Washington: Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders looked to build on their strong Democratic presidential debate performances that appeared to narrow any opening for a White House bid by Vice President Joe Biden.
Sanders, a Vermont senator, has built an insurgent campaign that draws huge crowds — nearly always bigger than Clinton's — and boasts far more individual donors than the former secretary of state. But he's still introducing himself to voters nationally — a task made obvious Tuesday night as he had to explain his identity as a "democratic socialist."
Clinton, meanwhile, already is widely known to the electorate, and she is working methodically not to repeat the mistakes of her 2008 campaign, when then-Sen. Barack Obama used an impressive nuts-and-bolts operation to overtake Clinton's favored campaign.
The debate was the first for the Democratic hopefuls with nearly four months to go before primary voting begins and more than a year before Election Day. On the Republican side, billionaire Donald Trump has surprised the political world with his rise to the top of the polls, but no clear favorite has emerged among a crowded field of contenders.
Clinton defended her record on foreign affairs, including her 2003 vote to authorize the Iraq War — and issue that Obama successfully hammered her on in their 2008 primary battle. Clinton used the discussion to align herself with the president, who remains extremely popular among Democratic voters.
"After the (2008) election, he asked me to become secretary of state," she noted. "He valued my judgment, and I spent a lot of time with him in the Situation Room, going over some very difficult issues."
Perhaps most important for Clinton, she left many observers wondering whether Biden still has an opening for a late entry into the race. At a White House meeting Wednesday, Biden said he was proud of all the candidates who took part in the debate and thought they did well.
David Axelrod, an unaligned Democratic strategist who helped mastermind Obama's 2008 campaign, said on Wednesday Clinton emerged stronger with a "very self-assured, powerful performance" that should give Biden pause, while Sanders had a strong performance but still fell short of projecting the persona of a nominee. Sanders, he said, appears to be running to pull the party leftward.
The senator delivered one of the most memorable moments when he decried the focus on Clinton's use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state. The controversy had raised security questions that Republicans have seized on.
Sanders he made clear that he wasn't necessarily defending Clinton but bemoaned the attention the controversy takes away from other matters, particularly his focus on an uneven economy tilted to those already at the top.
"I think the American people want substantive debate on the issues affecting their families," he told CNN late Tuesday after the debate, during which he outlined his pitch for universal health care, free college tuition and paid family leave, ideas he said he'd pay for with tax hikes on wealthy Americans.
Both Clinton and Sanders camps declared the debate a success. Sanders' campaign says that he raised more than $1.3 million since the start of the debate and that social media measures showed Sanders led Google searches and some Twitter metrics during and after the debate.
Three other candidates, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, struggled to make an impact that would lift them from the bottom of the polls.
Updated Date: Oct 15, 2015 07:45:26 IST