CNN Democratic Debate Live Blog I

Nice little Obama video to kick things off. Last time there was a lame-duck president, Republicans didn’t much want to hear from George W. Bush.

Interesting venue. The Wynn Hotel is pretty posh; I’ve never been able to talk myself into spending what it takes to stay there. There’s going to be a Republican debate in Vegas in December, but no indication where exactly it will be. Could the GOP possibly go anywhere other than a Sheldon Adelson property?

It’s a big noisy crowd. Haven’t read anything about the composition, but doesn’t sound like donors-only.

In the canned intro of the debate, we have the first mentions of Clinton emails and Sanders’ “socialism.” Won’t be the last.

The enter-the-stage intros seem weird as usual. AND NOW, 5 FOOT TEN, A SENIOR OUT OF BURLINGTON, VERMONT, B-E-R-R-N-N-I-E-E-E SANDERS!

CNN is definitely milking the post-advertised-start-time for commercials. Are the candidates playing H-O-R-S-E during it all? Is Anderson’s buddy Kathy Griffin warming up the crowd?

Cooper explaining ground rules–Dana Bash, Juan Carlos and Don Lemon will help questions; otherwise the rules are the same as in the GOP debate on CNN.

Linc Chafee’s intro notes he’s the only candidate who’s been a mayor, Senator and governor. Doesn’t mention his approval rating as governor approached single digits. Does mention he voted against Iraq War.

Jim Webb starts off saturnine and outsider-y. Mentions his bipartisanship and military record. Stresses he was ahead of the curve on criminal justice reform and “pivot to Asia.” Touts all his children, individually. Emphasizes he’s for the working stiff, gets good hand.

O’Malley can’t match Webb’s progeny, but does mention his five kids. Goes right to his progressive accomplishments. First positive reference to Obama. Good line: “We elected a president, not a magician.” Lays into inequality theme pretty hard. First reference to climate change. Another good round of applause.

Sanders uses succinct version of his stock speech thematics: goes right from inequality to Citizens United-spawned corruption to climate change to criminal justice reform; the last a pretty clear appeal to minority voters. Doesn’t bother with family references; gets a little preachy towards end. Big cheers.

Clinton appeals to her long history of children’s advocacy, interestingly enough. Does abbreviated roundabout of her policy agenda, with emphasis on higher wages. First reference to tax system. Big pitch for paid family leave. Nice closer about fathers telling their daughters they can grow up to be president.

Huh. Surprise. Anderson coming on like Jake Tapper with questions about “negative perceptions.” Begins with asking HRC if she’s a flip-flopper, mentioning marriage equality and TPP.

HRC pretty smooth on learning from experience. Cooper follows with pretty harsh question about “political expediency.” Clinton again pretty smooth, cites first gig with Children’s Defense Fund.

“Are you a progressive or a moderate?” “I’m a progressive who likes to get things done.” Pretty well played. Bernie’s undoubtedly anticipating the “socialist question.”

Sure enough, there it is.

Bernie takes it on squarely, says he’ll explain what “Democratic Socialism” really is, does his inequality pitch. Then he goes right at American Exceptionalism, says US should be “look to countries like Denmark and Norway.”

Cooper follows up with “electability” argument, notes Bernie supported Sandinistas (do young voters have any idea who they are?). Sanders uses “moblization” argument for electability. Cooper asks if Sanders a capitalist? Bernie says he’s not a “casino capitalist.” Cooper asks if any other candidate not a capitalist. HRC jumps in mentions small businesses as capitalistic, gets off good line about the periodic need to “save capitalism from itself,” but demurs on Denmark being a model. Bernie jumps in to tout “entrepreneurship.”

Cooper now asks Chafee about his support for capitalism, and Chafee calls himself a “block of granite,” and says GOP left him.

O’Malley gets nasty question about current crime in Baltimore, quoting current DA blaming O’Malley for “zero tolerance.” O’Malley does reasonable job with that impossible question, saying police-community relations improved during his mayoralty. Cooper drags him back into the weeds on arrest numbers. Wonder if most people following this.

Cooper asks Webb about his opposition to affirmative action as “state sponsored discrimination.” Webb says he just doesn’t want to exclude poor white people. Gets off pretty easy.

Now Anderson shifts to general issues. But begins with guns and touts every anti-gun-control vote Bernie Sanders has cast. Sanders begins with touting B-minus rating from NRA, which probably doesn’t sound that great to most Democrats. He also argues mental health services part of answer to gun violence. Also distinguishes his record on gun seller liability, and then goes totally Tapper by asking HRC if Bernie’s too weak on guns. She says “yes,” and then goes pretty hard at Sanders on Brady Bill and gun manufacturer liability. Sanders follow-up denies there’s a big difference among Democrats, seems to accuse Clinton of “shouting.”

Cooper turns to O’Malley and invites him to compare his record to Obama’s. O’Malley notes he overcame opposition to gun legislation in his own party, does a “real people” shout out to Aurora victims in audience, seems to be yelling at Bernie about how poorly they were treated.

Sanders really needs to get the subject changed, but again, accuses O’Malley of “raising voices” and ignoring fact that Sanders represents rural state.

O’Malley: “Have you ever been to the Eastern Shore of Maryland?” Bernie responds that O’Malley doesn’t understand Congress.

Cooper brings in Webb, inviting him to disagree with gun control advocates. Webb tries to distinguish background checks from basic gun rights.

Chafee asked about F rating from NRA, says he wants to reach common ground with gun lobby. Huh.

Next issue: Russia!

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.