Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton participated in an almost impromptu debate on Thursday night in Brooklyn, just days before the New York primary. As the candidates took their places behind the podiums and went head to head on a variety of issues, the atmosphere on the stage was intense. Both of the candidates were outwardly angry with each other, and both of them took their turns screaming at one another at some point during the debate. The question of who won, however, is a bit hard to answer. Through the fog of anger and assertion, it was hard to see a clear victor for the night.
For starters, this debate wasn’t really supposed to happen in the first place. Last week, Sanders’ campaign called for a debate before the crucial New York primary, and the Clinton campaign administration had vehemently declined the invitation. After an overwhelming sound of support from voters and a call to action by Sanders, a date and time were finalized, and the two candidates were set to face off. This debate was, quite frankly, an inconvenience for both parties, despite the Sanders campaign’s desire to hold it in the first place. For Clinton, an extra location had to be added into her jam-packed campaign schedule. For Sanders, crucial rallies and events in his schedule had to be shifted around to accommodate Clinton, after her campaign gave Thursday night as their only open date. This probably added to the general anger in the room, although more of it clearly stemmed from pointed attacks made by both candidates.
Overall, each candidate proved their qualifications and superiority on various issues. For Clinton, her strong suits of the night dealt with women’s rights and guns–particularly Sanders’ voting record on gun laws. Sanders’ wins were found in the minimum wage and foreign policy, specifically Clinton’s decisions regarding the Iraq war.
In a sense, it appeared as though Clinton may have done more homework than Sanders did in preparation for the night. When Sanders demanded the release of transcripts of Clinton’s Wall Street speeches (which she was paid to give) he was unable to give a specific instance of Clinton’s favoring banks in her policies. On the other hand, Sanders was far more genuine in his persona, gladly releasing his own tax returns and refusing to hide anything from the media, as Clinton has done with her transcripts. Sanders even released the transcript of the speech he gave at the Vatican on Saturday, shortly after the debate.
So who was the real winner here? Again, it’s hard to say. Clinton called out the debate mediators in their lack of questions on women’s reproductive rights in past debates, which was a smart move for Clinton’s already dominant female audience. Both candidates were clearly angry and willing to attack each other, a very stark contrast to the previously calm atmosphere of their past debates. Their constant yelling over and interrupting each other was more comparable to early Republican debates than anything they had previously encountered.
Stylistically speaking, Sanders was less graceful, and less poised in his attacks. He was unable to dodge some jabs made by Clinton, but overall, he seemed more genuine in his claims. Clinton’s main defense was a kind of human shield, spouting off facts about her time in the Obama administration and her involvement in other groups, whereas Sanders kept to himself; even when he was struggling for an answer to Clinton’s questions about gun laws, he still retained his individuality. For that, we have to give him props. As for overall presentation, Sanders was less composed, so those points go to Hillary.
Was there a clear winner on Thursday? Yes and no. Does that really mean anything? Yes and no. The real winner will be decided on Tuesday, during New York’s primary vote.