On Tuesday, October 13th Candidates for the Democratic Nominee for President took the stage in Vegas against one another for the first time. Up until this point they had yet to have their campaign statements, policies, and voting history put under the fire by their competitors for the top job. A mere 2,300 miles away UAA students packed into the Den to see the debate at a viewing party hosted by the UAA College Democrats.
The debate was hosted by CNN in Las Vegas and included Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, and former Sen. Jim Webb and was moderated by Anderson Cooper. Vice-President Joseph Biden was invited but has not yet declared his presidential candidacy as of press date.
Students in the Den were hopeful that the debate would address meaningful issues when asked what what they hoped would be addressed during the debate.
“I’m here for education and climate change, I think they are going to be hot topics tonight”, said Kelsi Swenson, Anthropology Major
“My natural inclination is global climate change, how to deal with ISIS, foreign relations, how they are going to address the recent massive immigration crisis that is affecting europe.” said Joshua Spring, UAA Alumni
“I care less about the issues and more about the tone with which the candidates will be speaking on the issues. As in any primary the difficulty is not in selecting a candidate, it’s in sussing out the ideological differences between them, they all are generally in favor of a woman’s right to choose, they all generally support social safety net programs and democratic causes. I want to see them present themselves to the american people in a way that is the exact opposite of what the republicans do, which is fight and throw pitchforks at eachother for 3 hours.” said Stephen Sweet, UAA College Democrats Treasurer
In the Den, the viewers were split on who to initially support, chiefly between the two front runners Bernie Sanders, and Hillary Clinton
“Hillary Clinton, She seems like a sweet lady quite frankly, I’m not educated about bernie sanders, but I do believe it would be sweet to have a woman in office. She has more things going for her. Right now I’m Pro-Clinton” said Elijah Kahula, Undeclared
“Bernie Sanders all the way, I feel that he already believes in climate change, he has a lot of ideas to gain support and educate supporters, and I think it will be the best way to make some change” said Swenson
“I’m still pretty on the fence but I skew more towards Hillary Clinton, because she does have more of that international experience that I tend to focus on.” said Spring
“I’m rather undecided. We’ve got Clinton who’s been in politics for a long, long time, and Bernie who’s fielding a lot of new Ideas that I’m really liking. I think it’s going to be an interesting debate to see the veteran and the rookie going at it.” Said Gerhard Sells
Prior to the debate, a poll average conducted by Real Clear Politics had Clinton leading with 43.3% of the polls followed by Sanders at 25.1%, Biden at 17.4% and Webb, O’Malley, Chafee, each with under 1%. Given that Clinton and Sanders, as clear frontrunners, were given slightly more attention in both time and scrutiny by Cooper.
“I think Anderson has a really difficult task, because clearly the two front runners are who the audience wants to hear from, so he has a hard job of divvying up the time in a way that is going to satisfy the candidates and the audience. I do feel he’s done a good job” said Paul Olivia, President of UAA College Democrats.
The debate gave each of the candidates a chance to make an opening statements letting them briefly address their qualifications, motivations, and plans for being president. Following the opening statements each of the candidates was asked about the biggest stumbling block they had.
The candidates adopted a forward outlook, continually redirecting Cooper’s questions about their past into a platform to detail their policies if elected president.
Clinton had to field questions about her inconsistency in her voting record, her past scandals, and her deep involvement in washington over the last 4 decades.
“Tonight, I want to talk not about my e-mails, but about what the American people want from the next president of the United States.” said Clinton in response to the email scandal that has plagued her for the last few months in the media.
“Let me say something that may not be great politics. But I think the Secretary is right, and that is that the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails.” interjected Sanders, to wild applause, both live at the debate and in the Den.
Sanders had to field questions about how he intended to pay for his extensive social programs, his unwillingness to compromise, his political position being openly socialist, and his voting record on guns.
Both Clinton and Sanders were called to task about not voting in line with their party’s values, Sanders being grilled on his history of gun legislation and Clinton on voting to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act.
Cooper called Sanders to task for not voting for a bill that would make firearms manufacturers open to lawsuits after mass shootings. When questioned if Sanders regretted voting against the bill the senator from vermont stuck to his figurative guns.
“Of course not. This was a large and complicated bill. There were provisions in it that I think made sense. For example, do I think that a gun shop in the state of Vermont that sells legally a gun to somebody, and that somebody goes out and does something crazy, that that gun shop owner should be held responsible? I don’t.” said Sanders
Cooper then asked Clinton if she felt Sanders was tough on guns
“No. Not at all,” said Clinton who was a strong proponent of the bill.
“It wasn’t that complicated to me. It was pretty straightforward to me.
Similarly Clinton took a great deal of fire for voting to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act, and her lax position on banking regulation.
“Glass-Steagall is the Depression-era banking law repealed in 1999 that prevented commercial banks from engaging in investment banking and insurance activities.” explained Cooper to the crowd.
Clinton defended her fiscal decisions, and argued that she is taking a tougher position on banks than Sanders.
“Well, that’s not true.” “Let us be clear that the greed and recklessness and illegal behavior of Wall Street, where fraud is a business model, helped to destroy this economy and the lives of millions of people.” said Sanders
“Check the record. In the 1990s — and all due respect — in the 1990s, when I had the Republican leadership and Wall Street spending billions of dollars in lobbying, when the Clinton administration, when Alan Greenspan said, “what a great idea it would be to allow these huge banks to merge,” Bernie Sanders fought them, and helped lead the opposition to deregulation.” said Sanders/
“I’ve really liked almost everything I’ve heard from Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, I wish Jim Webb wasn’t even up on the stage because he has no business being there. He’s a Republican that’s running as a democrat. I do disagree with Clinton on voting to repeal the Glass-Steagal Act.” said Paul Oliva
The debate lacked a clear winner, although pundits were surprised by Clinton holding her own as well as she did, as she has recently been under fire in the press for being an inconsistent candidate. Clinton was aggressive, passionate, and eloquent, and while she had been losing support in the months leading up to the debate, dipping down to only a 20-point lead, her supporters were glad that the candidate had a chance to face her allegations head on.
Similarly, even though Sanders lost 1 and a half points from 25.1 to 23.8 in the RCP polls after the debate, supporters were glad that he was able to get his name and positions out to the general public. In a CNN online polling Sanders was leading with 80% of the vote after the debate, before the poll was taken down. He did see a surge in facebook followers, and his campaigned raised 2.5 million dollars in the 24 hours after the debate.
The next debate is scheduled for the 14th of November.