This committee is basically an arm of the Republican National Committee, a partisan vehicle admitted by the House Republican Majority leader McCarthy to drive down my poll numbers. Big surprise,” Hillary said.

For Sanders, the debate offered him an opportunity to show the left he is the only electable alternative to Hillary. In order for Sanders to be seen as a legitimate rival, he needs to expand his base via support of liberal millennial, a group that is notorious for not voting in primaries.  As for his performance in the debate, not only did he seemingly fail to steal away any of Hillary supporters, he may have instead given her the reset button she needed for her campaign comeback. The most memorable moment of the debate was when Sanders surprised everyone by coming to Hillary’s aid, defending her from criticism of her emails. “The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails,” Sanders angrily said, causing Cooper to move on to another question as the crowd erupted in loud applause.  This comment might have cost Sanders any chance of being considered a viable, strong candidate to defeat Hillary. Hillary e-mails controversy is a legitimate issue and Sanders practically gave her back the ten points she lost in over one week right before the debate.

As for the winner of the Tuesday debate held at the Wynn hotel, it was obvious and declared by the media (and everyone who watched) that it was former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But then again, Hillary debated Obama 25 times in 2007-2008 and is considered to be an aggressive, experienced debater compared to her four Democrat rivals.

The loser?  Vice President Joe Biden. He missed his chance to debate Hillary, potentially causing her poll numbers to drop. With Hillary’s strong performance, the question still remains if Biden will toss his hat into the ring with 3 and a half months left until the Iowa and New Hampshire caucus. Pundits believe Hillary’s debate performance reduced any chance for Biden to jump in anytime soon. We shall see in the upcoming days what Biden intends to do for 2016.

So in Vegas, Hillary went all in and won the pot.  Sanders lost half his chips when defending Hillary on the e-mail controversy, but gained over a million in campaign donation for his “party unity moment”. As for the other three candidates, Webb bet small and lost his chips, Chafee didn’t know which game he was playing, and O’Malley made the last play but couldn’t double up his chip count.

Mona Salama

Mona Salama is a PolitiChicks political reporter based in New York City covering politics and NYPD. She reports broadly on the 2016 campaign trail from the road and at home. Prior to joining PolitiChicks, Mona started with Wayne Dupree's WAAR where she covered NY politics, 2014 mid-term elections, and the NYPD. In 2015, DC Gazette considers Mona as one of the 20 rising Conservative stars. She was cited as "generally one of the most stunning women in political commentary with a huge future ahead of her, we’re pretty sure Mona Salama will soon easily be the next Andrea Tantaros and a common conservative household name." Currently she is finishing her Masters, all while at the same time covering the 2016 Presidential race, in Public Policy at John Jay College in New York City. Mona can be followed on twitter at @MonaSalama_ and email: [email protected]

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