Democratic Debate Was the Fiercest Yet
Clinton, Sanders both seen as winners
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 5, 2016 5:42 AM CST
Updated Feb 5, 2016 6:37 AM CST
Bernie Sanders makes his opening statement as Hillary Clinton listens.   (AP Photo/David Goldman)

(Newser) – Martin O'Malley may have been a more calming influence than he knew: Thursday night's Democratic debate was the first with just Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders on the stage, and analysts agree that it was the fiercest debate yet, with heated exchanges over issues like the meaning of "progressive." There's no clear consensus on who won, but here's what the analysts have to say:

  • Clinton started off aggressively and "won on points," Chris Cillizza writes at the Washington Post. When it came to foreign policy, she "effectively made the case that now isn't the time to put someone in the Oval Office who needs to learn on the job," he writes, and while Sanders was "forceful and effective" on issues like economic inequality, Clinton may now be able to portray him "as a single or double issue candidate."

  • Bernie Sanders was the winner, according to Dylan Matthews at Vox, who says the senator's relentless focus on "inequality, the political power of banks, and the corrosive effect of corporate money on politics" made him an incredible debater when those subjects came up. But Matthews says Clinton was also the winner, thanks to "her strongest performance to date on foreign policy."
  • Clinton was "high energy" and "artfully shot down Sanders' attacks on her progressivism," but Sanders "hit the subject of money in politics so hard and so convincingly that even this conservative viewer was punching the air with a clenched fist," writes Timothy Stanley at CNN, concluding that Clinton "probably won the debate on style—but Sanders won on substance."
  • Many commentators decided that each candidate had won on their own strength, with Clinton prevailing on foreign policy and Sanders ahead on issues like Wall Street reform, the New York Times notes. "Now if they could just split the gig—Bernie would cover domestic, Hillary on foreign policy," tweeted Mia Farrow.
Click for some of the debate's biggest lines.