What We Learned From Sunday’s Democratic Debate


Sanders is alone among Senate Democrats on the Export-Import Bank. (Meredith Dake-O'Connor/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sanders highlighted his differences with Clinton in Sunday’s debate. (Meredith Dake-O’Connor/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sunday was the Democrats’ turn in the debate spotlight. The setting was indeed newsworthy. The host city for the CNN debate was Flint, Mich., where residents continue to deal with a toxic water crisis. The two candidates, Vermont Sen. Bernard Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, both have spoken about challenges in Flint, and issues of racial and economic fairness and accountability of government.

After splitting wins on Saturday, and before Tuesday’s primaries, how did they do? Several Democratic-leaning analysts who weighed in favored Clinton:

Focus on environmental injustice: “The Democrats focus tonight on the environmental injustice happening in Flint stands in stark contrast to the substance-free Republican debate in Detroit last week. While there are plenty of contests to go, it’s undeniable that Hillary Clinton is leading the Democratic race and is likely to be the nominee. Clinton’s debate performance tonight only reaffirmed that reality.”

— Deirdre Murphy Ramsey, former National Press Secretary for the DSCC

Flint in the spotlight: “Flint was rightfully in the spotlight tonight and they were the biggest winners because they secured commitments from both candidates to hold those responsible accountable, to remedy and address the remaining problems, and to fix the fundamental causes of this problem in communities across the country.

— Adrianne Marsh is a Democratic strategist and a native of the Flint area

No debate winner; campaign about delegates: “Sanders wins caucuses. Hillary adds to her net margin in delegate totals. No winner in debate. In a campaign ultimately about winning delegates, this is a winning weekend for Clinton.”

— Rick Ridder, a former Democratic presidential campaign manager

Is the window closing?: “Senator Sanders went after Hillary harder than he has in previous debates in part because he knows the window is closing on the race.  However, at times he became a tad patronizing, with his interruptions, and talking over Hillary, and that may well do him more harm than good.”

— Neera Tanden of Center for American Progress, who says she supports Clinton

No name-calling: “Despite the curious lack of hand-size bragging and name calling, Hillary Clinton once more proved she’s the only one strong enough to beat the Republicans in November. We’re confident that voters in Michigan and across the country will continue to see she’s the best candidate to raise wages, break barriers, and protect our country.”

— Spokesman for priorities USA action, a group that backs Clinton

Simone Pathé, Eric Garcia and Alex Roarty contributed to this report.

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