Democrats Discover the Joys of Internecine Warfare

Was anyone watching the Democratic debate? The Sunday night of a three-day weekend sure isn’t peak viewing time, but the politics team did our typical liveblog routine over here, so whether you watched or not, we have you covered.

The candidates mixed it up more tonight than they have in any other debate—a sign both of the nearness of the Iowa caucuses and the tightening of the polls, as Bernie Sanders gains on Hillary Clinton. The two of them tangled in particular over health care, I write in my wrap:

The split over health care is a microcosm of the difference between the two candidates. Sanders offers Democratic voters an alluring, pure, crusading figure for a party moving leftward. Clinton offers them a more pragmatic but less emotionally fulfilling vision. On several occasions throughout the debate, Clinton tried to offer a reality check: However great Sanders’ goals may sound, can he really make them happen? This has always been the fundamental gap between them, but as the polls tighten and the first caucuses draw near, they have come into even sharper relief.

If this debate has much effect on the race, it will likely be in helping Democrats decide whether to vote for what they want or what they feel they need. Nothing that happened seems likely to shift the momentum significantly. That means it was a good night for Sanders, who’s been on the rise and delivered a strong performance; if he had fewer quotable moments, he also managed to avoid stumbles. Electorally, two questions highlighted the candidates’ respective difficulties. Sanders was asked why he trailed among minority voters, and Clinton why she lagged among young voters. Neither had a good answer for how they’d change these dynamics, except to say that they’d keep working at it.

Read the whole thing, and the liveblog, here.