I largely agree with Steve S's assessements posted elsewhere, though not entirely with his characterisation of all Sanders supporters, or of his utility in the election.
As I commented in another of his "liveblogging" threads (BTW: my preference is for a single post with either updates edited in or added as comments), Clinton had the strongest presence, though Sanders was clearly second. Chaffe should just quit. Webb seems to be angling for some appointment within Defense of whomever wins. O'Malley, of whom I had little existing opinion, gained the most in my eyes -- he's not my pick, but is on my radar now. Still needs some polish, but comported himself pretty well.
All did better than any of the GOP candidates, if only for not pandering and running most principally against truth and facts.
Clinton clearly had the best performance, and did better than I'd expected. She came off far less gratingly (with a few exceptions) than she does in the campaign outtakes I catch, and her experience as Secretary of State showed clearly, possibly even in her responses, with which I disagree strongly, to questions about the so-called PATRIOT ACT (which it must be noted is a highly contrived acronym), NSA and other universal surveillance of both Americans and others worldwide, and Edward Snowden.
Sanders, whom I support at this point, was rougher, but also refreshingly direct:
COOPER: Would you shut down the NSA surveillance program?
SANDERS: Absolutely. Of course.<br><br><br>You simply don't _get_ that kind of blunt response in political discussion (even Sanders' earlier response on immigration votes, though credibly nuanced, stands as a counterexample).
The New York Times' Micheal Shear seems to have difficulty in comprehending Sander's defense of Clinton (and attack on the media) over the emails question, but that in fact plays directly to Sanders' core issue and opponent in this election. Sanders isn't running against Clinton, he's running against the oligopoly, corporate state, and influence of money, which includes the vast distraction engine which is the corporate-owned media. Though Clinton does seem to be that faction's preferred candidate, inclusive of the GOP slate.
My response to this debate: Clinton's got strong leadership qualities, but her policies still need changing. Sanders is the one force that can effectively change those. Either would be competitive against the GOP candidate. I'm backing Sanders, though should Clinton take the nomination, as she very well might, I'd support her.
But his message, backed by O'Malley, Chaffe, and Web, and in part by Clinton herself, is the key fight this election.
Other bits and mentions
Chaffe really should just step down. He was muddled, his strongest argument for himself was lack of scandal (if you're not significant enough to go after in politics these days, you're not trying hard enough, though I'd suggest Sanders is similarly rather scandal-lite), and despite a few fair policy points, he'd do far better backing another candidate, either Sanders or O'Malley (who may well be gunning for VP). Webb's another also-ran, far too wooden, though as noted, a possible DoD assignment (and IIRC he was highly placed in the Navy).
Anderson Cooper did well with the moderation, though I found some of the questions irrelevant -- commercial media's role in distraction must be acknowledged, and again, Sanders is excellent in this role. The early attacks on Sanders ("socialist", guns) did shake him. Clinton weathered that round far better. Though on analysis Sanders' responses, particularly on foreign and military policy, were stronger than they first appeared -- appearance and substance, he's got to work a bit more on the former.
Much hand-wringing in the Times about how little drama there was in the debate. Talk about fucking missing the point. This is about policies, political abilities, and substance. Even the Times seems to have forgotten how to cover this. I'd call them the biggest loser this round.
Well, after the GOP.