Over 15 million viewers tuned in on Thursday to watch the five contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination make their case to the American public during the first primary debate for the Democrats of the season. While many pundits have determined that Hillary Clinton won the debate, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders believes he had enough standout moments to chalk up a victory in his column.
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Sanders made headlines and spawned a popular Twitter hashtag when, during an exchange about Clinton’s use of a private email address during her tenure as Secretary of State, he interjected, “Americans are sick of hearing about your damn emails!” The rare show of support between competitors, especially during a live televised debate, captured the attention of every major media platform and beyond.
“He had the biggest soundbite of the night,” said Sanders’ senior advisor Tad Devine in an interview. “It’s being played on TV every ten seconds.” According to Devine, it was a moment that helped Sanders attract the attention of an entirely different demographic: “Our target voters are not voting for us right now — they’re voting for Hillary Clinton, or are favorable to her. It was precisely what we want to do, we want to talk to her voters.”
There is no doubt that Sanders has proven popular among the young, white voting bloc, but the Sanders campaign believes that his proclamation of support for the Black Lives Matter movement will help him to bridge the gap with black voters. “We made inroads with African Americans last night,” Devine said. “This is the first time Bernie Sanders showed up last night in front of important constituents. Some of the first words he said were ‘Black Lives Matter’.”
A large selection of polls from outlets like CNN, Fox News and TIME (and even here at EveryJoe) all showed that the majority of viewers believe that Sanders won the debate, regardless of what the pundits are saying. The Sanders campaign capitalized on his popular performance by sending out an email asking for contributions “before Bernie steps off the stage,” including a video clip of the moment when Sanders made the “damn emails” quip.