With five days to go before the New Hampshire primary, some thoughts of the debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders at the University of New Hampshire:
— Congratulations to MSNBC for adding this debate to the schedule. It was a real debate, with real differences between the candidates. It never got personal or circus-like. It was substantive and valuable, and it showed their competing visions for the party.
— An amazingly minimal and solid job by moderators Chuck Todd and Rachel Maddow. They let the candidates do their thing without becoming the story. Perhaps it being one-on-one helped. But no showboating at all by the moderators. They were excellent.
— I thought Hillary Clinton started off tight, tense, defensive, somewhat petulant, sometimes playing the victim; as in, how DARE you question my motives? There was, in my view, some playing the martyr, which never serves her well. But then, somewhere midway, that all changed. Maybe it was around the time the conversation switched to foreign policy, where she is always more confident and on top of her game. But somewhere around that time she became more human and relaxed. There were two Clintons tonight.
— I thought Bernie Sanders went after Clinton’s positions more reluctantly than she with him. He’s angrier with the system than he is with her. As it is, he’s not an angry candidate, even though he’s certainly pissed at everything that he sees happening around him. I’m not sure if he gave a more polished performance, but it was certainly less about Clinton than she made it about him. A winner/loser? I didn’t see one.
— All that early conventional wisdom that more debates are not good for Clinton is silly; she is a solid debater and always has been. Both were at the top of their game. New Hampshire Democrats got what they needed tonight.
— Now it’s time for Chris Matthews, who will tell us every thought he’s ever had in his life, and who will save his guests the problem of answering his questions because he will answer them for them.