Policies clashed and tempers flared at Thursday's Democratic Debate. Viewers of the MSNBC-hosted event witnessed the first debate of the primary season between just two candidates — former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
“I thought with Governor O’Malley dropping out, we had a true debate,” said Michael Bitzer, a professor of political science at Catawba College. “It was policy-oriented, it was substantive — and at times it got a little personal and very heated.”
A key feature of Thursday’s debate was the attempts by both candidates to prove who the "true" progressive is. Dee Stewart, the president and CEO of the Stewart Group, Inc., a Raleigh-based firm that concentrates on political consulting and public affairs, said when the debate centers on progressivism, Sanders has the edge.
“Sanders clearly is more liberal than Clinton,” he said. “As long as that is the issue upon which the debates are being conducted, it benefits Sanders.”
The two-person debate notably diverged from Saturday’s Republican debate, which featured the top seven candidates. Bitzer said a candidate’s policy stances are more difficult to discern with a wide range of hopefuls onstage.