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How The Democratic Presidential Debate Impacts Pennsylvania

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John Locher
/
AP Images
Michelle Poley walks on stage before a CNN Democratic presidential debate, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015, in Las Vegas.

When the five Democratic presidential candidates took the CNN stage last night at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas, the atmosphere strongly contrasted that of the previous two Republican debates. 

“It opened as sort of a championship boxing match,” observed Duquesne University Associate Law Professor Joseph Sabino Mistick. “It was a great debate, it was a real debate.  It was boxing, not a cage match like we’ve seen on the Republican side.”

Mistick’s analysis echoed that of many viewers who saw the candidates discuss issues, not personalities. Front-runner Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her chief contender Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders were allotted the most air time, as Mistick predicted, but former Governor Martin O’Malley was also able to defend many of his positions.

After stumbling over his response to a question about banking reform, former Rhode Island governor and U.S. Senator Lincoln Chafee may have spoiled his chances, said Mistick.  Former United States Senator Jim Webb was largely left out of the discussion, which he lamented throughout the night.

Mistick dubbed Hillary Clinton the debate’s clear winner, comparing her to the “boxer” and Bernie Sanders to a “slugger.”  He praised Sanders’ criticism Republicans and the media, saying he believed voters were tired of hearing about Clinton’s email server “scandal.”

The format of the debate was conducive to the number of candidates, according to Mistick.  He believes Republicans are still grappling with personalities and aren’t yet ready to tackle actual issues. Plus, he says with the large number of candidates, emulating a format like Tuesday’s Democratic debate would be nearly impossible.

Even though some Pennsylvania voters aren’t happy with the state’s primary date, Mistick doesn’t see voter participation being a problem at the April 26th election.

“The primary is always important to Democrats.  It gives them a chance to rally the troops, it bumps the turnout in the general election,” he explained. “And at the end of the day, it encourages more Democratic voters to congeal around the nominee.”

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