How Bernie Sanders Won the Third Republican Debate Without Even Participating

The Republican candidates are finally talking about Bernie Sanders. They aren't exactly speaking highly of him, but they're acknowledging his existence nonetheless.

The first Democratic debate was clearly a breakout moment for Bernie. He went mainstream, and in the process, taught us all a little something about decency.

During that debate, the Senator from Vermont proved once and for all that he doesn't want to win the White House if it means losing his integrity. He's even willing to protect his political rival if it's in the name of justice.

The third Republican debate, by contrast, was a glorified Jerry Springer episode. Filled with antagonism and vicious personal attacks, it appeared to be just as much a contest of who could be the biggest bully as a debate about the economy.

The candidates attacked the moderators, Hillary Clinton, socialism and of course, government. Still, they made ample time to take jabs at one another.

Mudslinging is no new phenomenon in modern presidential elections. But for the first time ever, it's juxtaposed with a new style of campaigning: Bernie Sanders' style.

For better or worse, Bernie has upheld his commitment to running a clean campaign. The question remains, though: can a nice guy like Bernie win in a general election, or does the democratic socialist have something to learn from Donald Trump's rancor?