Last Night's Democratic Debate Was a 'Slugfest'
Critics split on whether Clinton, Sanders won
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 15, 2016 5:20 AM CDT
Updated Apr 15, 2016 6:53 AM CDT
Clinton gestures toward Sanders during a break at the CNN Democratic presidential primary debate.   (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

(Newser) – No punches or chairs were thrown, but the Democratic debate in Brooklyn Thursday night is being widely described as a battle, a brawl, and a slugfest. If they weren't before, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are now genuinely bitter rivals, according to commentators who are more or less evenly split on whether Clinton or Sanders won the debate, suggesting the pair managed to fight to a draw.

  • Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post calls it for Clinton. She "won on points" and "drove home—again and again—the idea that Sanders talked a good game but couldn't back it up," he writes. Sanders was too sarcastic and dismissive to win over Clinton supporters, according to Cillizza, but "if you came into this debate liking Sanders, you left it loving him."

  • Clinton suffered a "drubbing" and turned in a "cringeworthy" performance, according to Dylan Matthews at Vox, who notes that Sanders was on offense all night and deployed his economic justice arguments very effectively. He "didn't just accuse Clinton of being weak on climate change: He accused her of being weak because she's in hock to billionaires and corporations," Matthews writes.
  • Thursday wasn't one of Clinton's "more impressive showings," according to Niall Stanage at the Hill, who notes that she appeared to leave herself some "wriggle room" while trying to avoid being outflanked on the left by Sanders on issues like a $15 minimum wage. Her "tendency to take refuge in nuance—or, her detractors would say, to provide slippery answers—continues to be a problem," he writes.
  • Clinton "did slightly better in terms of her performance" in a contest that had so much shouting and interrupting it resembled recent GOP debates, writes Julian Zelizer at CNN. Sanders had good moments, including the raising of questions on Clinton's foreign policy record, Zelizer writes, but Clinton scored with attacks on Sanders' gun control record and with her "commitment and determination to fight for women's issues."
Click for some of the debate's best lines, including Sanders' scathing take on Clinton's paid Wall Street speeches.