Hillary Rodham Clinton was the only candidate on stage last night who looked like a plausible president. She had gravitas and filled the stage, while her four rivals came across as unelectable, unserious or both. In short, she solidified her status as the Democratic front-runner. Clinton’s strong performance will, at least temporarily, quiet doubts among party elites and make it less likely that Joe Biden enters the race.

The conventional wisdom among Washington elites that this was a TKO for HRC cemented overnight. This morning’s clips are, by far, the best Clinton has enjoyed all year. From nonpartisan reporters to thought leaders across the spectrum, there was a near consensus that Hillary won.

  • The Post’s Karen Tumulty, in an A1 analysis, says that Hillary’s self-assured performance “showed that she remains the person to beat.”
  • “Clinton makes convincing case” is the all-caps banner on
  • Liberal activist Van Jones on CNN: “Hillary Clinton was Beyoncé. She was flawless.”
  • Conservative Post columnist Charles Krauthammer on Fox News: “She was competent. She wasn’t afraid. She was aggressive.”
  • New York Times columnist Frank Bruni: “I never doubted that Hillary Clinton had many talents. I just didn’t know that seamstress was among them. There were moments … when she threaded the needle as delicately and perfectly as a politician could.”
  • New Republic senior editor Brian Beutler: “Clinton staked out the sweet spot between aspirational and pragmatic politics, when she dubbed herself ‘a progressive, but … a progressive who likes to get things done.’”
  • editor-in-chief Ezra Klein“Clinton reminded a lot of Democrats that they want her debating the GOP nominee next year.”
  • Mother Jones Washington editor David Corn: “HRC folks should hope for a Clinton-Bush general. Compare her performance to his.”
  • The Atlantic’s James Fallows“HRC had her best two hours of the past two years.”
  • The Boston Globe’s Annie Linskey highlights Clinton’s disarming sense of humor: “During a commercial break, it took her longer to return to the stage from the bathroom, a fact she attributed to her gender. ‘It takes me longer,’ she said. When asked late in the debate what would distinguish a Clinton presidency from the current administration, she answered simply: She’s a woman.”
  • Post columnist Dana Milbank“Clinton was a head shorter than her rivals when they lined up on stage for Sheryl Crow’s version of the National Anthem. … But after that moment, she towered over them.”
  • The Fix’s Chris Cillizza: “Clinton was confident, relaxed and good-natured. … She also smartly turned at least three questions into broad-scale attacks on Republicans, effectively playing the uniter role for the party — and winning a ton of applause in the process.”
  • New York Times political correspondent Jonathan Martin: “Strong night for Hillary – will calm Dem nerves & tamp down Biden buzz. She helped herself a good deal, was elevated by comparison.”
  • “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd: “Clinton was easily the most polished and prepped candidate on stage. Wasn’t even close. But Sanders isn’t going anywhere.”

Other important takeaways from the evening–

1. Hillary’s tight hug of Obama means there is less room for Biden. Mindful of a possible bid by the vice president, Clinton clearly wanted to send a message that she will aggressively compete for the Obama coalition and continue to grab for the president’s mantle. “I would have to think this would give him some pause,” longtime Obama strategist David Axelrod said of Biden after the debate.

After publicly breaking with him recently on issues like immigration, the Keystone XL Pipeline and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the most striking storyline of the night was how closely Clinton tied herself to Obama. The full embrace of her ex-rival is also a testament to the president’s enduring popularity among Democratic primary voters.

Hillary name-dropped Obama more than anyone else, by far. Responding to questions about her early support for the Iraq war, she noted that Obama opposed it but still chose her for secretary of state. Clinton used the word “we” repeatedly to describe various actions overseas, including a dramatic retelling of herself and Obama chasing after the Chinese to try getting a climate change deal. Asked how she’d differ from Obama in the White House, Hillary dodged by noting that she’d be the first female president. (Read the full transcript here.)

2.  Pressure is mounting on Biden to make a decision — fast. Bloomberg’s Margaret Talev points out that Biden’s name didn’t come up once during the two-hour face-off, and that former Biden chief of staff Ron Klain was by her side when a celebratory Clinton addressed supporters afterward. Klain helped Clinton prepare, and his presence seemed designed to send a not-so-subtle message.

The spin room buzz was that Clinton’s strong performance takes some air out of the Biden trial balloons. The Post’s Philip Rucker reports that Hillary surrogates said they respect the VP’s right to run but then quickly pivoted to highlighting Clinton’s strength. “He needs to make up his mind,” said John Podesta, the Clinton campaign chairman who worked closely with Biden in Obama’s White House. “If he wants to get in and challenge her, then he needs to do that, and that’s his right.”

Slate’s chief political correspondent, Jamelle Bouie, declared that the Biden talk should end after last night. He explains: “Biden was a safety valve for the Democratic Party, a hedge so that if Clinton left the race, a competent and mainstream Democrat would take her place. … But the evening’s events showed that Democrats don’t need him.” Politico’s Glenn Thrush adds: “If Biden was waiting for signs of a Clinton collapse to coax him into the 2016 race, he should have shut off the debate and watched the baseball playoffs.”

CNN tried hard to egg Biden into showing up, even keeping a lectern ready in case he changed his mind. Someone anonymously created a parody account for the Biden podium:

3. Bernie Sanders spent most of the night on the defensive.

Early on, he was caught off guard when Clinton ripped into him for his votes against the Brady bill and for granting immunity to gun manufacturers. After Sanders said it was a complicated issue, Clinton took off her velvet gloves to note that she opposed the same bill because there was nothing complicated about it for her. Gun control is one of the very few issues on which she can easily get to Bernie’s left, and she did so effectively. The Vermont independent sounded like just another politician as he explained, essentially, that political considerations prompted his vote.

Sanders grew irritated when pressed over various apostasies. He offered revisionist histories of congressional debates over both gun control and immigration reform, for which he will certainly take heat from fact checkers.

On foreign policy, Sanders was out of his depth and looked uncomfortable talking about why he dodged the Vietnam War draft.

“Overall, Sanders’s performance was uneven,” The Post’s Philip Rucker and John Wagner write on the Bernie dynamic. “At the start, he seemed easily bothered. At times on the defensive, Sanders seemed agitated, shouting his positions as if he were rallying thousands of supporters in a sports arena instead of conversing with four opponents on a debate stage. But he appeared to become more relaxed on stage and to relish his place as the outsider on the left.”

4. Though he got more comfortable as the debate progressed, Sanders failed to sell himself as electable. 

To be sure, Bernie’s base still loves him. And the senator isn’t going anywhere. Sanders was favored by post-debate focus groups on Fox News, Fusion and CNN. “I thought you won,” Chris Matthews told Sanders on MSNBC last night. “All these other guys are arguing with me.”

Most experts agreed that Sanders, who isn’t a registered Democrat, probably did little to expand his core network of support. In other words, he may have squandered his first real exposure to a national prime-time audience.

Sanders repeatedly came across as someone who is outside of the Democratic mainstream. While Clinton positioned herself to win in a general election, Sanders stuck to his core beliefs, which have limited appeal beyond liberal Democrats.

CNN moderator Anderson Cooper put the problem in stark relief when he  reminded viewers that Sanders supported the Nicaraguan Sandinistas, honeymooned in the former Soviet Union and doesn’t call himself a capitalist.

Sanders’s response again showed his limited appeal and electability problem. “Well, we’re going to win because first, we’re going to explain what democratic socialism is,” he said. His ensuing answer, which included heavy praise for countries like Denmark, prompted Clinton to speak up for the virtues of capitalism. “What we have to do every so often is save capitalism from itself,” she said.

While Hillary often directly answered moderator questions with a “yes” or a “no,” Sanders routinely avoided answering the questions he was posed, giving long lectures as he swung his arms in the air. That style might rub some voters that Sanders badly needs the wrong way.

5. Martin O’Malley did not have the night he needed.

The ex-Maryland governor wound up getting even less online buzz during the debate than both Donald Trump, who was not on stage, and Jim Webb, who is not even trying to build a credible campaign apparatus.

The reviewers largely agree that O’Malley was too slick and too low energy. “Oddly, O’Malley sounded the most like a politician of anyone on the stage even though he is the only one who has never spent any time in office in the capitol,” Chris Cillizza wrote, labeling him a loser. “It was a ‘blah’ performance for someone who needed a lot more than that.”

The O’Malley campaign unsurprisingly declared their guy the winner, specifically citing positive mentions about his closing statements. They even blasted out a six-second clip of Joan Walsh saying on MSNBC: “What he did was he jumped out of that bottom tier of 1 percent.” That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement.

Highlighting his lack of foreign policy chops, at one point O’Malley mixed up Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin. “I think Assad’s invasion of Syria will be seen as a blunder,” he said. That might have been a slip of the tongue, but someone who is barely registering in the polls in his home state cannot afford to make those kinds of mistakes.

6. A litany of progressives attacked CNN for tokenism. Frank Rich, now a writer-at-large for New York magazine, said Cooper did a good job, “but it doesn’t serve him to have female, black & Hispanic questioners as supplicants.”

Then this from a contributing editor at “The Atlantic” and “The Week”:

When Cooper teased they would ask about marijuana after a commercial break, The New Yorker’s Philip Gourevitch quipped: “I hope they’ve got a stoned journalist to ask the pot questions like they had the black guy ask [the] race question and the Hispanic [ask] on immigration.”

David Itzkoff, culture reporter for the New York Times, added: “If Don Lemon can only ask about black people and Juan Carlos Lopez can only ask about Hispanics, Wolf Blitzer only gets to ask about wolves.”


Planned Parenthood will change its fetal-tissue policy, no longer accepting reimbursement after hidden-camera videos. “Responding to a furor over undercover videos, Planned Parenthood says it will maintain programs at some of its clinics that make fetal tissue available for research, but will cover the costs itself rather than accepting any reimbursement,” the Associated Press reports. “Anti-abortion activists who recently released a series of covertly filmed videos have contended that Planned Parenthood officials sought profits from their programs providing post-abortion fetal tissue to researchers. Planned Parenthood said the videos were deceptively edited and denied seeking any payments beyond legally permitted reimbursement of costs. … Planned Parenthood says its fetal tissue programs currently take place in only two states — California and Washington — at about a half-dozen of the 700 health centers run by the organization nationwide.”

Though this was ostensibly what they were looking into, congressional Republicans say they will continue to go after the group. “Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, described Planned Parenthood’s policy change as ‘a good, tangible result’ of the various House investigations. He said his own panel would continue its inquiry into Planned Parenthood’s use of federal funding. Thus far, none of the congressional investigations, nor separate investigations in six states, have verified any law-breaking by Planned Parenthood.”

The Israeli military began deploying hundreds of troops in Israeli cities overnight to assist police forces in countering a wave of deadly Palestinian shooting and stabbing attacks that have created panic across the country. “The military’s deployment of six companies marks the first implementation of measures by Israel’s security cabinet to counter the attacks that have intensified dramatically in recent days,” the AP reports. “The cabinet met late into the night and announced steps early Wednesday that included allowing police to seal off points of friction or incitement. Many of the recent attackers have come from Arab areas of Jerusalem, prompting calls to seal off those neighborhoods to contain potential attackers.” Here is The Post’s story on yesterday’s bloody “day of rage” in Jerusalem.

— SecDef takes hard line on China. Ash Carter declared that the United States military would sail and fly wherever international law allowed, including the disputed South China Sea. Speaking at a two-day meeting between U.S. and Australian foreign and defense ministers, he declared: “Make no mistake, the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, as we do around the world, and the South China Sea will not be an exception. We will do that in the time and places of our choosing.” Now let’s see if there’s follow through and then how the Chinese respond.


  1. Wisconsin jury ordered a gun shop to pay nearly $6 million to two Milwaukee cops who were shot and seriously wounded by a gun purchased at the store. The ruling came in a negligence lawsuit. (AP)
  2. In a legal setback for the Baltimore cops charged in connection with Freddie Gray’s death, a judge ruled that all of the officers’ statements to investigators about what happened, including conflicting accounts over whether he asked for medical help, are admissible. (CBS Baltimore)
  3. “A Michigan woman who fired at a fleeing Home Depot shoplifter has been charged with recklessly using her concealed handgun,” Michael Miller reports.
  4. NBC News aired graphic video of sheriff’s deputies tasing a mentally ill Georgia man in the groin while he was restrained in a chair. “The two deputies and a health care worker are currently being tried for involuntary manslaughter in connection with the death of 22-year-old Matthew Ajibade, who died after being taken into police custody on New Year’s Day,” NBC reports.
  5. A former Pakistani defense minister appeared to confirm on Indian television that both his country’s senior military and civilian leadership knew of Osama bin Laden’s presence in their country at the time of his death in 2011. (Ishaan Tharoor)
  6. The White House accused Iran of likely breaching a UN Security Council resolution when it tested a long-range ballistic missile. (AFP)
  7. Dutch investigators said a Russian-developed Buk missile brought down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine, but the report does not assign blame or responsibility.
  8. “The head of al-Qaeda’s offshoot in Syria has called on followers to carry out retaliatory attacks in Russia, raising the specter of blowback on Russian soil over Moscow’s military intervention to aid Syria’s embattled government.” (Loveday Morris and Natasha Abbakumova)
  9. Lamar Odom, former Los Angeles Laker and member of the Kardashian family by marriage, was found unconscious in a Nevada brothel and has been hospitalized. (Justin Wm. Moyer)
  10. Peru is doing little to stop the growing flow of cocaine out of the country.
  11. “A 55-year-old American missionary was ambushed and killed by gunmen while driving in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Saturday. A 4-year-old child who was traveling with her was abducted and hasn’t been seen since the incident.” (Abby Phillip)
  12. New Hubble Telescope images show that the Red Spot on Jupiter is shrinking. In the last year, it shrunk by 150 miles and is now half the width it was a century ago, when it was around 25,000 miles across. (NASA)


  1. Donald Trump will host “Saturday Night Live” on Nov. 7.
  2. Carly Fiorina raised $6.8 million in the third quarter. She spent just $2.2 million during that time and has $5.5 million cash on hand, a low burn rate of 34 percent. (Matea Gold)
  3. A D.C.-based staffer for Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.) was arrested last week in Baltimore after allegedly beating his lover with a shovel. Levin, the ranking member on the House Ways and Means Committee, has put his 32-year-old online communications director on unpaid leave.
  4. Former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell formally asked the Supreme Court to review his conviction on corruption charges in a filing that spanned 36 pages of arguments with hundreds more in appendices. (Matt Zapotosky)
  5. Rand Paul livestreamed his day on the trail in Iowa. The highlight of an otherwise boring day was when he listened to Metallica as he was driven between events. (Ben Terris)
  6. Democrat Deborah Ross, a former North Carolina state House member, will announce today that she is challenging Republican Sen. Richard Burr next year. (WRAL)


—”The secret surveillance of ‘suspicious’ blacks in one of the nation’s poshest neighborhoods,” by Terrence McCoy: Georgetown retailer “Julia Walter reached for her phone and accessed a private messaging application that hundreds of residents, retailers and police in this overwhelmingly white, wealthy neighborhood use to discuss people they deem suspicious. ‘2 black males screaming at each other in alley,’ Walter wrote. ‘. . . Help needed’ … The application ‘SketchFactor,’ which invited users to report ‘sketchy’ people, faced allegations of racism in both the District and New York. Another social network roiled Oakland, Calif., when white residents used to cite ‘suspicious activity’ about black neighbors. Taking it even further was, which asked users to rate neighborhoods based on whether they thought they were ‘safe’ or a ‘ghetto.’ Now ‘Operation GroupMe’ is stirring controversy in Georgetown.” A review showed that 70 percent of 6,000 “GroupMe” messages since last March focused on African-Americans.

— “Federal prosecutors will call on Ron Paul to make case against former aides,” by David Weigel:  “Paul will be called as a witness in a case against former campaign staffers who allegedly falsified finance reports as they paid a state senator for his endorsement. The government’s case, presented in opening arguments Tuesday, describes the three-time presidential candidate as a sort of casualty of a scheme he never approved … The trial, which is expected to last into next week, pits federal investigators against former Paul campaign chairman/spokesman Jesse Benton and former deputy campaign manager Dimitri Kesari. (Charges against campaign manager John Tate, named in an indictment this summer, were dropped.)”

— “Why nobody wants the job of House speaker,” by PowerPost’s Elise Viebeck: “In the current environment, what was once a role with substantial prestige and authority has become a slog of epic proportions — a merciless, unstable grind navigating crises, tamping down rebellions and trying, often in vain, to preserve the dignity of the House as an institution … As party loyalty diminishes in an age of social media and members turn to cable news to bring their messages directly to voters, the speaker’s ability to herd his pack is checked.”


— ZIGNAL VISUAL: Our analytics partners at Zignal Labs tracked more than 2.2 million mentions of the Democratic debate during the two-hour event. Here’s a breakdown of the mentions for each of the five candidates on stage:

Sanders captured 43 percent of the media chatter during the debate, followed by Clinton with 33 percent. Jim Webb was a solid third place, earning more mentions than both Chafee and O’Malley COMBINED.

Here is an annotated chart showing some of the debate highlights. Note how Sanders played in each of the three biggest moments of the night. His line about Clinton’s email prompted the largest spike for both frontrunners. And his praise of Jim Webb’s war record led to the former Virginia senator’s biggest social media moment:

Meanwhile, Trump’s decision to “live tweet” the debate earned him the media attention he craves. While not cracking the top two, Trump received more media mentions during the debate than the three lesser-known Democrats:

—Pictures of the day:

Hillary in the green room a few minutes before the debate began (notice the chilled champagne at the ready):

Bill, meanwhile, watched from a hotel:

Martin O’Malley warmed up for the debate with a little guitar practice:

Las Vegas entertainer Wayne Newton was in the audience:

— Tweets of the day:

The Sanders campaign immediately repeated his line on Clinton’s emails, noting afterward that he was the most retweeted candidate of the night and gained more followers than anyone else:

Within minutes, Sanders sent a fundraising email off the moment:

Wasserman Schultz promoted an alternative to Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” hat:

Mike Huckabee live-tweeted much of the debate, with an eye toward earning free media:

Vanilla Ice, the washed-up rapper, declared Sanders the winner of the debate, followed by Hillary in “a close second.”

Meanwhile, outside of debate world, Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) was overjoyed by the Cubs 6-4 win over the St. Louis Cardinals, which allowed them to carry the division series three games to one:

— Instagrams of the day:

Supporters of Clinton and Sanders got creative with their debate-night desserts:

One Sanders supporter debuted this shirt:

Outside of debate world, Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) celebrated fall with a new mailbox:


— The New Yorker, “How to beat Hillary Clinton,” by Ryan Lizza: “While it’s true that Obama had a superior organization and an optimistic message, the real beginning of the end for Hillary Clinton was when Obama attacked her greatest vulnerability: her character. The kill-Hillary strategy began with an October memo that was written by several top Obama officials, including [David] Axelrod, [Larry] Grisolano, [Dan] Pfeiffer, the campaign manager David Plouffe, and Joel Benenson, Obama’s pollster. ‘Joel Benenson was a key contributor to how we stack up against her message-wise,’ Grisolano said … Obama’s strategists argued that the ‘key premise’ of the campaign was that 2008 would be a change election, and that while Hillary was trying to ‘define this as change from George Bush,’ Obama had a broader definition, one that emphasized her weaknesses … 

“The next section was headlined, ‘The Fault Line: Hillary’s the Problem, Not the Answer,’ and the strategists laid out the case against Clinton in stark terms, explaining that everything in Obama’s campaign, including his slogan—’Change you can believe in’—was meant to provide a contrast with Hillary, not on policy, but on character.” The story quotes directly from the memo, which argued that Clinton could not represent change because: “she’s driven by political calculation not conviction;” “she embodies trench warfare vs. Republicans;” and “she prides herself on working the system.”

— Associated Press, “California’s sweeping new policies could set trend,” by Juliet Williams: “California ends its legislative season having enacted some of the country’s most aggressive social policies: Laws requiring student vaccinations, granting terminally ill people the right to take life-ending medications, and mandating equal pay for women were among dozens approved. The range of sweeping new laws in the most populous state reflects legislators’ desire to set a national trend on progressive social and environmental issues while sidestepping more thorny economic matters.”

–Reuters, “Jeb Bush says Russia should face consequences over Syria,” by Steve Holland:  Jeb “vowed on Tuesday to take a more aggressive approach to countering Russia if he is elected president next year, calling Vladimir Putin an ‘agile adversary’ who is exploiting a vacuum of U.S. leadership in Syria and elsewhere. In an interview with Reuters, Bush said that … he would seek to build a coalition of European and Arab partners to work for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which he said is key to resolving the festering conflict and a worsening refugee crisis. Calling Putin a ‘bully,’ Bush said the United States and Europe should also extend sanctions against Moscow over its military aggression in Ukraine that are set to expire at year’s end.”

The Onion (satire), “Blood runs down House of Representatives walls as chamber itself selects new Speaker”: “According to reports, the blood flooded the chamber’s upper gallery and then spilled over onto the speaker’s rostrum, at which point the name ‘Peter Roskam,’ intoned in an unholy growl that seemed to rise from the very depths of damnation, could be heard reverberating throughout the Capitol. Witnesses told reporters that after hearing his name called, the Illinois Republican and chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight was visibly shaking as he walked alone to the front of the chamber and seated himself in the blood-drenched speaker’s chair. At press time, House Republicans had decided that Roskam had not been willing enough to take on President Obama and were aggressively seeking his replacement.”


Dem candidates affirm that Black Lives Matter. From MSNBC: Democratic presidential candidates stumbled early in their campaigns by underestimating the growing political power of the Black Lives Matter social movement. But in Tuesday night’s debate, those 2016 hopefuls were out to prove that they would not be caught flat-footed again. ‘Black lives matter,’ Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said unequivocally … The course correction comes after activists disrupted the progressive confab Netroots Nation in July, taking over the stage with demands to be heard. The confrontation left Democratic candidates at a loss for words.”


The Republicans’ incompetence caucus. From David Brooks in the New York Times: “The House Republican caucus is close to ungovernable these days. How did this situation come about? This was not just the work of the Freedom Caucus or Ted Cruz or one month’s activity. The Republican Party’s capacity for effective self-governance degraded slowly, over the course of a long chain of rhetorical excesses, mental corruptions and philosophical betrayals. Basically, the party abandoned traditional conservatism for right-wing radicalism. Republicans came to see themselves as insurgents and revolutionaries, and every revolution tends toward anarchy and ends up devouring its own.”


— What’s happening today on the campaign trail: Hillary Clinton hosts a campaign rally in Las Vegas. Donald Trump rallies with supporters in Richmond. In New Hampshire, Jeb Bush tours a business in Manchester and attends a town hall in Concord while John Kasich stops in North Woodstock, Plymouth, Meredith and Tuftonboro. In Iowa, Ted Cruz campaigns in Kalona, Sigourney, Oskaloosa and Adel. Mike Huckabee greets voters in Urbandale, Ottumwa, Fairfield and Douds. 

–On the Hill: Congress is in recess. 

–At the White House: President Obama and Vice President Biden meet with Secretary of State John Kerry. Biden delivers opening remarks at the White House Build America Investment Initiative Roundtable. In the evening, Obama hosts an event featuring performances by Buddy Guy, Queen Latifah, Audra McDonald, Smokey Robinson and others. 

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Can anyone imagine Chafee as president? No way.” — Donald Trump, who live-tweeted his reactions to the Democratic debate


“Not too chilly to start, with wake-up temps mainly in the 50s. We’ll see a mix of sun and clouds as we go through the day, and a bit of a breeze from the west around 10-15 mph. Highs hit that October sweet spot, in the upper 60s to near 70,” says the Capital Weather Gang.

— Without Alex Ovechkin, the Capitals lost, 5-0, to the San Jose Sharks.


Watch Jimmy Fallon and friends spoof Obama, Trump, Bush and Lindsey Graham:

Kendall Jenner taped a video for Rock the Vote:

Jim Webb had a sort of creepy smile after suggesting he killed an enemy soldier:

The Internet went nuts for an audience member in Las Vegas, comparing him to Gandalf, Dumbledore and Santa:

Finally, here’s that handshake between Clinton and Sanders: