As I've said before, polls are a lousy way to determine the actual winner of a debate, but if you're into that sort of thing, Public Policy Polling has good news for Hillary Clinton and her supporters. In a scientific poll of Democrats who watched last night's Democratic presidential primary debate, they found that Hillary smoked Bernie Sanders, and vaporized the other man who was there:
A Public Policy Polling survey of Democratic primary voters nationally who watched tonight’s debate finds that it reinforced Hillary Clinton’s front runner status. Viewers overwhelmingly think she won the debate, and particularly trust her over the rest of the Democratic field when it comes to issues of national security.
Key findings from the survey include:
-67% of voters think Clinton won the debate, to 20% for Bernie Sanders and 7% for Martin O’Malley. On a related note 63% of viewers said the debate gave them a more positive opinion of Clinton, compared to 41% who said it gave them a more positive opinion of Sanders, and 37% who said it gave them a more positive opinion of O’Malley.
-Clinton is by a wide margin the candidate debate watchers trust the most on national security issues. 75% say they have the most faith in Clinton on that front, compared to only 17% for Sanders, and 5% for O’Malley. National security issues were a primary focus tonight in the aftermath of yesterday’s tragedy in France, and Democratic voters by far and away trust Clinton the most on that issue.
My own assessment would put things a bit closer. Bernie showed some weakness around foreign policy and the brass tacks of his free college plan, but as much as Hillary Clinton supporters really don't want to hear it, the former secretary of state made a potentially damaging blunder when she invoked 9/11 to fend off a Sanders attack:
I have never heard a candidate, never, who's received huge amounts of money from oil, from coal, from Wall Street, from the military industrial complex, not one candidate, go, "OH, these-- these campaign contributions will not influence me. I'm gonna be independent." Now, why do they make millions of dollars of campaign contributions? They expect to get something. Everybody knows that. Once again, I am running a campaign differently than any other candidate. We are relying on small campaign donors, $750,000 and $30 apiece. That's who I'm indebted to.
Well, Scott, Scott, wait a minute, wait a minute.
Secretary Clinton gets to respond.
--answer to impugn my integrity, let's be frank here.
No, I don't.
Oh, wait a minute, senator. (LAUGH) You know, not only do I have hundreds of thousands of donors, most of them small, I am very proud that for the first time a majority of my donors are women, 60 percent. (APPLAUSE) So I-- I represented New York. And I represented New York on 9/11 when we were attacked.
Where were we attacked? We were attacked in downtown Manhattan where Wall Street is. I did spend a whole lot of time and effort helping them rebuild. That was good for New York. It was good for the economy. And it was a way to rebuke the terrorists who had attacked our country. (APPLAUSE)
The problem isn't the truth of what Hillary said, but that she brought it up as a rejoinder to an unrelated criticism by Bernie Sanders. It was cheap, and she shouldn't have done it, and shouldn't do it again.
On balance, though, it was a strong night for Hillary, and a strong night for Democrats. More debates like these would serve as terrific infomercials for a slate of candidates who don't want to form a Deportation Force and let the middle class eat cake.