Pundits were quick to declare Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton the winner of Tuesday's debate. Clinton, a seasoned debater, was poised and articulate, and came prepared with rebuttals for criticisms.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), instead of making a big splash, showed his weaknesses, including his mixed positions on gun control, which he attributes to being from Vermont, and his lack of experience on foreign policy.
But by some measures, Sanders scored victories. Most online polls and focus groups -- though not scientific -- deemed him the debate winner, with many praising his authenticity, one of his most distinguishing characteristics.
As Gawker's Hamilton Nolan noted:
There were several large online polls, which are a fairly degraded form of data that can end up measuring enthusiasm of a candidate’s base more than actual total voter preference. But to the extent those online polls have any value, Bernie Sanders won 68% in the MSNBC.com poll; Bernie Sanders won 55% in the Daily Kos poll; Bernie Sanders won 54% in the Time.com poll; and Bernie Sanders overwhelmingly won CNN’s own Facebook poll, not that you would know it from what the pundits were saying on CNN itself. CNN’s own focus group also said that Bernie Sanders won, and Fusion’s focus group said that Bernie Sanders won, and Fox News’ focus group said that Bernie Sanders won.
Sanders' campaign also reported a large haul of contributions from the debate, raising $1.4 million from more than 44,000 individual contributors.
Fitting with his campaign's robust social media presence, Sanders got a big boost on social media, gaining the largest amount of Twitter and Facebook followers. According to data from Facebook, he also scored the debate's biggest "social moment" when he defended Clinton against criticism of her private email server.
It's too early to say how much the debate will change poll numbers and voters' perceptions, if at all. And, of course, it's still early in the presidential cycle, with nearly four months before the first contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.
As HuffPost has reported, one reason Sanders trails Clinton nationally is because he struggles with name recognition. Having 15 million people watching him on Tuesday night can only help enhance his profile.
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