Maybe they didn’t see a political advantage in attacking. Maybe they were exhausted after a bruising, pointless draw in Iowa. Maybe it was because the venue was named after a saint.
Whatever the reason, the candidates in the Democratic debate at St. Anselm College Friday night were surprisingly collegial, putting on a relative lovefest complete with bro-hugs, backslaps, and general agreement that, well, the seven people on the stage generally agree on most things.
That’s not to say there weren’t a few dings, but the awkward displays of camaraderie stood out in what’s been an otherwise bruising contest — even if it was just the calm before the coming storm of last-minute campaigning before New Hampshire votes on Tuesday.
At one point, a moderator tried to tee up candidates to attack Sen. Bernie Sanders, the front-runner to win the Granite State primary, by bringing up Hillary Clinton’s recent comment that nobody likes him.
Former Vice President Joe Biden left his podium to sidle up to Sanders for a big hug. And Sen. Amy Klobuchar, to Sanders’ left, chimed in.
“I like Bernie just fine,” Klobuchar said, then recalled a late Senate night when they worked together on a bipartisan amendment.
Later, Sanders said he doesn’t get too many newspaper editorial board endorsements.
“Well, you got the Conway endorsement,” Klobuchar reminded him encouragingly, referring to an editorial backing him in the Conway (N.H.) Sun.
Later still, businessman Tom Steyer got frustrated with a recurring argument about Medicare for All vs. a more incremental approach. But even in making his argument, he was complementary of his competitors.
“I have heard this debate so many darn times, and I love all these people, and they’re all right,” he said. “If we win, we can get the right thing, Bernie. I am with you. If we win, we can get the right thing, Pete and Amy. But we gotta win, or we are in deep trouble, and we keep not talking about the facts.”
The collegiality was genuine, said Sanders’ campaign manager Faiz Shakir.