All five candidates came out to play Tuesday night. No big changes emerged and I suspect that polls will show a bump for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders solidifying his solid second place. Perhaps, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley moving up to a noticeable third place. Former Rhode Island Senator/Governor Lincoln Chafee and Virginia Senator Jim Webb were interesting but most likely did not help themselves very much.

Mrs. Clinton adeptly handled questions about her core values – as opposed to changing some policy positions– her knowledge of a wide range of issues, and her handling questions about both continuation of President Barack Obama and the differences she would bring. She saw Mr. Obama as very popular and had no need to separate himself, at least among this partisan crowd. As for the two problems that have stalked her candidacy – Benghazi and her private emails – she was indeed prepared. On Benghazi she said that Mr. Obama handled Libya well and that diplomats do risk their lives in difficult places. That doesn’t mean, she said, that the US does not engage.

On the emails, she admitted again her mistakes, but noted that she had answered questions, welcomed the opportunity to answer them again in public, and was eager to get on with issues that people really care about. In what is sure to be a leading sound bite from the debate, Mr. Sanders agreed by saying “I’m tired of hearing about your emails.” He and Mrs. Clinton received thunderous applause and shook hands with each other. How would she be different from Mr. Obama? She smiled – an obvious gesture about her gender.

Mr. Sanders stayed on message. He was consistent about his stand on Wall Street, income inequality, using military force only when US interests are endangered, and his role in passing an upgrade for veterans’ health care. Another big applause line was his telling Mrs. Clinton that “Congress does not regulate Wall Street. Wall Street regulates Congress and that has to stop. “ and his role in passing an upgrade for veterans’ health care. He even addressed to doubters how he would pay for college education, medical leave, universal health care, and so – in a way consistent with his anti-corporate, anti-billionaire philosophy. As for his philosophy, he addressed the idea of “democratic socialism”. Republicans, many independents, and a solid chunk of moderate Democrats will not like it. But with Bernie, what you see is what you get. He showed, like Mrs. Clinton, that he could work with others to pass legislation. No SuperPACS for this guy: 650,000 contributors averaging $30 apiece.

Mr. O’Malley solidly positioned himself as one who has actually done things: race relations, criminal justice reform, sustainable energy development, raising the minimum wage and passing a living wage, and gun control. He said he was proudest of making the NRA his enemy – a popular statement with progressive Democrats. In this regard, he did get a chance to say what he wanted to say.

Perhaps the biggest loser was the man who was not there – Vice President Joe Biden. While his draft committee ran a powerful ad showing the person and his values in Mr. Biden’s own voice, the fact is that Mrs. Clinton was just commanding tonight. Mr. Biden has to decide now and not kick the can down the road because of deadlines. I don’t see how he chooses to run now.