After two Republican debates it was finally time for the Democrats to take center stage Tuesday night at the Wynn Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O'Malley, Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee took their places to tackle issues that ranged from gun control and Russian relations to climate change and healthcare.
Anderson Cooper moderated the event, joined by Dana Bash and Juan Carlos Lopez, while Don Lemon chimed in with questions from the public. Compared to the GOP debates, Tuesday's debate focused less on the candidates' personal vendettas against each other and posed harder questions that pushed them to explain past work. Overall, it felt more focused and "adult" compared to the previous sideshows.
In fact, the candidates even went so far as to compliment each other and, in one instance, even defend one another. Which brings us to our first and best highlight of the night....
1. Issues, not emails When Cooper asked Clinton, the party's current frontrunner, to support or defend her recent email scandal, she explained that while using her own email server "was allowed by the state department, [it] wasn't the best choice" and then added that she'd also like to focus on other issues at hand. Apparently, so did her closest competitor.
"Let me say something that may not be great politics," Sanders said. "The Secretary is right. The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails!" He went on to point out that people wanted to discuss the real issues and reiterated, "Enough of the emails!" The show of support got him a sweet "thank you, Bernie," from Clinton, a handshake and a standing ovation.Yep, even Hillary was #FeelingtheBern at that point. Check out the moment:
2. #BlackLivesMatter One of the evening's most notable topics came from a student: "Do black lives matter or do all lives matter?" The candidates fielded the question of both the movement and police brutality (which was absent from the last GOP debate) with great respect. Without hesitation Sanders answered that black lives matter, and that "the reason those words matter is the African American community knows that on any given day some person like Sandra Bland can get into a car, and three days later end up dead. We need to combat institutional racism from top to bottom" and repair our "broken criminal justice system."
O'Malley agreed, pointing out that if the situation were reversed and young white men were being buried far before their time, we would have a very different movement and different reaction from the government.
3. Trump who? In a pleasant turn of events from previous political discussions, the subject of Donald Trump did not come up at all during the course of the debate's roughly two-and-a-half hours. Rather, Trump was only mentioned once in passing and just briefly later, when O'Malley called him "that carnival barker in the Republican party." (Ouch.)
4. They united against the Republicans. Unlike CNN's previous GOP debate, the five democratic candidates took few shots at each other that weren't strictly disagreements on policy. Aside from Clinton directly challenging Sanders' stance on gun control as not tough enough and disagreements over the use of military force, the candidates generally agreed with each other, but differed on how to achieve those shared goals.
Instead of bashing each other, Clinton made a point to prove that many issues have "been obstructed by Republicans at every single turn," and that there have been "Republican scare tactics" in play not only against her but other politicians' work to enact change.
5. Webb threw his weight in shade. Barely meeting the 1 percent polling requirement to particpate in the debate, the night was Former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb's opportunity to prove himself and show that he's a true contender in the race. Instead, Webb became more memorable for whining about being slighted. He took every opportunity to remind viewers that he'd been standing for "about 10 minutes" waiting to speak and even accused Cooper more than once of allowing other candidates to have more time.
6. Anderson Cooper, actual moderator Contrary to Webb's insistence, Cooper did a decent job as a moderator and delivered hard-hitting questions without mercy. Cooper, as well as Bash and Lopez, did a good job of forcing the candidates to actually answer the questions asked and stay within their allotted time. "He doesn't seem like the type of guy to regret a lot," he challenged Sanders at one point about Vladmir Putin. He later gave a brief summary of specific legislation for the viewers and pointedly reminded Webb during a tiff, "you've agreed to these [debate] rules and you're wasting time."
7. How Chafee choked One instance in which Cooper came down hard on a candidate was when Chafee failed to effectively defend his regrettable vote to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act. Instead, he blamed his error on being new to the Senate, not being familiar with the legislation and even his father dying. When Cooper would not let up, asking, "With all due respect, what does that say about you that you're casting a vote that you didn't know what you were voting for?" Chafee limply answered, "I think you're being rough." After that point, the former Rhode Island governor never quite recovered.
Did you watch the Democratic presidential debate? Who do you think won the night?