Democratic Debate Serves as Clear Display of Love Lost

Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 10.43.10 AMMAGGIE HABERMAN

Friday, April 15, 2016

Good Friday morning. Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont met for their final scheduled debate of the primary season,  for which The New York Times provided live analysis and fact-checking.

The Brooklyn-based Democratic debate between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Sanders, possibly the last before the party convention in July, evoked a singular memory for some New York reporters: It was of a photograph of Edward I. Koch and Mario M. Cuomo sitting on a couch in a holding room for a mayoral debate in 1977, clearly sick of each other.

Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Sanders were very much at that point on Thursday evening, often shouting over and interrupting each other. Mr. Sanders, in particular, seemed angry, as he deployed his new, on-offense stance while saying he was provoked by Mrs. Clinton’s team. The tenor may have turned off undecided Democrats, but it made for an intense and engaged debate.

Mr. Sanders needed a major breakout moment to change the trajectory of the race. He did not get one. But he also nicked Mrs. Clinton repeatedly on issues like her paid speeches to Wall Street firms, remarks that will energize his base and will add to his belief that he should stay in the race for the foreseeable future.

Mrs. Clinton’s best answer was on the topic of guns: She repeatedly laid into Mr. Sanders for his record on a vote that benefited gun manufacturers and for his remarks in his earliest races in Vermont, a state with a thriving gun culture. The topic resonates deeply with the Democratic base, and Mr. Sanders struggled to answer questions about that support. He also stuck to his remark that Mrs. Clinton won the “Deep South,” a veiled point about her wins among heavily African-American primary voters.

Mrs. Clinton, for her part, struggled to come up with a clear answer on why she will not release transcripts from the Wall Street speeches.

But the other significant moment of the night was when Mr. Sanders talked about Israel, in the heart of a city with a large Jewish population. He was blunt in criticizing Israeli policies toward the Palestinians, and he received large cheers in the debate hall, a reminder that the politics in the Democratic Party about Israel may have shifted more than has been conventionally reported.

Mr. Sanders, appearing on television after the debate, mentioned that Mrs. Clinton had support from a “dark money” group, known as a “C4” for its tax status. It indicated a new line of attack he might use. But it also indicated, plainly, that while Mr. Sanders is not growing his base of support, he is not shrinking it either, and he is likely to remain in the race through the convention.

What We’re Watching Today

After the debate, Mr. Sanders departed for the Vatican, where, though officials say he is not expected to meet with the pope, he will address a conference on economic and social issues hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. Mrs. Clinton will head to California.
All three Republican candidates will have events in New York State. Donald J. Trump will also hold a rally in Hartford, and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas will appear on Fox News.