Analysis: Marco Rubio Wins the Democratic Debate

Marco Rubio
The Associated Press

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was the dominant presence onstage at Drake University in Iowa for the Democratic debate. But Republican Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was the winner.

Rubio found his way into a question from moderator John Dickerson of CBS News, who said: “Secretary Clinton, you mentioned radical jihadists. Marco Rubio, also running for president, said this attack showed it’s attack in Paris showed that we are at war with radical Islam. Do you agree with that characterization, ‘radical Islam?'”

Clinton refused to use the term–as did her rivals, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley.

Sanders actually went further, saying that climate change remains a greater threat than terrorism, and that “climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism.”

The Democrats’ responses created a giant target for Republicans, who will use Saturday evening’s debate to clarify the distinctions between the two parties at a time when Islamic terrorism is on the advance around the world.

Several candidates had already commented earlier in the day about President Barack Obama’s refusal to say the word “radical Islam.”

CBS could have chosen to quote any one of those candidates, many of whom have made the same point as Rubio, but chose to quote him–perhaps a reflection of a bias among media and Beltway insiders, who consider Rubio a future frontrunner.

For his part, Rubio retweeted a criticism on Saturday night: