Like it did in 2008, the Clinton campaign has underestimated the political skills of its rivals. And at the start of the town hall, Bernie Sanders is showing off his political skills.
Asked about the conflict between the U.S. government and Apple, Sanders sided with ... the U.S. government and Apple. (In truth, his answer was quite good—he essentially argued that we needed to balance liberty and safety.) When asked about calling for a primary challenge of President Obama in 2011, Sanders totally dodged the question, and praised Obama’s presidency and touted their working relationship. And when asked about his criticism of Bill Clinton earlier in the day, he scolded Chuck Todd for getting the context wrong and then ... praised Clinton’s presidency. Sanders got some substantive criticism in, of course, but he mostly bobbed and weaved.
Things got better when Todd and Jose Diaz-Balart let the audience take over. Their questions have been perhaps the best we’ve seen in any debate so far this year. They’re tough questions, touching on many of Sanders’s perceived weaknesses: feminism, racial justice, and the costs of his economic policies. Intersectionality also got its first (I think) mention of the primary season. For the most part, Sanders handled those questions very well and much more directly, even joking about the fact that Bernie boy-hater Gloria Steinem made him an “honorary woman.” If Clinton gets the same tough treatment, this will be the rarest of birds: a good town hall debate.