Those Democrats are loud, or at least Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are. Bernie shouted in pretty consistent character, and he impressed the focus group of Democrats with his passion about being a loud and proud socialist. Others (Hillary supporters!) say he sounded too much like George Costanza and could use a little serenity now. The median Democratic response might well remain: I admire that guy, but probably not as the actual president. Even Webb made a point of his affectionate admiration for Bernie.
Bernie’s killer line was deploying “damn” to damn the unwarranted attention on Hillary’s e-mail at the expense of real issues. That really helped him, but it, of course, helped her more. Bernie’s most counterproductive moment was saying that we should be more like Denmark, which allowed Hillary to respond that, as much as she likes the Danes, we should remain more like ourselves.
Overall, Clinton held her own more than well enough, and she certainly effectively developed the “brand” that she’s more realistic and, as a result, really tougher than Sanders when it comes to disciplining the excesses of those (sometimes) evildoing capitalists, getting parental leave that really works, and so forth.
O’Malley showed promise of becoming a contender, except he lacked courage when it counted. He backed off on the e-mail thing, and, in general, seemed to be running for vice president or a place in the Clinton administration.
The Democratic candidates were allowed to focus on issues Democrats really care about, and there was no serious attempt in the questions to question the legitimacy of their points of view. And all the candidates save Webb dutifully enhanced the Democratic brand, and so the debate probably slightly helped the Democratic cause. Republicans have cause to complain.
Overall, it was a pretty boring way to spend a couple of hours. And boring is HRC’s friend. Nothing happened to undermine the perception that, despite it all, she remains the party’s presumptive nominee.
So the real loser was Biden. Those e-mails, finally, are his ticket into the race. (And arguably both Hillary and Bernie are better off with him out.)