Benghazi committee takes another hit.  photo by Barbara Kinney for Hillary for America

Benghazi committee takes another hit, which is very good news, even as Clinton sees more work ahead.
photo by Barbara Kinney for Hillary for America

Fitting with his campaign’s robust social media presence, Sanders got a big boost on social media, gaining the largest amount of Twitter and Facebook followers. According to data from Facebook, he also scored the debate’s biggest “social moment” when he defended Clinton against criticism of her private email server. [HuffPost]

THE DEMOCRATIC DEBATE doesn’t eradicate Hillary Clinton’s challenge with general election numbers, but one thing that keeps on giving is Rep. Trey Gowdy’s Benghazi committee, where Hillary will testify next week. Reporting from Think Progress finds yet another Republican admitting the political focus of those involved.

Republican Rep. Richard Hanna said

Sometimes the biggest sin you can commit in D.C. is to tell the truth…This may not be politically correct, but I think that there was a big part of this investigation that was designed to go after people and an individual, Hillary Clinton. […]

After what Kevin McCarthy said, it’s difficult to accept at least a part of it was not [political]…I think that’s the way Washington works. But you’d like to expect more from a committee that’s spent millions of dollars and tons of time.

Underneath it all is reporting from Politico that reveals the inner workings of the Clinton campaign during the server/email evolution. It’s not complimentary and goes to what continues to nag at me. Hillary Clinton’s inability to face her own political malpractice over choosing a private server, which goes to her judgment, a primary component of her candidacy.

Reporting from Politico Magazine

“It sounds crazy, but I think she simply wasn’t equipped to deal with all this,” says one longtime ally who has been in regular contact with Clinton. “She’s never been a great candidate, OK? She needed time and campaigns don’t give you time. … She was blindsided, and I think only now, after all this crap, is she finally in the right headspace.”

Nearly every one of 50 advisers, donors, Democratic operatives and friends we interviewed for this story thought Clinton was a mediocre candidate who would make a good president, if given the chance. They painted a portrait of a politician who talked about learning from past mistakes while methodically repeating them—a far cry from the formidable shatterer of glass ceilings who had put such a scare into Obama late in the 2008 primaries.

[…] But his suggestion that she could still prevail if Sanders were to win New Hampshire or Iowa didn’t go over well. “We are running a primary race and that is about delegates,” Benenson said, according to one participant’s notes. “And if you look ahead to the Super Tuesday states, with the most delegates, HRC has double digit leads in all of them.”

One national finance committee member in the room, fed up with the campaign’s response to the email scandal, called him out. “It’s not about facts, Joel,” the bundler said. “The facts may be on our side, but we need to argue more than that. We’re losing, and you in the campaign need to take notice and change strategy.”

It’s important to consider that as good as Clinton was at the debate, and she was brilliant, there remains questions over her candidacy looking to the general election due to the damage done over the server story, even as the Benghazi committee continues to lose credibility.

Where Clinton is today won’t keep Joe Biden from entering the race if he wants to. If he watched the debate he could clearly see that Hillary Clinton wasn’t touched by her opponents, none of whom were ready for prime time. In fact, Jonathan Martin of the New York Times said that people around Biden told him that the Vice President is still very likely to enter the race. I’ll believe it when it happens.

And as for Bernie Sanders, there are many who won’t give Clinton the win on the debate, with Sanders raising a lot of money afterward. He’s not going away anytime soon, especially since he’s now been introduced to a whole new audience who didn’t know who Sanders was before the Democratic debate.

There were several large online polls, which are a fairly degraded form of data that can end up measuring enthusiasm of a candidate’s base more than actual total voter preference. But to the extent those online polls have any value, Bernie Sanders won 68% in the poll; Bernie Sanders won 55% in the Daily Kos poll; Bernie Sanders won 54% in the poll; and Bernie Sanders overwhelmingly won CNN’s own Facebook poll, not that you would know it from what the pundits were saying on CNN itself. CNN’s own focus group also said that Bernie Sanders won, and Fusion’s focus group said that Bernie Sanders won, and Fox News’ focus group said that Bernie Sanders won. [Gawker h/t HuffPost]

Now that President Obama has decided to keep troops in Afghanistan, this will become an interesting line of questioning in the second debate where differences between Sanders and Clinton could become stark.

This post has been updated.