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The candidates have arrived in Vegas (with the notable exception of is-he-or-isn’t-he-running Joe Biden, whose window to make a surprise appearance has come and gone) and the ratings expectations have been suitably dampened.
The looming 2016 figure who is not in the room tonight, Donald Trump, has both predicted a night of unrelenting boredom and promised to watch it all and share his thoughts via Twitter:
.@realDonaldTrump Glad you’ll be watching. It’s going to be “huge.”
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) October 13, 2015
The man whose job all of these candidates want has not committed to watching the entire debate, however. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said today “I wouldn’t be surprised if the president catches part of the debate tonight. I don’t think that he will watch it wire-to-wire.”
We’ll be here with you until the bitter end, so let’s get this thing started. Our moderator is Anderson Cooper, with questions coming tonight from Dana Bash and Juan Carlos Lopez. CNN’s Don Lemon will present questions submitted via Facebook and Instagram (hashtag tonight is #DemDebate).
8:40 p.m. ET: Candidates, Crow The candidates have taken the stage (still no Biden, btw) and everyone stands for the National Anthem, performed by Sheryl Crow. A few groans on Twitter as CNN goes to a commercial break instead of starting the debate.
8:48 p.m. ET: Oh NOW It Starts? CNN advertised the start time for the debate as 8:30, but we don’t *really* get underway until 8:48 with two-minute introductions.
Tonight will be the first Democratic presidential primary debate in 7 1/2 years — last one was Obama vs. Hillary in April 2008
— Mark Murray (@mmurraypolitics) October 13, 2015
8:54 p.m. ET: Sanders Takes on the Rich and Powerful “Our campaign finance system is corrupt…and undermining our democracy,” he says, immediately taking a harder tone than the soft introductions of Webb, Chafee and O’Malley. Instead of building more jails, he says, “maybe, just maybe” we should invest in colleges.
Chafee: “I have three kids” Webb: “I have five kids” O’Malley: “I have four kids” Sanders: “Our campaign finance system is corrupt” — Andrew Katz (@katz) October 14, 2015
8:57 p.m. ET: “You Too Can Grow Up to Be President” The frontrunner reminds the audience that she’s the granddaughter of a factory worker and the grandmother of a beautiful one-year-old granddaughter. Clinton pitches to history, saying finally, fathers will be able to say to their daughters, “you too can grow up to be president.”
9:00 p.m. ET: Anderson Comes Out Swinging: Cooper, who said he wouldn’t ask “gotcha” questions or pit candidates against each other, opens with a tough question to Clinton on flip-flopping.
Tough opening question for #Hillary2016 that goes to heart of the trust question – will she say anything to get elected.
— Jon Sopel (@BBCJonSopel) October 14, 2015
9:13 p.m. ET: Harder Hitting. Cooper gets good reviews for the first round of tough questions. At The New Republic, Bijan Stephen writes “questions from the conspicuously handsome moderator—even two in!—feel much harder-hitting than any from the previous Republican debates. His questions on Hillary’s apparent commitment to political ‘expediency’ and Bernie’s ‘electability’ have been revealing. It’s a smart move that makes the Dems seem smarter.”
9:19 p.m. ET: “No, not at all.” A tough conversation involving most of the candidates on the question of guns. Sanders takes a hit from Clinton, who is asked if Sen. Sanders is tough enough on guns. “No, not at all,” she says.
9:25 p.m. ET: “He Valued My Judgment” After Chafee and Sanders raised questions about Clinton’s lack of judgment in voting in favor of the war in Iraq, Dana Bash confronted Clinton on the question of judgment. Clinton said President Obama chose her as Secretary of State because “he valued my judgment.”
9:30 p.m. ET: “I’ve Been Waiting 10 Minutes” Jim Webb is unhappy with the amount of time he’s gotten, and he gets little sympathy from Anderson Cooper.
The CNN debate is good and these questions are tough and good.
— Hunter Schwarz (@hunterschwarz) October 14, 2015
9:45 p.m. ET: “I’m Still Standing” Confronted on Benghazi and the email scandal, Clinton uses new revelations about the Benghazi committee to describe attacks on her as political. “I’m still standing,” she says.
9:48 p.m. ET: An Assist to Clinton from…Sanders “People are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails,” says Sanders. “Enough of the emails, let’s talk about the issues.”
Sanders’ comments get a handshake from Clinton, and a standing ovation in the hall.
10:00 p.m. ET: O’Malley Hits Clinton on Wall Street Why? Well, Google Trends data shows what the candidates not named Clinton and Sanders are up against–here’s search traffic ahead of tonight’s debate:
— GoogleTrends (@GoogleTrends) October 13, 2015
10:13 p.m. ET: Question from Juan Carlos Lopez on Latinos. Who is Juan Carlos Lopez, you ask? Here’s some background.
A few commenters have noted that Don Lemon asked a question about Black Lives Matter, and Lopez asked questions about Latino issues. And then, there was this:
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.
— Dave Itzkoff (@ditzkoff) October 14, 2015
10:45 p.m. ET: Who Smoked Pot? The question–from Juan Carlos Lopez, no less–on recreational marijuana gets a probable yes from Sanders, who did smoke pot, but a “not yet” from Clinton, who says she did not.
10:53 p.m. ET: “Which Enemy Are You Most Proud Of?” Asked whose enmity they have earned that most pleases them, O’Malley says the NRA, Clinton says “Iran…the Republicans,” and Sanders says “Wall Street.”
11:02 p.m. ET: And That’s It A lively debate moderated strongly by Anderson Cooper. What will the ratings look like?