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 16926 DemocraticDebateWrapUpPhoto Credit: Politico.com

They've certainly been the lesser talked about political party this election cycle, but the Democrats showed us why that may be a good thing as they delved deep into important issues instead of gossip and hearsay during their first televised debate of the 2016 election cycle. 

The real winner was the Democratic Party itself, which came out looking much more civilized, professional, and presidential than its GOP counterpart. While the candidates strayed away from cutting personal attacks on each other, they held nothing back when it came to the GOP, especially Donald Trump. Martin O'Malley referred to the real estate mogul as "that carnival barker in the Republican Party."

O'Malley, along with Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee had the most ground to cover in terms of public recognition. The candidates did a great job at distancing themselves from the rhetoric of the Republicans but had a tougher time setting themselves apart from everyone else on stage, especially Hillary Clinton.

The former Secretary of State's vote in favor for the Iraq War has come back to haunt her in the past and this debate was no exception. Sanders called the invasion "the worst foreign policy blunder in the history of this country." Unlike when Obama challenged her judgement on foreign policy back in '08, Clinton was able to come back with a strong response:

"After the election, (Obama) asked me to become Secretary of State. He valued my judgement, and I spent a lot of time with him."

Bernie Sanders has been nipping at the frontrunner's lead for the past few months, so Clinton came out swinging against him on his biggest weak point: gun control. It was the closest the night came to getting feisty with both candidates offering a heated exchange on their voting history on the issue. 

The debate offered little in the way of surprises, with many agreeing Clinton had the best performance, with Sanders also making important headway in getting his message out there. Among the lesser known names on stage, Martin O'Malley made the biggest splash, providing some of the night's most memorable quotes. He used his fight for gun safety laws as a way to set himself apart from Clinton and Sanders and delivered a clear and concise stance on the issue.

The end of the debate saw the frontrunners hold their ground without too many surprises but a lot can change going forward. Clinton's grip on the lead continues to falter as Vice President Joe Biden flirts with the idea of jumping in the race. It might not be as dramatic as the GOP race, but the future of the Democratic primary is sure to hold excitement where it matters most in the election - the issues. 

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