Heading into Tuesday night’s debate, Hillary Clinton had been losing ground to Bernie Sanders — he’d completely overtaken her in the latest polls of New Hampshire voters — and the controversy over her private email server continues to deepen. The debate in Las Vegas was a pivotal moment for the former secretary of state.
And what unfolded on the debate stage was largely positive for Clinton. At one point, Clinton had Bernie Sanders — who readily admitted that what he was about to say was “bad politics” — denouncing the swirling controversy over her email server.
“The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails,” Sanders thundered. “Enough of emails!”
“Thank you, Bernie,” Clinton laughed as the two candidates shook hands.
Of course, Clinton didn’t offer Sanders any such pleasantries in return. In fact, Sanders’ defense of Clinton came after she’d unloaded withering criticism of his stance and voting record on gun control. Sanders defended his voting record when pressed on it by debate moderator Anderson Cooper, saying gun control is a “complicated issue.”
“I was in the Senate at the time. It wasn’t that complicated to me. It was pretty straight forward,” Clinton responded.
And she zinged him again when he said “We should look to countries like Denmark, like Sweden and Norway,” at how to handle issues like health care, and raising the middle class.
“We are not Denmark … I love Denmark,” Clinton replied. “We are the United States of America.”
As the only woman onstage, Clinton was the lone candidate to bring up the issues of Planned Parenthood and paid family leave, blasting Republicans for attacking women’s reproductive rights. “They don’t mind having big government to interfere with a woman’s right to choose,” she said. “I’m sick of it!”
The other three candidates — former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, former Virginia Senator Jim Webb and former Rhode Island Governor and U.S. Senator Lincoln Chafee — seemed to disappear as Sanders and Clinton dominated the spotlight.
So, with the first debate behind us and more than a year until the general election, are we any closer to electing the first woman president?
The morning after the debate, Clinton was widely seen as the clear winner of the debate. The New York Times described it as “commanding” and “a dominant performance that showcased Mrs. Clinton’s arsenal. The Associated Press said, “Clinton’s strong performance Tuesday night in the party’s first presidential debate of the 2016 race might give Vice President Joe Biden another reason to stay on the sidelines.”
Even one of Clinton’s harshest critics during this campaign cycle grudgingly declared her the winner. Appearing on ABC’s Good Morning America, Donald Trump said Clinton “did what she had to do.”
Speaking to George Stephanopoulos, Trump said, “She got through it fine. It was a very kind debate, very gentle. She came out the winner.”
The biggest clue that American could be moving toward putting a woman in the White House, however, may be the fact that Clinton even saw a bounce in the Political Prediction Market — the only Democratic candidate to enjoy an improvement in that metric. The Political Prediction Market is a game run by CNN and Pivit, an interactive web marketplace, that uses polls and other factors to determine the candidates’ odds of winning the nomination. Following the debate, Clinton’s odds bounced to 65 percent to 70 percent that she will capture the nomination.
Sanders saw a marginal drop from 16 percent to 15 percent in the Political Prediction Market, and Biden fell from 15 percent to 11 percent following the debate.
Amid all of the hype — Clinton’s stage presence even drew comparisons to Beyonce — there was still some signs of a lingering problem with women voters. It’s a problem that has shown signs of bubbling up before, but hasn’t erupted into a full-blown emergency for the Clinton campaign.
In a focus group of 12 Democratic voters conducted by Fusion right after the debate wrapped up, Sanders came out on top. The group voted 8-3 in favor of Sanders, with one voter saying Sanders and Clinton tied.
Most troubling for Clinton, though, was the fact that two women on the panel said electing the right president was more important than electing a woman president.