In the wake of Sunday night’s Democratic debate, both expert analysis and social media buzz has edged Bernie Sanders a bit above contender Hillary Clinton, with a dominating performance that may give the Vermont senator the push he needs two weeks ahead of the Iowa caucus.
While not everyone agreed that Bernie won last night’s debate and others were more undecided, at the very least the viewers — and ultimately, the voters — were siding with Sanders.
CBS News reported after the debate that Bernie was the most-searched candidate on Google during the broadcast — and in every single state. “Googled” questions were also pretty telling: the most common questions from curious viewers were whether Hillary Clinton would be nominated or prosecuted. Others asked why Bernie Sanders was popular and if he could win.
Social media activity also hinted that Sanders earned a bit more followers because of his performance: he was the most mentioned candidate on Twitter, earned the most new followers, and his sparring with Clinton on Wall Street and then climate change inspired the most conversation. Facebook revealed the same trends, where people discussed Wall Street, Medicare, Benghazi, and climate change the most. There, too, the chatter was focused on Bernie.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) January 18, 2016
— TIME.com (@TIME) January 18, 2016
But what do the experts think? A summary over at MSNBC suggested that Sanders dominated the debate stage with his strongest performance yet. In this debate more than others, the difference between the candidates was pretty clear.
Clinton declared she was “prepared and ready,” while Sanders railed against a “rigged economy.” Hillary “wrapped herself” in the president and accused her opponent of not supporting him enough. In response, Bernie criticized establishment politics. On health care, Hillary slammed Sanders’ expansive plans as impossible and unnecessary; he revealed his single-payer plan two hours before the debate.
Hillary’s strongest hit, however, was against Bernie’s history of pro-gun votes while his colleagues pushed for stricter gun safety measures. Sanders called these attacks “very disingenuous” and pointed out her Wall Street connections.
“I don’t take money from big banks. I don’t get personal speaking fees from Goldman Sachs.”
But in the end, MSNBC declared that Bernie seemed to take the attacks in stride and was in command during the whole two hours. (In a much-discussed moment, Sanders bashed the media for forcing him to talk about Bill Clinton’s past sexual misconduct — which he called disgraceful and unacceptable — rather than letting him discuss the issues).
In a summary of Sunday night and Monday’s analysis from commentators, the New York Times noted that the consensus held “a more aggressive Mr. Sanders gave himself a boost by taking Mrs. Clinton on more forcefully. She scored points on his shifting positions on guns and taxes, but was not seen as dealing any decisive blows.”
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) January 18, 2016
Clinton was accused of “hugging Obama” too tightly, being too negative towards Bernie and thus allowing him appear even stronger. and praised for “wounding” Bernie on guns, “with little reply.” That came from former Obama adviser David Axelrod.
Among the pro-Bernie comments: he “offered the louder and bolder vision,” and “positioned himself as the anti-status quo candidate.” And then this from Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd: “Who’s the frontrunner? If you only watched the debate and didn’t read polls, you might assume Sanders.”
The Washington Post declared Bernie Sanders the clear winner (while Slate gave that honor to Clinton), nothing that he was the “prime mover in virtually every discussion.” Sanders did well in his weak spot — foreign policy — and “oozed” passion and disruption.
The Post also firmly declared Hillary the loser because she simply didn’t do enough to damage Sanders and prove herself to be the only champion for Democratic values, wrote Chris Cillizza.
“Time and again, she was boxed into defending a status quo that the American public — Democrats and Republicans alike — is dissatisfied.”
If viewers and some analysts are right and Bernie won Sunday night’s debate, it couldn’t come at a better time. Bernie’s poll numbers are surging in New Hampshire and Iowa — where the two candidates are neck and neck. This debate may have given Bernie just the shove he needs to derail Clinton’s campaign.
[Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images]