On Tuesday night, the five contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination assembled in Las Vegas, NV, for their first debate of the primary season. Moderated by Anderson Cooper, the debate not only gave the candidates a nationally-televised opportunity to present their policies and positions, but also allowed them the opportunity to accomplish their individual strategic objectives.
Former Governor of Maryland, Martin Oâ€™Malley, needed to take full advantage of the nationally-televised debate to introduce himself and his platform to a voting base that, for the most part, knows nothing about him. Oâ€™Malley also needed to endear himself to potential donors and bundlers, while former Senators Lincoln Chafee and Jim Webb just needed to remind people that they exist. Chafee floundered throughout the debate as he unsuccessfully tried to attack Clinton. During one particularly cringe-worthy moment, he admonished Anderson Cooper for â€œbeing too harshâ€ on him.
Webb, in one of the most bizarre answers of the night, informed us that #WhiteAppalachianLivesMatter. Vermont Senator, Bernie Sanders, needed to prove that his unexpected ascension to second place was not a fluke, and that he is capable of winning the general election. However, it was former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who had the most on the line. Plagued by weeks of bad press and declining poll numbers, it was imperative that Clinton delivered a performance that would ease the fears surrounding her elect-ability in the face of the ongoing email scandal. She did this, and more, establishing herself as the clear winner by the end of the night.
Clinton, whose commitment to progressive values has been a major concern among the Democratic voting base, clearly came prepared to convince viewers that she was 'all in' for the populist movement sweeping the nation. She reverted to the same argument she has used before regarding inconsistencies in her stances on these issues, citing â€œnew informationâ€ as the cause in her change of opinion. When directly challenged by Cooper to self-identify as a moderate or progressive, Clinton responded with arguably the strongest line of the night: â€œIâ€™m a progressive, but Iâ€™m a progressive who likes to get things done.â€