So Who Really Won?
Maybe Republicans and Republican-lite media elites expected Hillary to come off like she is in their sick, twisted fantasies. So they were shocked when she came off, instead, as calm, attractive and competent. When I woke this morning it was just before 5AM and the light source I use to get out of bed is the TV. On came Morning Joe, better known as the Hate Hillary Hour. But the 3 or 4 minutes I could of that wretched show was all about how she won the debate last night. In fact, all the media elites, especially the right-wing ones, are booming how Hillary was the clear winner. One of the websites that sets the tone for Hate Talk Radio clowns like Mark Levin, Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Laura Ingraham, Glenn Beck, Laura Schlesinger, Neil Boortz... is Red State. Leon Wolf was pushing the Hillary won theme last night that all the clowns were repeating today:
Jim Webb was the only candidate on stage who made occasional substantive sense... The only two candidates on stage who mattered were Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. As between the two of them, Hillary came off (to me) as the clear winner on both style and substance. Hillary was (astonishingly) much more likeable and personable than everyone’s favorite crazy socialist uncle. She had few to no cringe inducing moments. She deftly threw red meat to the base when presented with the opportunity without saying anything that would hurt her in the general.Beltway conventional wisdom types like Ryan Lizza and Chris Cillizza could have written their perspectives before the debate even occurred. Cillizza in today's Washington Post:
Sanders, on the other hand, failed to land a single substantive glove on Clinton and further came off as mostly an empty (and ill fitting) suit. For all that Sanders has been talked up as a guy who has been drawing huge crowds with lengthy speeches that are chock full of wonkish policy details, Sanders was remarkably pat and cliche in virtually all his answers, frequently looked downright confused, and made his biggest impressions when agreeing with what Hillary said.
This was the first introduction many people had to Bernie Sanders, and many people tuned in to see if he presented a viable alternative to Hillary as a candidate. What they saw instead was a guy who would unquestionably be an even worse and more unlikable general election candidate than Hillary.
Hillary Clinton: This was the best two hours of her candidacy to date. Clinton was confident, relaxed and good-natured. She was aggressive from the start and savaged Sanders on his past votes on guns. (He seemed taken aback by her direct hit.) She also got some help from Sanders-- most notably on the controversy surrounding her e-mail server. Sanders said he didn't care about the issue, voters didn't care about the issue and no one wanted to talk about it. Clinton couldn't have said it better herself. And when Lincoln Chafee tried to go back at Clinton on e-mails, she scored the moment of the debate when she curtly responded "no" when asked if she wanted to respond to his comments.The worst coverage I saw last night-- of course-- was from MSNBC right-of-center hack Chris Matthews, who slammed any guest who defended Bernie and thought that asking Hillary's campaign chairman, John Podesta, to analyze the debate was a great idea. Matthews would make the perfect Fox Democrat; I don't understand why he's on MSNBC. Anyway, Jonathan Chait can always be counted on by the Establishment to set the tone and he didn't disappoint Team Clinton this morning. "Hillary Clinton’s campaign spent most of the last year descending inexorably into depression and even panic. But the first Democratic presidential debate may have finally turned the tide, or at least stopped her fall. Clinton demonstrated that she was, by far, the best presidential candidate on stage. Indeed, she may have been the only person on stage actually running for president... [S]he alone displayed the performative talent necessary to win a major party nomination. As a sheer communicator, she may ever-so-slightly outclass a Scott Walker, but she pales in comparison to at least a half-dozen Republicans: Figures like Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, perhaps even Jeb Bush, can put together more memorable soundbites. But whereas Walker’s performance came off as so pathetic that he had to abandon his campaign in disgrace, Clinton easily lapped the field. None of her opponents can plausibly imitate the public’s conception of a presidential nominee. Lincoln Chafee looked like he wandered into the building after his yacht had been lost at sea for weeks. Jim Webb snarled angrily about obscure obsessions. Martin O’Malley seemed to crave consideration as her vice-presidential nominee. Bernie Sanders is running for co-op president... After the debate, she again resembles what she appeared to be at the campaign’s outset: the all-but-certain Democratic nominee."
She also smartly turned at least three questions into broad-scale attacks on Republicans, effectively playing the uniter role for the party-- and winning a ton of applause in the process. Not everything Clinton did was pitch perfect. Her "I represented Wall Street" line will likely be used in an ad against her, and her inability to cite anything other than her gender to differentiate her presidency from that of Obama was not so good. Still, Clinton was head and shoulders above everyone else on the stage as a debater. And it wasn't close.
Bernie Sanders: If you were a Democrat who wanted to learn more about the Vermont socialist via the debate, he gave you plenty to like. Sanders is a true believer in liberal ideas, and you can feel his passion when you watch him. His "I don't want to hear anymore about your damn e-mails" line to Clinton was, probably, the biggest applause line of the night and will be replayed roughly 1 billion times over the next 24-48 hours. In terms of pure interest-- as it relates to what people were searching for during the debate-- there's no question this was a good night for Sanders.
At the same time, Sanders showed that he is a somewhat limited candidate. He looked totally lost on foreign policy-- even when moderator Anderson Cooper teed him up a question on Russia and Vladimir Putin. Sanders is great when he is talking about economic inequality and climate change. When he is talking about anything else, he's sort of eh.
And, of course, the NY Times declared her the winner this morning, as did the Wall Street Journal: "a performance that wasn’t long on soaring rhetoric or deep passion, until Mrs. Clinton weighed in emphatically on strengthening family leave policies and funding Planned Parenthood. But it was methodically effective." The L.A. Times too, of course: "[S]he exuded a sense of command that her rivals onstage often seemed to lack. And in sharp contrast with her reticence on the subject during the 2008 campaign, she repeatedly reminded viewers that with her, they could make history: After the U.S. elected its first black president, it now had a chance to elect its first woman." Republicans, of course, loved a lot of what they heard from her. Even her old pal Donald Trump was enthusiastic about her performance.
And it was, of course, just that: a performance. Example: when she was asked to name her most dedicated enemies, she talked about "the health insurance companies, the drug companies." And, yet, and yet, and yet... the kind of "progressive she claims she is-- a joke-- who gets things done managed to inspire those enemies to give her huge amounts of money for her career. When Bernie talked about Big Pharma and Wall Street being his enemies, it's an actual fact.
[H]ealth insurance companies and drug companies have been some of her biggest financial supporters. In 2008, Clinton was the among the three biggest recipients of campaign cash from pharmaceutical-related companies, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. In all, the watchdog group reports that she raised $738,000 from employees of pharmaceutical manufacturers and companies classified as “Pharmaceuticals /Health Products.” The center reports that Clinton also raised more than $1.2 million from the insurance industry-- which includes health insurers.Before we get into the other, more modern, way of looking at who won the debate last night, there were some old-media journalists who looked at it differently from the herd. Peter Beignet at The Atlantic, for example, pointed out Hillary's great flaw and Bernie's strength in terms of the institutionalizes vs the insurrectionists, easily the heart of the whole matter of this election cycle.
On top of those campaign contributions, the Clintons and their family foundation have benefited from their ties to the pharmaceutical and insurance industries.
In 2011, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA)-- the primary trade association representing drug companies-- paid Bill Clinton $200,000 for a speech, as the organization was lobbying the Hillary Clinton-led State Department. Last year, the Drug Chemical and Associated Technologies Association, a trade group whose members include major pharmaceutical companies, paid her a $250,000 speaking fee.
Meanwhile, the Clinton Foundation has received between $1 million and $5 million worth of donations separately from drug manufacturers Pfizer and Procter & Gamble, and from health insurers Humana and Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina. Some of those companies made donations as recently as this year, according to the foundation’s website.
That largesse was part of a friendship forged after those industries opposed her 1993 health care initiative-- and which continued after she won reelection to the Senate in 2006.
As secretary of state, Clinton repeatedly championed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which critics say includes provisions that strengthen patent protection for drug manufacturers. (Last week, she declared that she now opposes the trade deal.) As a presidential candidate in 2008, she promoted the idea of a federal mandate effectively requiring Americans to buy private health insurance.
Those Clinton positions were strongly supported by the same drug and insurance industries that she now calls "enemies."
The most revealing moment of last night’s Democratic presidential debate came near the end, when CNN moderator Anderson Cooper asked the candidates to “name the one thing—the one way that your administration would not be a third term of President Obama.” Bernie Sanders replied that, unlike Obama, he would “transform America ... through a political revolution.” Hillary Clinton answered that, unlike Obama, she’s a woman.Beinart is a conservative Democrat and his conclusion is, of course, a conservative one: "Bernie Sanders," he concludes, "like Donald Trump, can only win if a plurality of primary voters want to turn their country, and their party, upside down. With her performance last night, Hillary Clinton reminded Democrats-- in a way Jeb Bush has still not reminded Republicans-- why that might not be necessary after all." Less conservative Democratic voters may bot see it the same way. Like Philip Bump (during the debate) at the Washington Post who showed how "Sanders dominated Clinton on Twitter" and examined Google Analytics spikes to interpret how debate viewers were reacting in real time. "Sanders," he wrote, repeatedly saw spikes in Google interest after he spoke. After his intro. After he talked about guns. After basically everything else he said... Sanders that drew attention the whole time. What's more, Sanders actually overpowered the long-term king of Google, Donald Trump. During the debate, Sanders continually attracted more Google interest than Trump."
The responses reminded me of a distinction Chris Hayes makes in his excellent book, Twilight of the Elites, between “institutionalists,” who want to make existing institutions function better and “insurrectionists,” who want to tear them down and start again.
Sanders is an insurrectionist. That’s why, asked about following the most transformational liberal president in a half-century, he didn’t say that America is moving in the right direction but has further to go. He said America needs a “political revolution.” He also said that, “America’s campaign finance system is corrupt.”
Hillary never talks that way. She acknowledges problems but she rarely indicts America’s core economic and political institutions. Consider the two candidates’ answers on financial regulation. Sanders said that, “Wall Street, where fraud is a business model, helped to destroy this economy and the lives of millions of people.” Thus, “we have got to break up” the banks. Hillary, by contrast, said that “Dodd-Frank was a good start, and I think that we have to implement it ... We have to save the Consumer Financial Protection board.” Sanders, in other words, attacked the system; Hillary explained how it could be improved.
...It was like that all night. Sanders called for replacing capitalism with democratic socialism. Clinton called for “rein[ing] in the excesses of capitalism so that it doesn’t run amok.” Sanders boasted that he had opposed a bank bailout even after America’s top economic officials warned that not passing one might bring “a complete meltdown.” Hillary essentially embraced the label of “insider,” declaring that she knows “what it takes to get things done.”
Perhaps the most interesting exchange of the second hour was the back-and-forth between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders over her e-mails-- specifically, Sanders's argument that we should all be talking about other issues. (Sanders: "The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails!") But it's not what people wanted to learn more about.From a Google Analytics perspective, Bernie won. New research shows Sanders also had the best performing website out of the Democratic candidates. Clinton's website ranked 4th amongst all candidates. And according to a Harris Poll of all Americans website performance matters in how people will support a candidate.
Sanders continued to get the most Google interest overall, spiking when he mentioned his efforts to push back on Wall Street.
...From start to finish, it was Sanders. Clinton got some attention, as did Webb. But nearly every time Sanders spoke, he generated Google traffic for people searching his name. And in the immediate aftermath of the debate-- a time when Ben Carson did well in the Republican debates-- Sanders got his most interest of the night... People wanted to learn more about Bernie Sanders-- not really Hillary Clinton, not really Martin O'Malley. There's no saying this will correlate to poll position. But it's probably safe to assume that it's better to be of some interest than of no interest-- like Lincoln Chafee.
Another way of looking at who won is to look at the instant polls and the focus groups. Frank Luntz's focus group of Florida Democrats clearly indicated that Bernie was the winner. It's worth watching.
The first poll I saw was from Drudge-- I know, I know-- but the CNN instant poll showed an even stronger win for Bernie. Drudge has Bernie at 54.27% against Hillary's 8.82% (on the right). CNN shows Bernie beating her 76-18%! Why the disparity between the two candidates and why the disparity between the way the pundits and conservatives viewed the debate results from the way progressives (and modern methods of analysis) viewed the results? And which side is getting us closer to the answer of who actually did win last night's debate? Every political professional I spoke to today-- including progressives and Bernie partisans among them-- thought that either Hillary had won or, at best, it was a tie. No one thought Bernie beat her. And yet... the polling, the focus groups, the analysis based on social media, the message from real people seems to be indicating that she did well but that Bernie did better. Here's how he explained it to his supporters in an e-mail this afternoon:
Our supporters organized more than 4,000 debate watch parties in homes, pubs, and public venues, and more than 100,000 people came together to watch the debate at these events. In American politics, there are two primary sources of power: organized people and organized money. Last night proved that we have the people and that we’re well organized.
...When we started this campaign, a lot of folks wrote us off. Well, I think last night showed them wrong, and that we can win. We are indeed off and running. Nothing significant in this country happens in terms of change unless a strong grassroots movement takes place. That’s what we’re building together, and people should not underestimate us.
Robbie Wilson is one of the Democratic candidates who has endorsed Bernie. He's running in Arkansas' northwest corner, around Fayetteville and Fort Smith. This morning he wrote he was "inspired but not because I think Senator Sanders blew the field away in last night’s debate. Secretary Clinton reminded us all what a well-prepared debater she is, and more than held her own at the center podium. I do think the debate will result in higher national polling for Senator Sanders, and that the agenda-driven mainstream media will have to grit their teeth as they show his numbers right up there with Secretary Clinton’s. But my inspiration doesn’t’ come from that." He continued:
CNN ran a Facebook poll last night, asking who the winner of the debate was. The results showed Senator Sanders winning a landslide victory with 81%, his closest challenger being Secretary Clinton at 13%. You won’t find that poll featured on their website or their broadcast; in fact, if you can locate it anywhere besides at its meager Facebook location, I’ll give you a shiny nickel. It is not being promoted and polling parameters are not offered. But what inspires me is that this is not the ubiquitous CNN or Clinton Campaign landline poll, which right off the bat skews to a Democratic demographic already likely to vote for Secretary Clinton.You can contribute to Bernie's campaign-- and to the campaigns of the progressive Democrats who have endorsed him-- right here at this Blue America ActBlue site. This isn't going to be easy... but it's winnable. if we all act in our own best interests and the best interests of the country we love.
This is a country with a population of 320 million people. Only 60%, approximately 192 million of us, still have a land line phone and are more likely to be Republican; just those minority landliners who won’t vote for a Republican are likely to vote for Clinton. Facebook, on the other hand, has 156.5 million users in the United States. These are mostly women, mostly under the age of 40, and mostly college graduates and students living in major metropolitan cities and suburbs. These are the people who stood up for Senator Sanders in that poll and substantially top-dressed his growing mandate.
We’ll probably never get the parameters of that CNN Facebook poll, because the idea that an overwhelming number of likely Democratic voters stood up for Bernie Sanders won’t fit well with the pro-Clinton agenda at the Cable News Network. But I am nonetheless inspired, because this poll is another peek at what Super Tuesday evening will look like; stunned Clinton supporters staring blankly at their television screens, not understanding how Senator Sanders was declared the winner so quickly. Polling places still overwhelmed with energetic, young voters, happily standing in long lines in their powder blue Bernie shirts, posting every tweak of their voting experience on Facebook. Secretary Clinton wistfully encouraging her supporters to put their full support behind their party’s nominee.
When we skip over the skewed polls and media bias, and look at the modes by which we really communicate and express ourselves these days, we are seeing that the Sanders campaign continues to pick up steam where it matters most, and that his nomination is becoming more likely.