Here are some thoughts before I go to bed.
The biggest theme of the debate was class warfare, unsurprisingly. Given how popular that theme is, and not just among liberals (as we saw in the 2012 presidential campaign), Republicans should be cautious about choosing another candidate who's highly susceptible to the typical class warfare approach the Democrats take. Among the current frontrunners, Trump, Bush, and Fiorina are the most vulnerable. Somebody like Rubio or Carson would be far better. We need to argue against the Democrats on class warfare issues, and we shouldn't reject a candidate just because he's wealthy or comes from a wealthy background. But it's better to have a messenger who isn't as susceptible to the class warfare demagoguery as Romney was.
Sanders said something to the effect that the poor and the middle class are the economic backbone of the nation. He also said that all of the money in the nation goes to the rich. How does that work?
Clinton proposed some sort of expansion of government (to cover college expenses, ensure paid time off work, or something like that), and she concluded with a comment to the effect that we should "make the wealthy pay for it". She also suggested that Republicans are wrong for opposing big government on such issues while supporting big government on matters of abortion. So, we're supposed to believe that an appropriate role of government is to pay for even more of your college education and make sure you get even more paid time off work, whereas protecting children from being murdered is an inappropriate role for the government to have. Isn't that sort of like saying that an architect should stop concerning himself with the foundation of a building and give more attention to putting increasingly decorative and expensive blinds on the windows?
The candidates (except Chafee) and the audience were dismissive of Clinton's scandals. Sanders went so far as to use vulgarity to express his disgust with how much attention the scandals were getting, and the audience repeatedly cheered, loudly and extensively, when the candidates made dismissive comments about the scandals. That tells you a lot about the character of the Democratic party. And it's to the credit of Chafee (who, probably not coincidentally, is a former Republican) that he resisted the tendency to be so dismissive of character issues and scandals. Given the significant nature of the scandals Clinton has been involved in, such as the national security implications involved, I'd suggest that the Republicans prepare themselves to argue clearly and succinctly against the Democrats' dismissive attitude. Tonight's debate gave us a preview of what we can expect next year. You can be as corrupt as Hillary Clinton, and they'll dismiss that corruption with little hesitation and with loud cheering.
Clinton said that she didn't want people to vote for her because of her last name. Yet, she repeatedly suggested that people should vote for her because of her gender. The two themes don't go well together.
Webb spent too much time complaining about how little he was being allowed to speak. People don't like hearing complaints about that sort of thing, and I don't understand why some candidates keep making such an issue of it. As I recall, Rick Santorum has done that a lot over the years as well. They ought to stop doing it. If you aren't getting as much time as you'd like, look for a way to change the situation without spending so much time complaining about it.
O'Malley came across as too scripted. So did Chafee. By contrast, Sanders came across as the most sincere and the most passionate.
Clinton did better than I expected. She's not as good of a communicator or debater as her husband, and she's often bad at both. But she's had a lot of experience now, and she sometimes has good moments and even relatively good overall debate performances. That should serve as another reminder that the Republicans need to place a lot of value on communication and debating skills. Rubio, Fiorina, and Huckabee are the best in that regard. Among them, Rubio is the best overall candidate.