Last night, on Tuesday 13th at 21.00 ET (02.00 GMT), the first of what will be a series of six Democratic Debates began, in the halls of a casino in the middle of Las Vegas no less.
Following the first Republican Debate a few weeks previous, the event marks a ramping up of campaigning as the US tears towards the end of Barack Obama’s second term and to new frontiers. Who will emerge as the Democratic nomination in the November 2016 election is currently between two of the candidates of last night’s event; Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
After several months’ crescendo – only a few months ago one of Clinton’s key political advisors, perhaps prematurely, identified Sanders as ‘not a threat’ – Clinton and Sanders were to finally share a stage.
Although the wider political press, both in the US and around the world, pronounced Clinton to be the winner, the other stand out figure in the line-up was Vermont Senator, Bernie Sanders. One loser, someone who hasn’t entered the race but has been widely tipped to be weighing up a decision, is incumbent Vice President Joe Biden. Clinton’s strong performance during the debate bolstered mainstream support for her – a subsequent Politico poll identified that 6 out of 10 Democrats would now vote Clinton, and not Biden.
Bernie Sanders, although sticking to his script, was still electrifying. One of the most quoted of the night was his; “People are sick of hearing about your damn emails” – a reference to the ongoing scandal surrounding Clinton’s use of private email servers for diplomatic business during her time as Secretary of State within the Obama Administration – to which Clinton flashed what appeared to be a genuine smile, saying ‘Thank you Bernie, thank you’.
But it wasn’t all smiles, Clinton made clear her intention to take the Democratic nomination with several targeted asides aimed at Sanders, chief among them his flopflopping stance on gun control; Sanders has voted 5 times against the Brady Bill – one calling for tighter gun control measures and the tightening of background checks.
Where the Democratic race goes from here is unclear. Whilst Sanders failed to reach out to Democratic moderates, his campaign is still far more adaptive and fast-growing in comparison to Clinton’s. Sanders appears to be the darling of the social media age – his campaign has scores of fans across Reddit, Facebook and Twitter – with his authentic rhetoric and easily-accessible campaign messages. Clinton’s campaign however, has been sluggish to gain momentum and appears to be too much of a juggernaut – her campaign’s goal is to exceed £2.5bn in donations and internal infrastructure – to be able to move and adapt as swiftly as Sanders’.
Much can be said about the two front-runners, but there are in fact 3 more candidates – at the moment – who were sharing the stage with Hillary and Bernie on Wednesday night in Las Vegas; Lincoln Chafee, Martin O’Malley and Jim Webb also took part.
Chafee is currently the Governor of Rhode Island, O’Malley is the Governor of Maryland and Webb is the US Senator of Virginia. It is telling that, although all 5 shared the podiums on Wednesday evening, nothing much can be said about the latter 3 candidates in terms of policy; it remains very much a two horse race for the Democratic ticket.
With just over 12 months until the Election, there is a lot to play for. 5 debates remain between now and then. Will Sanders campaign continue to grow in such an exponential fashion? How will Hillary grow her supporter base sufficiently in light of the Sanders campaign’s organic growth through social media? Who will take on the Republican candidate to move into the Oval Office in November?
To find out more about each of the US Presidential candidates, please visit their respective campaign websites;
For further analysis and evaluation of the first Democratic Debate, visit the following:
CNN – Winners and Losers | Al-Jazeera – How the Democratic Debate Revealed Sanders’ True Strength |
The schedule for the future Democratic Debates can be found here.