It is sad and cynical that the Democratic debate was scheduled late on a Saturday night before Christmas. Democrats and all Americans deserved to see this. At times the moderators intervened too much and refused to allow the candidates to mix it up. That was annoying. But this was a good debate, especially benefiting from the fact that were only three candidates and each got a lot of good air time. All three candidates showed up to play and all performed well. That means that Hillary Clinton is still the national frontrunner - but the debate took place in New Hampshire and I think Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley defined their positions well. Let's look at each candidate.

Hillary Clinton- could have been put more on the defensive because the 24 hour spat with the Sanders campaign and the DNC, but Sanders apologized and decided to move forward. Sanders did not make any serious dents in her armor but he certainly made contrasts with her on her support for Iraq, her lack of anticipation of "unintended consequences" In Libya, her support by Wall Street, and her focus on removing President Assad from leadership in Syria. But Mrs. Clinton held her own, was detailed and nuanced on her positions on ISIS, on gun control and fighting terrorism, on establishing context for intervention in Libya, and her support for the Affordable Care Act and the need to fix it. Her high point came when she was asked whether corporations and Wall Street should love her and she replied that "everyone should love" her. She was confident and claimed to be ready to debate Donald Trump. Her crowd was in the audience and this is a primary that she won in 2008.

Bernie Sanders- stuck to issues, refused to whine about the DNC, and stayed the mature adult throughout. Like a good restaurant menu, Mr. Sanders was consistent - the economy is rigged, the need for a living wage, the push for a Muslim-led fight against ISIS, free tuition to public colleges, support for a single payer health insurance program, and a tax on Wall Street speculation to pay for it all. Too much tuition goes to stadiums, buildings, and college vice-presidents - a point that didn't seem too popular in this college-based audience - but Mr. Sanders is a neighbor and, for the most part, he connected with those in the room. His social media ratings were as high as Mrs. Clintons.

Martin O'Malley- clearly had the best performance of the campaign. He seems to have his niche as an alternative, neither the "socialist" nor the "crony capitalist". He also clearly positioned himself - better than any of the other debates - as the guy who actually was a doer, a manager, an executive, someone who got things done in Baltimore and Maryland. Mr. Sanders asked him to cool his rhetoric a bit on gun control and Mrs. Clinton scored a point when she reminded him that he had no problem collecting money from Wall Street to fund campaigns when he headed the National Governors' Association - but he reiterated the best he has done so far that he passed the highest minimum wage in the nation, kept tuition costs in line for four years, reduced penalties for minor drug offenses, and passed a real progressive income tax that led to the very wealthy paying 14% more in taxes. While perhaps not so popular with those who showed up to support his opponents, he asserted at one point that he needed to speak from the perspective of a younger generation about leaving the Cold War mentality behind. He was forceful tonight. I am not sure if it is too late for him to make gains but he showed that he belongs on the stage.

All three candidates focused on Donald Trump as the symbol of today's Republican Party. That makes for a real contrast and a demographic statement about who supports the Democrats vs. who supports the GOP - but it could possibly weaken Mrs. Clinton the most in a general election. As Mr. Trump may symbolize his party so may Mrs. Clinton come to symbolize her party -- baggage and all.

In short, I don't expect any real movement nationally in the polls because I don't think too many people watched this debate. But I do feel we will see a tightening in both Iowa and New Hampshire where interest is at its peak.