Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton proved she is still the candidate to beat during Tuesday night’s Democratic debate in Las Vegas, Nev.
The five candidates vying for the party’s nomination focused on key issues, including income inequality, U.S. involvement in the Middle East, gun control and climate change. They also faced sharp criticism concerning their electability.
Clinton gave a strong performance given her experience on the campaign trail in 2008. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders stuck to his positions against the inequality created by capitalism and Wall Street, and remains Clinton’s strongest competitor. Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley gained some attention for his attacks on Clinton, while former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chaffee and former Virginian Senator Jim Webb were irrelevant figures on stage.
Debate moderator Anderson Cooper first questioned Clinton about her changing political views for “political expediency.” She responded, “I’m a progressive, but I’m a progressive who likes to get things done. And I know how to find common ground and I know how to stand my ground and I’ve proven that with every position that I’ve had.”
Clinton’s biggest competitor, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, faced criticism for identifying as a democratic socialist. Sanders argued that it is “wrong and immoral” for the top one percent of people in the U.S. to hold as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent and believes that we as a country need to look to Denmark to model a new and fairer economy. Sanders also stood strongly against capitalism and Wall Street.
Clinton came out swinging against Sanders’ comments by crediting capitalism for growing small businesses across the country. She said, “We should not be confused what we have to often do in America, which is save capitalism from itself. We are not Denmark … We are the United States of America and it’s our job to reign in the excesses of capitalism so that it doesn’t run amuck.”
This was not the only time Clinton questioned Sanders’ views. When it came to gun control, Sanders stumbled. He honed in on the need to focus less on the availability of guns or punishing gun manufacturers and more on getting health care to those at risk of mental illness.
Clinton and O’Malley promptly responded that Sanders is not tough enough on guns, and that the NRA and gun manufacturers need to be held responsible for deaths as a result of guns ending up in the hands of the mentally ill.
Possibly the most humorous part of the night came when Clinton’s email scandal was brought to the forefront. After Clinton was given a chance to respond, Sanders jumped in saying that “while this may not be great politics, but I think the Secretary is right. And that is the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails!” Laughter erupted from the audience followed by a standing ovation, and while Sanders and Clinton just shook hands, it almost appeared that they were going to cordially hug it out.
The end of the debate focused on immigration, the expansion of Medicare and Social Security, as well as defunding the NSA. In her closing statement, Clinton made sure to remind voters that she would be the first woman president and to remember her devotion to the working and middle classes.
While Clinton has made countless headlines with her performance, much media coverage about the debate still surrounds a man who did not even attend the summit. News reporters continue to question when and if current Vice President Joe Biden will jump into the race. According to Tom Lobe, professor of political science, the question of whether Biden stands a chance in the race if he enters needs to be examined in two parts.
First, would Biden enter?
Lobe believes that Biden will “probably not [enter] for a while. Hillary has a massive war/money chest, and it will take a lot to overcome her advantages. He’s a total insider, so for him to enter and gain any traction, Hillary would have to falter. Though there have been indications that she’s lost ground, I think she is still the candidate to beat.”
Second, can Biden win a general election?
For Lobe, Biden’s chance of winning depends on the Republicans. “I think he’d destroy what I consider the Republicans extremists, like Carson and Cruz.” As for Trump? Lobe believes that “Biden or most any other Democrat can beat him.”
While the question remains open about Biden, the Democrat party seems to be in the hands of Clinton following the first debate. The next Democratic debate is scheduled for November 14th at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, which will be crucial in determining the winner of the Iowa caucus in February.