A majority of the CNN focus group who watched the first Democratic debate said that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) won the debate over former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton.
The Sanders campaign summed up the focus group reaction as
On CNN, which sponsored the debate, a majority in a post-debate focus group said Sanders was the victor. The Vermont senator was the most popular candidate among a group of young registered Democrats in a Fusion focus group. “Bernie was on fire the whole night,” according to a 24-year-old named Chauncey, who told Fusion he went into the debate undecided. And on Fox News, pollster Frank Luntz talked to Democratic voters in Florida who called him “strong” and “straightforward” and “powerful.”
In terms of speaking time, Sen. Sanders and former Sec. Clinton got the lion’s share of the time with Clinton speaking for 30:26, and Sanders speaking for 26:42.
It was clear that Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders dominated the first Democratic, and both candidates did very well. Picking a winner comes down to preference. Sanders was the candidate with the more forceful argument, but Clinton looked and sounded like an experienced presidential candidate who is ready to be president.
Both candidates had a great debate because the two campaigns had different goals. Clinton’s goals were to ease any unrest about her emails and look presidential, which she did. Sen. Sanders needed to introduce himself to a national Democratic audience and make the argument for a political revolution, which he also did.
With two big personalities like Clinton and Sanders, there was little room for the other candidates on the stage. Martin O’Malley tried to elbow his way in, but at best he is the third candidate in what is a two person race. If Vice President Biden wasn’t sure about running, the stage looked very crowded already, and the first Democratic debate did nothing to ease doubts that there would be no room in the primary for a last-second campaign from Biden.
Bernie Sanders was a clear winner, and this victory should translate into even more funds, and perhaps a bump in the polls. No matter who you think won, the overall message is that Democrats are in good shape heading into 2016.