Second Democrat Debate: Where Each Candidate Excelled and Faltered

Three candidates, two hours, in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks

LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 13: (L-R) Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) Hillary Clinton and Martin O'Malley walk on the stage at the end of a presidential debate sponsored by CNN and Facebook at Wynn Las Vegas on October 13, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Five Democratic presidential candidates are participating in the party's first presidential debate. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley at the end of a presidential debate sponsored by CNN and Facebook at Wynn Las Vegas on October 13, 2015 in Las Vegas. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

It’s so nice to watch a debate with only two candidates, and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

The debate was just two hours without an additional undercard debate, which left a lot of time for actual discussion of issues. The three candidates fell all over themselves to seem tough on national security, despite the party’s recent history of opposing military action and even acknowledging the terrorism occurring in the world.

Here’s where each candidate excelled and floundered.

Hillary Clinton

Where she floundered: She had to dodge questions about the Obama administration’s legacy on terrorism – and it is a pretty poor legacy. When asked about Mr. Obama’s record on fighting the Islamic State (from calling them the JV team to saying the very morning of the Paris attack that ISIS was “contained”), Ms. Clinton talked about working with allies in the region and troops in Iraq. When pressed further by CBS moderator John Dickerson, she again dodged.

Where she excelled: She comes off as more to the right on national defense than Bernie Sanders, her closest competitor. In the wake of the Paris massacre, this might not help her with Democratic voters, but it could help her in the general – and she is still the heavy favorite to be the nominee.

Bernie Sanders

Where he floundered: Aside from his claim that the U.S. would, presumably even under him as president, eradicate terror, he seems to be a one-note candidate. He addressed the Paris terrorist attack but quickly moved on to talking about Wall Street and income inequality.

He also continued to insist that climate change is the greatest threat to America. Even worse, he said “climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism.”

Where he excelled: He called out Ms. Clinton on her ties to Wall Street, a big point of vulnerability for her campaign.

Martin O’Malley

Where he floundered: He had less speaking time than Ms. Clinton and Mr. Sanders. For a candidate who’s polling around 2 percent, he needed to do more to get his positions heard.

Where he excelled: His boots on the ground comment was definitely to the right of the other two candidates on stage, and it set him apart.

“My son is not a pair of boots on the ground,” Mr. O’Malley said. “These are American soldiers and we fail them when we fail to take into account what happens the day after a dictator falls and when we fail to act with a whole of government approach with sustainable development, diplomacy, and our economic power in alignment with our principles.”

As a former governor, he also is the only candidate on stage who has actually done the things the other candidates talk about – gun control, freezing college tuition, raising the minimum wage, etc.

Second Democrat Debate: Where Each Candidate Excelled and Faltered