Fifth Democrat Debate: Where Each Candidate Excelled and Faltered

New Hampshire, here we come!

Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders. (Photo: Andrew Burton for Getty Images)
Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders. (Photo: Andrew Burton for Getty Images)

We thought we only had a couple more Democrat debates, but then former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders agreed to four more. That’s good for Mr. Sanders, obviously, as he needed more chances to take down Ms. Clinton.

But that also means we have to watch (or, more appropriately, I have to watch so that you don’t have to) more debates. So let’s get right to it.

Hillary Clinton

Where she floundered: Establishment refers to one’s views, Ms. Clinton, being a woman running to be the first woman president doesn’t make you an outsider. Ms. Clinton has been in Washington for three decades – she is not an outsider.

She also really doesn’t have an answer to her Wall Street speaking fees. Saying that other people spoke to Wall Street too just doesn’t cut it. She definitely dodged a question about releasing the transcripts of her speeches. MSNBC moderator Chuck Todd asked Ms. Clinton if she would release the transcripts of all of her paid speeches, including the ones she gave to Wall Street.

“I will look into it. I don’t know the status, but I will certainly look into it,” Ms. Clinton said. “But, I can only repeat what is the fact that I spoke to a lot of different groups with a lot of different constituents, a lot of different kinds of members about issues that had to do with world affairs.”

Yeah, that’s not going to help.

That may have been her worst answer to a question all night, but she also didn’t help herself when she claimed: “There’s hardly anything you don’t know about me.” This is a bad answer for two reasons: One, because it reminds people how long she’s been in politics, and two, it’s a difficult claim to make when she deleted some 30,000 emails and we have to take her word that they were irrelevant and about yoga.

Where she excelled: Her takedown of Mr. Sanders’ definition of “progressive” showed she came prepared. She said that under Mr. Sanders’ definition, almost no one in the Democratic Party would qualify as a progressive.

“Under his definition, President Obama is not progressive because he took donations from Wall Street; Vice President Biden is not progressive because he supported Keystone; Senator Shaheen is not progressive because she supports the trade pact. Even the late, great Senator Paul Wellstone would not fit this definition because he voted for DOMA,” Ms. Clinton said.

Bernie Sanders

Where he floundered: Mr. Sanders continues to struggle on foreign policy. When asked which of three countries – North Korea, Iran and Russia – he thought was the most threatening to the U.S., Mr. Sanders said “ISIS.” Then he chose, oddly enough, North Korea.

“Clearly North Korea is a very strange situation because it is such an isolated country run by a handful of dictators, or maybe just one, who seems to be somewhat paranoid,” Mr. Sanders said. “And, who had nuclear weapons.”

North Korea is run by just one dictator, Mr. Sanders.

Where he excelled: He continues to hammer Ms. Clinton on her Wall Street ties, and no matter how many times she claims she was tough on the big banks, the speaking fees always come back to bite her.

Mr. Sanders didn’t have a lot of great moments in this debate. His stump speech is solid and continues to generate applause, but he whiffed on multiple opportunities to take a dig at Ms. Clinton, including on foreign policy and even on Wall Street when she claimed she had been instrumental in reforming the banks. Both candidates were definitely more on the attack on Thursday, but if they want to stand out for the upcoming primaries, they can’t miss any chances to set themselves apart from on another. Fifth Democrat Debate: Where Each Candidate Excelled and Faltered