The one take away from the first Democratic debate should be crystal clear to anyone who saw it. Bernie held serve as the outsider candidate, but Hillary did what she had to do. She reestablished herself as the party's likely nominee. How? By not playing it like she did eight years ago.
If you remember, Hillary was the heir apparent of the Democratic Party. Her husband, Bill, was a successful two-term president and left office with a $300 billion surplus. George Bush took that surplus and turned it into a $1.4 trillion deficit. It was the logical assumption by many that another Clinton would restore the country to where it was when Bill ran the show.
The problem for Hillary was that a young, charismatic, first-term senator named Barack Obama stole her lunch money on the way to the cafeteria and Hillary didn't take it too well. She was very combative and looked anything but presidential. The fact is, Obama owed his rise to power as much to Clinton's inept conduct on the campaign trail as his seemingly flawless strategy.
This time around, facing stiff opposition from another charismatic - though considerably older - opponent, Hillary did a 180. She played it low key and spoke about who she was and what she wanted to accomplish as president. But more importantly, she didn't get personal. Indeed, the only time she went after Sanders was on gun control, where he was, quite frankly, very vulnerable. Aside from that, she took the high road.
This strategy - I call it winning by not losing - is one that many shrewd investors use, and I believe it is the only way Hillary can beat Bernie for the nomination. The two candidates are very similar on the issues. Bernie's more gung ho on breaking up the banks and Hillary is for stiffer gun regulation, but aside from that, the two might as well be kissing cousins. Yes, it's true she's been pushed to the left by Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. So what? Bill had to be pushed to the left.
The deciding factor for most voters will come down to personality. And this time around, Hillary didn't shoot herself in the foot. She was, dare I say it, presidential. It's clear she's learned a thing or two from how Obama has conducted himself both as a candidate and as commander in chief. It's also clear she's taken a page out of her husband's playbook. Play nice with the other kids. Voters like that in a candidate. Makes you wonder what might've happened had she done that eight years ago. Alas, we'll never know.
What we do know is this: Hillary needed a strong performance to quell the anxiety of her supporters and she came through. She didn't go for the knockout punch the way she tried to do with Obama eight years ago. She looked cool and collected and far more prepared than I've ever seen her. Bernie still has the edge in passion, but passion alone doesn't win elections. If it did, Howard Dean would've been elected president in 2004.
Look, I'm not saying Hillary Clinton is home free. There are more debates to come and plenty of time for her to blow this thing. Then there's that stupid congressional committee that she'll be testifying in front of. Anything can happen, as anybody who's ever followed politics will tell you. But one thing's for certain: If you are a Hillary supporter, you can now exhale. She did good. In fact, she did damn good. Better than that, she didn't lose.
And that counts loads.