According to a bipartisan survey conducted by Politico of “top activists, operatives and strategists in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada,” Hillary Clinton had a “runaway victory” in the first Democratic presidential debate.
According to the poll, seventy-nine percent of Democratic insiders said Clinton won the debate handily. Fifty-four percent of Republicans agreed.
"I'm a reluctant Clinton supporter, but I thought she killed it tonight," said one South Carolina Democrat. "She was in a league of her own. Prepared, confident, funny. And she genuinely seemed to be enjoying herself up there. Everyone who knows and loves Hillary Clinton always says how personable and funny she is in person. I felt like watching her performance in this debate was the first time I've gotten a sense of that side of her. For crying out loud ... she made a joke about women taking longer in the bathroom!”
Respondents were granted anonymity in order to speak freely.
"I think that everyone walked into this debate looking for her to make a mistake, and she didn't," an Iowa Democrat said. "On top of that, [Vermont Senator Bernie] Sanders' lack of preparation showed, and [former Maryland governor Martin] O’Malley was trying too hard to look presidential to be effective."
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"She stood out as a leader, charismatic and personal,” concurred a New Hampshire Republican. “It may have been an out-of-body experience."
Clinton’s dominating performance comes as a much needed boost after months of relentless attention paid to a scandal involving her personal email account during her tenure as Secretary of State.
During the debate, Sanders gave what one respondent called an “assist” to Clinton, saying, "I know it's probably not good politics, but I think the Secretary is right. The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails!" The comment drew roaring applause from the audience, and a heartwarming handshake from Clinton.
"She won it the moment Bernie Sanders got his loudest applause of the night sticking up for her, which he should've never done," said one Iowa Republican polled by Politico.
Politico respondents said that Clinton's big win doesn’t leave much room for Vice President Joe Biden to enter the race.
Sixty-two percent of Democratic insiders polled by Politico said Biden shouldn’t enter after Clinton's dominant performance.
"Email was the vulnerability, and it's off the table," said an Iowa Democrat.
"I didn't see a door open tonight," said a New Hampshire Democrat.
[Vinnie Rotondaro is NCR national correspondent. His email address is email@example.com.]