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First take/debate

Probably not an enormous lot changed after the first Democratic presidential debate last night, but a few things became a little clearer. One is that Hillary Clinton is now a terrifically skilled and polished debater – on the evidence of Tuesday night, substantially better than she was in 2008, and significantly better not only than any of the other Democrats on the stage, but also much better than any of the Republicans on the stages up to now. She was prepared for everything and had strong responses, and clear statements, on all topics. If she has wanted some extra boost to her campaign (coming on the heels of the McCarthy admission about the Benghazi committee) the debate may have given it to her; don’t be surprised if her numbers rise a bit. Bernie Sanders did not do badly, though this sort of debate wasn’t really his best kind of venue, and when drawn off his preferred collection of talking points he could come across as scattered. He’ll need some work before the next debate. Even so, he got the chance to show who and what he is before a swath of new voters, and he may have gained some support too. The big moment of the debate, when he backed Clinton by saying he was “sick and tired of hearing about the damned emails,” likely did both candidates some good. Of the others, Martin O’Malley looked semi-vice presidential, and Lincoln Chafee and Jim Webb seemed to strike as being candidate for early departure from the race. – rs

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