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Opinion: The winners and losers of the Democratic debate

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It has been a week since the first Democratic presidential debate aired, and no major surprises occurred with regard to “front-runners” and “also-rans.” Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders seemed to have had the best evenings, with Clinton getting the “win” by most accounts. But what about the other three lesser-known candidates, and the one potential candidate who is keeping the voters guessing?

Lincoln Chafee, former governor of Rhode Island, previously belonged to the Republican Party, then became an Independent and is currently a proud Democrat. This flip-flopping came up last Wednesday and voters took notice by not really noticing. He polled at less than 1 percent before the debate, and holds this position post-debate.

Also at less than 1 percent, Jim Webb, former senator from Virginia, remained largely ignored by Democratic voters…and the debate moderators. Webb made it evident that he was not too happy with CNN during the debate for only focusing on Clinton and Sanders, leaving the three underdogs out in the cold.

“It’s very difficult to win a debate when you don’t have the opportunity to speak the same amount of time on issues as the others did,” Webb said when speaking at the Council of Foreign Relations in Washington.

Webb’s criticism was punctuated Tuesday when he announced at a press conference his decision to drop out of the presidential race. He’s considering running as an Independent, though.

Martin O’Malley, former governor of Maryland, mirrored Chafee’s and Webb’s 1 percent pre-debate polling. At the debate, O’Malley attempted to attack Clinton and Sanders and to make a case as a viable presidential candidate. Post-debate polling showed that more voters view him in a positive light; however, he still comes up with only 1 percent in the polls.

The Democratic mystery man, current Vice President Joe Biden, also had a bad night, even though he did not show up. According to a recent ABC News article, Sen. Dick Durbin pointed out that Clinton’s strong performance during the debate hurt Biden’s chances for a late entry. While he is still mulling over his presidential bid, one thing is certain: each day he waits, he is missing out on fundraising, reaching out to voters and having his voice heard in the media din. His poll numbers sit around 18 percent.

Sen. Bernie Sanders from Vermont, polling at 29 percent, has seen the largest jump in polls since the debate. His five-point increase may be a result of speaking fervently about income inequality, rigged capitalism and defining his position as a “Democratic Socialist.”  Sanders is still seen by Democratic voters as less trustworthy than Clinton on certain issues, like foreign policy and his ambiguous stance on gun control that was discussed at the debate.

Hillary Clinton, former secretary of state and Democratic front-runner from day one, was declared by CNN as the “winner” of the first democratic debate on Oct. 14. She polls at 45 percent.

“I’m a progressive. But I’m a progressive who likes to get things done,” Clinton said last Wednesday evening.

According to one poll, 73 percent of voters have a more promising opinion of Clinton after the debate; this is a stronger result than any other candidate. Clinton took on Sanders, whom up to this point she did not seem to pay too much attention. After Wednesday, it is clear that she acknowledges that Sanders is her main rival.

Both top contenders proved they are willing to fight for the title of Commander-in-Chief and have what it takes to do so. They also seemed to scare Republican front-runner Donald Trump who attacked the debate for being too boring. He chalked up Chafee, Webb and O’Malley to being irrelevant and tweeted about Clinton making bad choices. During a later speech in Richmond, Virginia, Trump attacked Sanders by calling him a “socialist-slash-communist” because Trump believes Sanders will tax people’s income at 90 percent.

Sanders campaign spokesperson, Michael Briggs, merely brushed off these comments.

“If we weighed in every time Donald Trump said something stupid we wouldn’t have time to do anything else.”

Clinton and Sanders see each other as worthy competitors, but when it comes to sparring with Trump, they seem indifferent.

With Webb taking himself out of the Democratic race, Chafee and O’Malley remain as the outliers in the polls and in the debate. Clinton and Sanders have proved they are the most viable candidates; however, a bid from Biden could shake things up.

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