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Democratic presidential candidates debate

Sanders and Clinton appear friendly to one another during the debate. (AP Photo)
Sanders and Clinton appear friendly to one another during the debate. (AP Photo)

By Tom Ballard
Staff Writer

On Tuesday, Oct. 13, the five Democratic presidential candidates took the stage for the CNN/Facebook-hosted debate in Las Vegas. In honor of it being midterm season here at the College, I decided that it was only right for the participants to be graded on their performances, as well.

Hillary Clinton: The former Secretary of State, senator from New York and first lady performed as expected during the debate. She confidently breezed through questions concerning her controversial use of a private email account at the State Department. She even received aid from an unexpected source, her chief competitor, Bernie Sanders, who said, “the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails!”

Clinton came across strong on foreign affairs, especially in regards to Russia, in which she proclaimed that a Clinton administration would stand up against the “bully” Russian President Vladimir Putin and try to keep him from getting involved with the current violence in Syria. She lambasted Congressional Republicans for trying to defund Planned Parenthood — a line that won her the loudest applause of the night — and continued to poke at Republicans for the rest of the night, even claiming that the Republican Party was one of the proudest enemies she made during her political career. Overall, Clinton performed well during her first debate and no doubt helped bring much needed traction back to her campaign. According to, Clinton commanded the stage, having approximately 31 minutes of speaking time, which was more than any other of the other candidates.

While she came across as a masterful politician, I feel that she lacked a personal touch and did little to annul claims that she was out-of-touch with average Americans. Despite this, her frequent attacks on Republicans and her campaign sending out emails saying that she won the debate, I can’t keep from thinking that she was indeed the true winner. Overall Grade: A-

Bernie Sanders: Let’s just get the question most of you are thinking out of the way: No, I am not “feeling the Bern.” With that being said, the Vermont senator had a fair night and gave an audience outside of the 18- to 24-year-old range a fair assessment of who he is and what he stands for. The self-proclaimed socialist’s unorthodox approach to politics has him winning the spot of being number two in the polls, but he came across as a loose cannon during the debate. The senator declared that he would make public colleges and universities free by increasing taxes on the wealthy. He also proclaimed a more lax approach on gun control — a stance that got him into a bit of a scuffle with fellow candidate Martin O’Malley.

One of the senator’s brilliant moments came on the issue of the “Black Lives Matter” movement (race relations, I’ll note, was something not given much attention to during this debate and was overlooked during the Republican debate a few weeks ago) when Sanders said that he would lead the charge to combat institutional racism and reform the criminal justice system, something that I thoroughly agree with.

Overall, the senator had a good night, perhaps one that might even reflect in the polls. The confident Sanders said, “We’re going to win because, first, we’re going to explain what democratic socialism is.” But I think the senator is putting the cart before the horse with this one. Americans have a problem with the S-word, which is why Sanders is technically an Independent in the U.S. Senate who just happens to caucus with the Democrats.

If Sanders wants to continue to close the gap between himself and Clinton, I feel that he would need to appeal more to the moderate wing of the Democratic Party and give more solid answers instead of saying the things that he would like to see happen. I would love to graduate from the College debt-free, but does it seem realistic that Wall Street would end up paying for my tuition, room and board and meal plan so I can eat at Eickhoff Hall? Hell no. Overall Grade: B

Martin O’Malley: The former governor of Maryland did better than I expected during the debate, quite frankly. Even though the former head of the Democratic Governors Association did not have any real memorable moments, he came across as being a legitimate contender and said nothing that could come back to haunt him in his campaign. O’Malley handled the question about the “Black Lives Matter” movement more carefully than in June, reflecting on his time dealing with race relations as mayor of the city of Baltimore. At an event in June, O’Malley responded to claims that black lives matter by saying that “black lives matter, white lives matter, all lives matter,” a statement that he later apologized for.

The real vibe that I got from watching O’Malley during the debate was a possible spot for a Clinton-O’Malley ticket if Clinton wins the nomination. O’Malley is known to be good friends with Clinton and did very little to go against her outside of saying that she works for the interests of Wall Street, once the debate was over. The bottom line is that O’Malley had a solid performance, one that the candidate who stands in single digits in most national polls should be content with. Overall Grade: B-

Donald Trump: No, he’s not a Democrat and no, he wasn’t anywhere near Las Vegas during the debate, but that didn’t stop the businessman and Republican frontrunner (how it pains me to say that) from live tweeting the debate and taking attention away from the five contenders. The candidate with a HUGE ego bucked up roughly 70,000 new Twitter followers during the night compared to Sanders’ 46,000 and Clinton’s 10,000 (it is also worth noting that Vice President Joe Biden garnered 3,000 followers during the debate despite also not being there), according to Trump continued to be the obnoxious and flamboyant candidate that the media loves and that moderate Republicans like myself can’t stand. Regardless, the 24-hour, seven days a week reality show that is Trump keeps chugging along. Overall Grade: C

Jim Webb: The most valuable thing I learned about Webb during the debate is that there is a former Virginia senator named Jim Webb who’s running for the Democratic nomination. Webb was not shy to brag about his military service, something that he should be proud about and something that I as an American commend him greatly for. Webb said he was comfortable to say that he was “the most qualified person (in the debate) to be your commander in chief,” and like Sanders, he took a more conservative approach to gun control. The problem with Webb is that Sanders already has strong support, while the former senator has next to none. The debate seemed to have been an uphill struggle for the Vietnam War vet whose knowledge of actual war and conflict vastly shadows his political wits.

Most of his debate was against CNN moderator Anderson Cooper, demanding that he should be given more speaking time. He fell under unwarranted scrutiny when he said that the proudest enemy he ever made was when he killed an enemy soldier. While it sounded cold during the debate, in actuality it was something he did so he could save a fellow Marine from a grenade, by using his own body as a shield. I have great respect for Webb as a person, but as a candidate, he leaves more to be desired. Perhaps he could get a military position if a Democrat wins the White House, but until then, he’s still just a politician. Overall Grade: D

Lincoln Chafee: So my first question is a legitimate one: Who is Lincoln Chafee? First he was the Republican senator from Rhode Island, then he was the Independent Governor of Rhode Island and now he’s a Democrat running for President. There isn’t much to say about the Democrat of two years except that his eight minutes of speaking time did little other than let the audience see his attempt to take the ethical high ground by noting the lack of scandals in his political career. Even CNN host Don Lemon seemed to get more speaking time than Chafee during the debate. So while you keep deciding what you are Chafee, please let the rest of us look at serious contenders. Overall Grade: F

The Debate: For a political debate, CNN and Facebook did an OK job. It lacked the flare and excitement of the recent GOP debate that went on like a three-hour long marathon and I would say that it did little to move the poll numbers. The debate at the Reagan Library was Carly Fiorina’s to win and this debate was Clinton’s to lose. Overall, everything went as expected. Overall Grade: C-

Students share opinions around campus

Sara Oliff, senior marketing major.
Sara Oliff, senior marketing major.



“I’d say at the moment I like Bernie Sanders. I know recently he turned down money from the guy who raised the price for AIDS medication. He’s a little more humble… and real.”



Felipe Mardones, sophomore physics and computer science double major.
Felipe Mardones, sophomore physics and computer science double major.



“I say, overall, the strongest (candidates) are Sanders and Clinton… I want someone truly qualified for the job. For Sanders, I like his ideas, but I haven’t seen his plans. I feel if he showed some (concrete) plans, I’d be convinced he’s most qualified.”



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