Who won the first Democratic debate?

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders spar in Las Vegas
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders spar in Las Vegas

The first Democratic debate of the election season saw fewer fireworks than the two Republican showdowns, but it still featured some tense moments of disagreement.

Many commentators were quick to call former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton the winner, but Sen. Bernie Sanders hit the main points that will likely keep his base intact.

Below is a first-impression list of the debate's winners and losers.

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during the first official Democratic candidates debate of the 2016 presidential campaign in Las Vegas, Nevada October 13, 2015.
Lucy Nicholson | Reuters

Debate Winners

Obama's Legacy

There were few substantive disagreements with the policies or actions of President Barack Obama during the debate. Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley said at the beginning of the night that, thanks to the president, "our country has come a long way."

Clinton also celebrated Obama, implying his decision to make her secretary of state was proof alone of her foreign policy judgment. Twice, she mentioned her actions alongside the president in meeting with the Chinese on climate change issues.

Even a question that asked the debaters how they would be different than Obama elicited few criticisms. Sanders said he had a lot of respect for the president, former Sen. Jim Webb said he would rely less on executive orders, and Clinton simply called attention to her gender difference.

Bernie Sanders' policy

The Vermont senator hit all of his main policy points during the night's debate, but other candidates were quick to highlight their agreement with the self-professed democratic socialist.

O'Malley and Clinton found themselves starting statements by acknowledging similarities with Sanders, but his effect could even be seen in answers that didn't include a name-check. Attacks on Wall Street, foreign policy points and critiques of the campaign finance system all mirrored key Sanders opinions.

The biggest disagreements with the senator came on his gun control stance: Several of the candidates actually moved to the left of him on the issue.

Clinton's preparation

The Clinton camp may feel the highlight of the night came when Sanders declared "Enough of the damn emails, let's talk about the real issues facing America," but the leading candidate also had strong moments of her own.

Pundits were quick to praise Clinton's preparation as the debate wrapped up, citing her deft handling of a slew of criticisms. Not only did the former first lady have answers ready on her emails and her record on Iraq, but she also had clear and concise answers on trade and entitlements.

Todd tweet.

Some have already said that Clinton got off easy on the topic of Wall Street, but she did mount a defense of her positions — even boasting that her plan is tougher than some of her Democratic competitors'.

O'Malley's bid for vice president

In part because of the order that moderators asked questions, O'Malley spent much of Tuesday night agreeing with others on the stage. Still, some commentators said he was already angling for a top position with another Democratic candidate.

The former Maryland governor had some strong moments, but never firmly articulated why he was a much stronger nominee than his competitors. In fact, one of his best-received answers of the night came when he issued an argument for the Democratic Party as a whole. The crowd cheered when O'Malley said the debate featured "an honest search for the answers that will move our country forward" — as opposed to what he said the Republican debates looked like.

Democratic presidential candidates Jim Webb, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Hillary Clinton, Martin O'Malley and Lincoln Chafee take the stage for a presidential debate sponsored by CNN and Facebook at Wynn Las Vegas on October 13, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Getty Images

Debate Losers

Lincoln Chafee

Lincoln Chafee — the former mayor, senator, and Rhode Island governor — drew significant flak online and in television punditry for his comment explaining why he voted to repeal Glass-Steagall in 1999.

"The Glass-Steagall was my very first vote, I just arrived, my dad had died in office, I was appointed to office, it was my very first vote," Chafee said. "I just arrived at Senate. I think we get some takeovers and that was one of my very first votes ... it was 90 to 5."

Fallows tweet

Donald Trump

There were relatively few references to Republican front-runner Donald Trump during the debate — especially compared with how often the GOP debates featured attacks on Clinton.

And while the real estate mogul was live-tweeting the event, the only real attack on his candidacy came from O'Malley, who called him "that carnival barker in the Republican Party."

The Democrats seemed to be signaling that they were not taking Trump seriously (a view shared by some conservative talking heads).

Wall Street

To absolutely no one's surprise, Wall Street proved a significant punching bag. The candidates all fought to claim they would be the toughest on the American financial sector. In fact, Sanders happily named Wall Street as one of the groups at the top of his list "of people who don't like me."

The closest thing to a defense of the system came from Clinton's comment that it would be a mistake for the country to entirely turn its back on the capitalist system.