Live Blogging the Final Democratic Debate Before the NH Primary

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201611:35 pm

That’s it. Time for the single malt. And we do it all again on Saturday with the Republicans. I think Bernie and Hillary set a high bar for them to clear – we’ll see if they can do it!

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201611:30 pm

So, I think Sanders gains by being on the stage with her, but he missed an opportunity to wound her politically. I’m not sure this will have an immediate impact on New Hampshire.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201611:29 pm

Finally, I understand why Sanders won’t attack Clinton on emails. But he failed to beat her in a state that was tailor made for his politics and he didn’t win. That suggests he needs to think politically about how to shift the narrative of this campaign. I know going after the emails seems distasteful, but he’s already made the argument that she lacks judgment – the emails fit squarely within that narrative.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201611:22 pm

Clinton’s answer to the “will you release transcipts of your paid speeches” wasn’t ideal, but she doesn’t really have a good answer. Bernie, meanwhile, remains vulnerable on his strident belief that the underlying premise driving Wall St. is committing fraud. I think he sincerely believes that, but it leaves him vulnerable to the charge that he basically doesn’t believe in capitalism.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201611:20 pm

My summary. Both candidates did exceptionally well. On a tactical level, Hillary was clearly prepared to parry Bernie’s thrusts on Wall St. and the Iraq vote. But Bernie gained by being side-by-side with her on the stage and making his case in a way that made people think of him as potentially presidential. Clinton’s efforts to explain the speaking fees, and to defend the Wall St. contributions, were not particularly compelling. On the other hand, she clearly outclassed Bernie when the discussion moved to foreign policy.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201611:09 pm

As always, I post my reminder: there is the debate you watched, and then the debate the media will tell you you watched. Let the spin begin!

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201611:08 pm

Looks like the feelthebern crowd has stormed the stage.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201611:07 pm

That was a great debate. Informative, competitive, heated but not personal.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201611:05 pm

This is a slightly different closing for Bernie – first time I’ve heard him bring his family into the narrative so directly in a closing statement.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201611:04 pm

Clinton smartly pivots back to the other inequalities that we must address – it’s not just about income inequality. She also makes a direct appeal to being young, just like Sanders’ supporters. Nicely done.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201611:03 pm

Todd tosses a softball final question, and both candidates do not miss it. Obviously they aren’t going to say they will appoint the other as Vice President.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201611:01 pm

Clinton’s answer here is a great summary of her strongest point: competence. She doesn’t want to cut government, or make it bigger – she wants to make it run better. Shades of Mike Dukakis!

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201611:00 pm

Maddow getting a little cute there with her “oops” reference to Perry forgetting which agencies to eliminate.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201610:59 pm

Of course, neither candidate addresses the reality that they are likely be confronting a Republican-controlled House and possible a Republican Senate too.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201610:58 pm

Todd persists in pushing his premise – but Sanders rejects it too! He says Todd cites the wrong issues – he failed to mention campaign finance reform.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201610:57 pm

Clinton remembering the rule of thumb for all debates: close on a positive note. She rejects Todd’s premise that she has to choose which issue to prioritize – instead, she’s pushing for a big agenda.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201610:55 pm

But it has been a very good debate – high energy, substantive exchange that clarified differences between them, and the moderators let them go at it.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201610:54 pm

At this point, pending the final comments, I can’t see anything that happened tonight that will change the dynamics of this race. I think Hillary came out slightly ahead, but not enough to say she enjoyed a slam-dunk victory.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201610:51 pm

On trade, Bernie sounds a lot like The Donald!

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201610:49 pm

Clinton is potentially vulnerable on trade – she came late to her opposition to trade deals, making her appear opportunistic.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201610:44 pm

Maddow has been beating the Flint water issue, but I’m not sure this is really something that is going to bring out differences between Clinton and Sanders. Instead this is likely to be a “me too” type of response from the two of them.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201610:43 pm

You’ll remember at the end of the last debate Clinton was quick to jump on the Flint issue in her closing statement.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201610:42 pm

Good for Bernie – he doesn’t miss the chance to reach out to minority voters on this issue.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201610:42 pm

Clinton has to tread carefully on the death penalty issue because of the racial disparity in the use of capital punishment. Bernie has to push back here on the race angle.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201610:39 pm

I understand his reason for not attacking her on the email issue, but if fits right into his judgment argument.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201610:38 pm

Bernie may have lost his chance right there. Is he interested in winning, or in being principled!

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201610:35 pm

Todd cues it up for Sanders, practically inviting him to address the email issue – and Sanders whiffs!

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201610:32 pm

Clinton’s response on email – Rice and Powell used private email accounts, and now they are getting attacked. Not sure this is going to put the issue to bed.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201610:30 pm

Fortunately for Bernie, Todd brings up the email issue for him.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201610:27 pm

Keep in mind that head-to-head general elections polls are completely useless at this point in the election. They simply don’t have any predictive power this early.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201610:26 pm

Maddow to Bernie: tell me you aren’t the next Goldwater or McGovern! Tell us how you would run in the general election.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201610:25 pm

Sanders reiterates his love for Iowa and the caucus system even though he doesn’t have to run there again – but he might if he gets the nomination!

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201610:21 pm

Not much so far on institutional racism and the BLM movement. I hope some of that comes up next.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201610:21 pm

That was the segment where Bernie could have used the emails as a wedge issue – but it’s not his style.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201610:20 pm

Third segment is over, and it was a very strong one for Clinton as you might expect, given the emphasis on foreign policy. This simply is not Bernie’s strong suit, which he basically admitted in acknowledging her greater experience.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201610:19 pm

I’m surprised Clinton didn’t go more directly after Sanders for chairing the Senate VA committee when all the delays were afflicting veterans trying to get treatment.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201610:15 pm

Someone just tweeted that Sanders’ description of North Korea as a “strange country” sounds like something Donald Trump would say.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201610:14 pm

Describing North Korea as a “strange country” doesn’t sound very reassuring regarding Bernie’s foreign policy credentials. Hillary steps in to talk policy detail.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201610:12 pm

Bernie wants to talk about ISIS – not the countries Chuck cites. Chuck is having none of it. So Bernie mentions North Korea and its “dictators”.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201610:10 pm

It’s hard to believe, but some twits on twitter are mentioning Clinton’s “loud” voice. She’s a church mouse next to Bernie’s bellow.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201610:09 pm

Clinton’s answers here are so much more detailed than Bernie’s. But he could do better if he pushed back against some of Obama’s foreign policy failures – why not ask Clinton what went wrong in Libya?

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201610:07 pm

Clinton is cleaning up here.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201610:07 pm

Bernie trying to make this “judgment” vs. “experience” and that’s an effective distinction, but constantly referencing a vote from a dozen years ago is not going to cut it in 2016. And Clinton has plenty of anecdotes to support her claim that she has good judgment.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201610:06 pm

Meanwhile Clinton reprising a version of her “3 a.m. phone call” ad.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201610:05 pm

When asked about Afghanistan, Bernie responded in terms of ISIS. Really not his strong suit.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201610:01 pm

Conversely, Sanders seems less sure of himself on these issues.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201610:01 pm

Clinton seems so much more confident when the terrain is national security.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201610:00 pm

Sanders talking about the “Mooslums” again.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 201610:00 pm

Hillary again wrapping herself in the President’s mantle, this time supporting his Mideast military policy. And she’s ready for Sanders critique of her 2003 vote.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 20169:56 pm

Part three should move to national security – Hillary’s strong suit, at least in theory.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 20169:53 pm

Second break. I thought Bernie had a slightly stronger performance in that segment because it was fought on issue terrain – Wall St., banks and the financial sector – much more favorable to him.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 20169:52 pm

Sometimes Bernie presents the crux of an issue with such clarity, as he does when he talks about his outrage at multinational corporations that pay no taxes, that you can imagine voters everywhere shaking their head in agreement.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 20169:50 pm

This is the key to Bernie’s authenticity – he really does believe the business model of Wall St. is fraud. The question is how many voters really believe this. It can be seen as a direct attack on capitalism.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 20169:48 pm

This is a no-win question to Clinton – she can’t say what she should say, which is these were private speeches and not meant for public consumption. That would just feed the perception that she is untrustworthy.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 20169:46 pm

It’s not clear to me that Clinton is going to win a battle with Sanders on the issue of who is stronger regulating Wall St. and corporate America.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 20169:44 pm

There’s a real difference between Sanders and Clinton on the issue of regulating banks. Clinton basically says she would use existing regulatory power – Dodd-Frank – to control the banks if they break the law. Sanders say you can’t regulate the banks because they are too powerful – so you have to break them up.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 20169:40 pm

I’ve said this before, but Clinton can’t make up much ground when the conversation is about her interaction with Wall St. She can’t say “Listen, I’m a Senator from New York and I represented everyone in New York – even Wall St.”

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 20169:37 pm

A very good question by Todd – why doesn’t Bernie opt in to the public funding system for a presidential race. Bernie correctly notes that “it doesn’t work” – meaning he wouldn’t get enough money in the early races to be competitive.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 20169:36 pm

I’m also pleasantly surprised that Todd and Maddow are not making this about themselves, and instead are letting the two candidates debate.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 20169:33 pm

First break. I have to say the debate has exceeded my expectations – they are covering familiar ground but the level of intensity is higher and the distinctions are being drawn more clearly. Voters can see that they have a real choice on their hands.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 20169:31 pm

There’s an edge to Clinton tonight that I haven’t seen in earlier debates. In the split screen, she is just glaring at him.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 20169:31 pm

And the gloves are off! Clinton tells Sanders to stop the smear campaign. I’m afraid Sanders is going to top Clinton on the indignation scale.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 20169:28 pm

Clinton is really pushing Sanders’ button tonight – almost as if she’s trying to provoke him. Question: is her indignation coming across as authentic tonight? Crowd is booing…. .

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 20169:26 pm

Well, you can’t argue that they are drawing distinctions tonight. Voters can clearly see a difference between the two – the question is which perspective has the broader public support.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 20169:24 pm

Sanders trying to turn that argument against her by saying, in effect, he’s not part of the problem. “I represent ordinary people.”

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 20169:23 pm

Bernie doesn’t mention that Vermonters sent him to Congress to get him
out of the state – they wouldn’t elect him to statewide office. But Clinton is all too willing to point out that Vermont’s leading politicians are endorsing her – not him.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 20169:21 pm

Bernie falls back on his “I don’t have a Super Pac” line. Hillary doesn’t really have an answer to that.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 20169:20 pm

Hillary again far more willing than Bernie to personalize the debate.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 20169:18 pm

Clinton really looking beyond New Hampshire in her answers, particularly when she mentions fighting against racial inequality.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 20169:17 pm

Todd basically picking up on Clinton’s point that under Sanders’ definition Obama is not a progressive. As I noted above, there’s a strong case to be made that as a Democrat you are better off being perceived as a moderate than a liberal. This will be particularly true as the campaign heads south.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 20169:15 pm

She’s such a skilled debater – she understands this is a show. Bernie, in contrast, is focused on getting his message across.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 20169:15 pm

As always, Hillary comes prepared to preempt Sanders’ attack on her for not being a progressive – Sanders’ definition would exclude liberal icons of the Democratic party, including Obama.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 20169:14 pm

So being called a “moderate” Democrat may play better in the long run.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 20169:13 pm

As Dave Hopkins pointed out today, according to 2008 exit polls, liberal Democrats are outnumbered by self-identified moderate and conservative Democrats in 8 of the 10 biggest states.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 20169:12 pm

Both of them are already traversing familiar ground and strategies. Hillary wrapping herself in the Obama cloak, beginning with “saving” Obamacare. And Sanders reminding everyone he helped write the Obamacare legislation.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 20169:11 pm

Bernie wasting no time going after the Wall St. billionaires and their friends (that means you Hillary!)

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 20169:09 pm

Clinton immediately stakes out the “pragmatic progressive” ground. As I’ve often paraphrased her strategy, “I share Bernie’s ideals, but I’m not bat-shit crazy.”

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 20169:07 pm

I’m guessing the audience for this debate is going to be pretty small.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 20169:06 pm

And Clinton goes right after the non-white vote in her opening statement, looking ahead from NH to Nevada and South Carolina. In a sense, it is her version of the NH white flag.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 20169:05 pm

One of the concerns the Sanders’ campaign might have is that if NH’s unaffiliated voters feel like he’s got this race in the bag they might all vote in Republican race.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 20169:04 pm

Sanders, in case you haven’t heard him lately, has been losing his voice. Of course, Bob Woodward has been critical of Clinton for her loud speaking voice, believe it or not.

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 20169:02 pm

Todd has been tweeting all day about the growing “divide” in the Democratic Party, although when you are down to two candidates it is pretty easy to create the perception of a divide!

Matthew Dickinson February 4, 20169:01 pm

Ok, we are up and running. Tonight’s moderators are Chuck Todd and Rachel Maddow.


  1. Every time Hillary says “I will do this” or “I will do that” she turn me off. Notice how Bernie uses the word “we” instead of “I”

    Plus Hillary looking daggers at her doesn’t help her public image either.

    Show us a little femininity, Hilary.

  2. The split screen allows the audience to see her almost glaring at Bernie – she’s come spoiling for a fight tonight.

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