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Progressives Claim Victory After Debate

Who Won the Debate? 1:25

At the conclusion of Tuesday night’s Democratic debate, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee sent out an email that said, “BOOM,” as if they won the debate.

#WarrenWing is what the news release said that Democracy for America released to reporters.

And in some respects the progressives did win.

Early on in the nominating process, progressive groups urged Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, to join the presidential race. When she didn’t, the groups shifted their strategy. Ultimately a coalition of progressives urged the declared candidates to adopt Warren's priorities: debt-free college, expanding Social Security and breaking up the big financial institutions.

All three of issues were central to the economic discussion on the Las Vegas debate stage.

PCCC co-founder Adam Green declared victory in a recent interview.

“One year ago who would have thought that all the candidates would be in agreement?” Green said.

On economic issues, there is little light between Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Warren. He has long supported an expansion of Social Security, he goes further than debt-free college and calls for free college at public universities, and as for Too Big To Fail financial institutions, Sanders has been endorsed breaking them up since the Wall Street crash of 2008.

Sanders' unexpected popularity has given these issues a major magnifying glass.

And the groups are thrilled that Clinton, a more moderate pragmatist, is being forced to talk - and sometimes endorse - their platform. For instance, she has called for debt-free college. As for breaking up the banks, Clinton’s plan doesn’t directly demand that, but she is trying to depict herself as someone who will be tough on Wall Street.

“My plan is more comprehensive,” she said Tuesday night. “So I'm with both Senator Sanders and Governor (Martin) O'Malley in putting a lot of attention onto the banks. And the plan that I have put forward would actually empower regulators to break up big banks if we thought they posed a risk. But I want to make sure we're going to cover everybody, not what caused the problem last time, but what could cause it next time.”

Sanders, whose central component of his plan is to break up the big banks, attempted to draw a distinction between his and Clinton’s plans, calling hers “naïve.”

“Saying (to the banks), ‘please, do the right thing,’ is kind of naïve,” Sanders said.

Stephanie Taylor co-founder of the PCCC said the point is that the two leading candidates are talking like economic populists.

"It’s unfortunate that Clinton's Wall Street plan does not go as far as Sanders' in breaking up Too Big To Fail banks, and obviously she should support a modern Glass-Steagall," Taylor said. She added, however, "It was previously unthinkable that all top candidates would talk about prosecuting and jailing Wall Street bankers in a presidential debate, but that just happened in front of millions of people."

As for Social Security, Clinton didn't support a full expansion, but said she wants to “enhance the benefits for the poorest recipients. “

“And of course I’m going to defend Social Security,” she added.

“That’s one area we’re looking for a little more,” Green said. Clinton is expected to release her plan on Social Security in the near future.

But the fact that Clinton is considering proposals that are supported by the most liberal wings of the party indicates that regardless of deteailed differences, the party is largely united heading into a general election.