The five Democrats running for president debated for the first time Tuesday night in Las Vegas. The two front-runners owned the conversation. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders together said 56 percent of the words spoken by candidates.

Jim Webb, on multiple occasions, complained that the speaking time was unequal. His concern had merit – he spoke about half as many words as Clinton did, with many long gaps between words.

When each candidate spoke

Hillary Clinton

5,397 words

 

Words spoken

Start of debate

End of debate

Bernie Sanders

4,561 words

 

Start of debate

End of debate

Martin O’Malley

3,232 words

 

Start of debate

End of debate

Jim Webb

2,785 words

 

Start of debate

End of debate

Lincoln Chafee

1,685 words

 

Start of debate

End of debate

Words spoken

Hillary Clinton

5,397 words

 

Start of debate

End of debate

Bernie Sanders

4,561 words

 

Start of debate

End of debate

Martin O’Malley

3,232 words

 

Start of debate

End of debate

Jim Webb

2,785 words

 

Start of debate

End of debate

Lincoln Chafee

1,685 words

 

Start of debate

End of debate

Over the course of the debate, candidates repeatedly touched on their flagship issues. For Sanders: Wall Street and the one percent; for Clinton: climate change and foreign policy.

Sanders and Martin O’Malley focused on gun control and the NRA. Jim Webb emphasized his war experience and Lincoln Chafee his experience dealing with Iraq.

What they talked about (by number of mentions)

Clinton

O’Malley

Webb

Chafee

Sanders

Total

3

13

3

3

3

1

Climate change

5

13

1

1

4

2

Guns

2

9

1

1

4

1

Iraq

5

8

3

Middle class

7

2

4

1

NRA

2

7

1

3

1

Syria

5

6

1

Wall Street

4

5

1

Healthcare

4

4

Vietnam

4

4

1 percent

Chafee

O’Malley

Total

Clinton

Sanders

Webb

3

3

3

1

3

Climate change

13

1

5

4

2

1

Guns

13

4

2

1

1

1

Iraq

9

5

3

8

Middle class

4

1

2

NRA

7

1

2

1

3

Syria

7

5

1

Wall Street

6

4

1

Healthcare

5

4

Vietnam

4

4

1 percent

4

GOING FURTHER THAN OBAMA

Most candidates were reluctant to criticize the current administration. Instead, they praised President Obama and focused on how they would push his administration’s policies further.

Number of Obama mentions

When asked about how her presidency would differ from a third Obama term, Clinton said: “Well, I think that's pretty obvious. I think being the first woman president would be quite a change from the presidents we’ve had up until this point, including President Obama.” On policy, though, she offered little criticism beyond how she would “go further” than the current administration.

Sanders balanced his approval of the current Democratic administration with how a Sanders administration would be tougher on Wall Street. O’Malley, like Clinton, would “go further” than Obama on immigration.

Although Clinton and Sanders had indicated they wanted a civil debate, Clinton managed to put Sanders on the defense in several exchanges. They had heated volleys about national security, Wall Street banks and gun control.

Who Clinton
and Sanders mentioned

Sanders

5 mentions

Webb

Clinton

4

O’Malley

Chafee

Sanders

4

2

2

Webb

Clinton

O’Malley

Chafee

Sanders

Sanders

5 mentions

4

2

2

Webb

Clinton

Webb

Clinton

4

O’Malley

Chafee

O’Malley

Chafee

One of the most memorable moments of the evening came when Sanders took a stand after Clinton was questioned about her use of a private e-mail system while serving as secretary of state. “Let me say something that may not be great politics,” he said. “The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails.”

[What you need to know about Hillary Clinton’s e-mails]

All the exchanges between candidates

O’Malley, who has been sharply critical of Clinton in his campaign speeches, didn't seem committed to challenging her. He tried to highlight his record on criminal justice, immigration and other issues. Both he and Clinton challenged Sanders on gun control.

None of the other candidates mentioned Lincoln Chafee throughout the debate.

[Lincoln Chafee’s very bad night, in 1 chart]

Everyone wants to get things done

There was a lot of agreement on the debate stage throughout the evening, especially on one issue: everyone just wants to get things done.

Clinton

“… I'm a progressive who likes to get things done.

Sanders

“But the only way we can get things done …”

Webb

“… people start from scratch again and try to get things done.

O’Malley

“I have learned how to get things done …”

[So, who's winning 2016?]

[Clinton, Sanders dominate Democrats’ first go on the debate stage]

[Second GOP debate analysis: Candidates drawn into Trump's orbit, like it or not]

Editor's picks

Who’s winning 2016?

GRAPHIC | How candidates compare across polling, money, endorsements and more.

Now what? Where the Democratic candidates are headed after the first debate.

GRAPHIC | An in-depth analysis of each Democratic candidate, including 5 key quotes.