It was not Clinton’s first rodeo and she gave a performance of supreme skill, easily fending off the email controversy with a dig out from Bernie Sanders and being totally on top of her brief.
The mystery is why it took the Democrats so long to debate. Compared to the 11 nattering nabobs of negativism on the Republican side, this was an in-depth policy debate with no childish tantrums or name calling. No matter what party you support you had to admit it was conducted with dignity and depth by those taking part.
Martin O'Malley may well have forced himself into the conversation with an assured performance that looked and felt presidential. At the very least he could revive Vice Presidency speculation.
It was O’Malley who looked directly at the Democratic National Committee top brass seated in the front row and asked why they were afraid to order up more debates. It was a good question. The level of political insight and policy ideas was far greater than anything the other side has shown.
Bernie Sanders, too, gave it his all but got tripped up on the gun question, a clear moment when Vermont domestic politics intervened and forced him to be more pro-gun than anyone else on stage.
Martin O’Malley on gun control: “It’s fine to talk about all of these things […] but I’ve done them.” pic.twitter.com/omTK0NhYzu— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) October 14, 2015
As for Lincoln Chafee and Jim Webb, all one can say charitably is that they failed to measure up. Webb spent a lot of time complaining he was not getting the opportunity to speak. Chafee inadvertently revealed it was his father's death that got him promoted to the senate seat he held, not his own efforts.
Both are former Republicans who might have been more at home on that stage.
It seems like Hillary’s wobble with the email and questions about Benghazi have begun to fade. She should thank House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy for that. His gaffe in telling the truth that the investigating committee was really a Hillary witch hunt completely changed the atmosphere both around Benghazi and the emails story.
His strategy was to wait and hope that Hillary would weaken further and Joe would ride to the rescue on his white horse.
But the Clintons rarely give up even when the odds are daunting. Hillary is the comeback kid after this first debate and Joe is not coming back I'd say.
All in all an informative debate with Clinton, Sanders and O’Malley now clearly separated from the pack. Hillary, more than ever, looks like the next candidate for president from the Democratic Party.
Could it be a woman president after an African American one? The odds now seem pretty good.