Hillary Clinton may very well have locked up the Democratic nomination at Thursday night’s debate in Brooklyn.
The main theme that ran throughout each of Clinton’s pointed answers was “it’s easy to diagnose the problem. It’s hard to do something about it.” It’s a brilliant tack for her to take especially as more critics have been pointing out flaws in Sanders’s plans, especially when it comes to funding his free college for all and universal health care plans.
And it worked a charm.
Sanders suffered for it. She buried him in details no matter the topic. From breaking up the banks – Sanders’s signature issue that he notably struggled with during his recent Daily News interview – to tackling climate change to raising the minimum wage to the conflict in the Middle East between Israel and the Palestinians, Clinton showed how deep her understanding of the issues is and the level of specificity with which she has crafted plans to address them.
That doesn’t mean that she was without flaws, but she did better handling them than in previous debates. For instance, Clinton is still shaky on releasing her Goldman Sachs speech transcripts and the approach of calling Sanders out for not releasing his tax returns yet doesn’t exonerate her. But where she is now improved is jumping on Sanders for having absolutely no evidence that she ever made a decision based on her Wall Street ties (special thanks to Dana Bash for asking the question in the first place).
Concerning her position on the minimum wage, Clinton tried to take credit for being for a $15 minimum wage when she’s actually only for a federal $12 minimum wage. Her approach is one that I agree with in that we should set a responsible floor and let cities decide if they can go to $15 based on their local economies. Although this isn’t the position of the progressive left, her explanation of the importance of making incremental improvements appeared to resonate with the audience and with the viewers at home.
And then there was her defense of our intervention in Libya, which Obama called one of his biggest regrets but one that Clinton was very much committed to. This will continue to be a sticking point for her, but she handled the criticism adeptly by pointing out that final decisions are made by presidents whether it be President Obama or President Clinton, alluding to the flack she’s taking for her husband’s 1994 Crime Bill (even though Sanders voted for the bill himself in Congress). It was a very slick move and one that will have also registered with voters.
As usual, Bernie was on message. He talked about the rigged economy, the dangers that corporate America pose to the average worker and the importance of doing away with Citizens United. He reiterated his position that Clinton doesn’t have the right judgment to be president because of her vote for the Iraq War and that she has a Super PAC. But this evening it didn’t seem to matter the way it has in the past and I think that’s because he was speaking almost entirely in rhetoric while she was offering clear ideas and solutions.
The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows that Clinton is up by 17 percent in New York. That’s not apt to change and with Sanders heading Friday to the Vatican, he’s giving up key campaigning time. If she wins this big in New York – and she could certainly win in double digits – Sanders’s momentum will be slowed. He won’t drop out, but there will be an even greater case that he should.
Douglas E. Schoen has served as a pollster for President Bill Clinton. He has more than 30 years experience as a pollster and political consultant. He is also a Fox News contributor and co-host of "Fox News Insiders" Sundays on Fox News Channel at 7 pm ET. He is the author of 13 books. His latest is "Putin's Master Plan" (Encounter Books, September 27, 2016). Follow Doug on Twitter @DouglasESchoen.