Littwin: Hillary shined, Bernie fought, and the rest were not so good
October 18, 2015
In the end, it seemed too easy. Hillary Clinton didn't just win the first Democratic debate. She pretty much eliminated – for her purposes, anyway — the need for any others.
In this one debate, after all, she accomplished almost everything she set out to do.
The list was long, too — nearly as long as her long, hot summer. There was the trust issue. The Biden-as-savior issue. The Bern-mentum issue. The summer-of-hell issue. The email issue. The political-expediency issue.
She had to win the debate. But more than that, she had to assure the millions of Democrats watching the Vegas showdown that they had made the right bet on her in the first place. Let's just say that going in, it was a near thing. But coming out of the debate, Clinton was showing her biggest smile, and I could have sworn it looked authentic. I'll bet Joe Biden thought the same.
So, she was good. She was very good. Prepared, funny (yes, funny) and sharp. And the Democratic field is not so good. Jim Webb's big moment was saying he killed a guy in 'Nam. Lincoln Chafee moved from being an obscure, third-tier candidate to being an obscure, third-tier punch line. Martin O'Malley, who has been calling for more debates, made little mark in the first one.
And so the debate was really only about Hillary Clinton vs. Bernie Sanders. Bernie was Bernie, meaning everything you'd expect. Impassioned, irascible, Bernie. Did he back off when asked if he believed in capitalism? Uh, what do you think? "Do I consider myself part of the casino-capitalist process," he said, "by which so few have so much and so many have so little, by which Wall Street's greed and recklessness wrecked this economy? No, I don't."
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It's why the 74-year-old self-described socialist is not only a cult figure, but is actually leading Clinton in New Hampshire. He's matching her dollar for dollar. He's the biggest draw in New England outside the Patriots. He has surprised everyone in this race, including himself.
But whatever else he is, he's no match for Clinton on a debate stage, and that's where you have to look presidential to be presidential.
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