Why Hillary Clinton dominated

Story highlights

Maria Cardona: A substantive Democratic debate played to Hillary Clinton's strong command of the issues

She says Bernie Sanders was passionate but likely didn't expand his appeal beyond his supporters. It was Clinton's night.

Editor’s Note: Maria Cardona is a political commentator for CNN, a Democratic strategist and principal at the Dewey Square Group. She is a former senior adviser to Hillary Clinton and was communications director for the Democratic National Committee. She also is a former communications director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

CNN —  

The Democratic debate was the reverse mirror image of the last two Republican debates. Since we are here on the Las Vegas Strip, I’ll just say it – this debate was an unabashed Policy Porn Extravaganza! It was high-minded, passionate, intense and focused on the issues and the contrasting visions of the five Democratic candidates on stage.

Maria Cardona
Courtesy of Maria Cardona
Maria Cardona

Whether on income inequality, raising the minimum wage, reining in Wall Street, equal pay for equal work, college affordability or Black Lives Matter, the American people saw in the discussion of issues tonight why putting a Democrat in the White House would be better for the country and for the future of our children.

Bernie brought it. He was passionate and his supporters are likely elated. But he failed to expand his appeal sufficiently to a broader, more demographically diverse audience.

Fact-checking the candidates

Hillary Clinton was head and shoulders above the rest in her command of policy, her foreign policy chops, for example. standing out against opponents, who could not match them. She was direct and passionate on the issue of the Wall Street banks, climate change and immigration reform.

She memorably addressed the importance of paid leave, as she underscored Republicans’ obsession with opposing government programs that would help women balance their lives, even as they are happy to have the government intrude when it comes to women and their bodies.

00:39 - Source: CNN
Clinton defends paid leave, Planned Parenthood

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On all of these, she highlighted her progressive values.

She was also able to connect her knowledge of policy with a vision for her presidency, using personal stories to make the connection to voters. She did what she needed to do, and she did it with ease and at times with humor.

On the issue of Clinton’s email controversy, she handily addressed the question by apologizing again, admitting it was a mistake, and then, after the recent admissions by Rep. Kevin McCarthy, underscoring the naked political goals of the congressional committees set up to investigate what happened in Benghazi.

6 takeaways from the debate

She should also send flowers to Sanders, who called out the email issue as a huge distraction for Americans eager to hear from the candidates on the issues that matter most to them. It was a great and gracious moment for him.

What happened to Boy Wonder during Saturday night’s Republican presidential candidate debate? Marco Rubio lacked luster during this last debate and his campaign has got to be worried New Hampshire voters may be rethinking the senator’s preparedness to be commander-in-chief. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie eviscerated him time and time again – about his canned responses to questions, and his lack of real answers. It was a bit jaw-dropping then to hear Senator Rubio repeat the same line five times, giving credence to Christie’s attacks. Rubio was off his game, got rattled by Christie, and showed voters he is not ready for prime time.

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