Clinton gets ‘little kick’ in post-debate polls
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Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats' 2020 Achilles's heel: The Senate Democrats' 2020 Achilles's heel: The Senate House Intel Republican: 'Foolish' not to take info on opponent from foreign ally MORE appears to be getting a bump in the polls after Monday's presidential debate in which she was widely hailed as the winner against Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Trump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Ocasio-Cortez claps back at Trump after he cites her in tweet rejecting impeachment MORE.

Post-debate surveys show the 80 million viewers who tuned in largely believe that Clinton got the best of Trump, and early returns show that sentiment is filtering into the national horse-race polls and the surveys of battleground states.

Pollsters caution that it’s still too early to draw definitive conclusions about the long-term impact of the debate, and note the movement in Clinton’s direction has been modest.

But data experts say the Democratic contender has at the very least reestablished herself as the front-runner after the race had tightened almost to the point of a toss-up. 

They expect that the media reaction to the debate, coupled with Trump’s post-debate stumbles into controversy, will ensure Clinton carries that lead into the weekend when the major polling outlets begin unveiling their latest numbers.

“Clearly and not surprisingly she’s getting a little kick,” said pollster John Zogby. “But it’s only a little kick so far and it’s not clear yet that there’s a bigger bump to be had.”

The candidates entered debate night on Monday essentially tied nationally, with Trump making a late charge in the swing states where Clinton was once the overwhelming favorite. 

Democrats were particularly alarmed by polls showing Trump had pulled almost even with Clinton in Pennsylvania and Colorado — battleground states that were once firmly in the blue column but suddenly seemed to provide the GOP nominee with a clear and realistic path to the White House.

But Clinton has since swung to leads in three national polls released in the wake of the debate. 

Surveys from conservative pollster Rasmussen and internet polling outlets Morning Consult and Reuters show Clinton flipping a 1- or 2-point deficit into leads of between 1 point and 4 points nationally.

A survey from liberal-leaning Public Policy Polling (PPP) shows Clinton with a 4-point lead nationally, although she led in the same poll from last month by 5 points. A survey from internet-based Echelon Insights puts Clinton’s lead at 5 points nationally.

All told, Clinton has gone from leading by 1.6 percentage points in the RealClearPolitics average before the debate to leading by 2.9 points presently —– a small but noticeable bounce.

“The little data we have has been positive for her,” said University of Virginia Center for Politics analyst Geoffrey Skelley. “We still can’t say conclusively that there has been a change in the race, but the data we have is better for her than it is for Trump.”

The story is the same in the small sample of battleground polls taken since the debate.

PPP found Clinton swinging from a 1-point deficit in Florida to a 2-point lead. In Pennsylvania, Clinton’s lead, which had shrunk to 3 points before the debate, has expanded to 6 points presently.

Clinton maintained her standing in polls released this week out of North Carolina, Michigan and Virginia, where she holds leads of 2 points, 5 points, and 6 points respectively, according to post-debate surveys.

And Clinton’s likelihood of victory has edged back above 60 percent in all three election models run by data guru Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight.com. Last week, one of Silver’s polling forecasts showed Trump as the favorite to win for the first time since July.

“Overall, there are some tentatively positive signs for Clinton — but not more than that, yet,” Silver wrote on Wednesday.

Silver cautioned against reading too much into the early returns, saying that the internet polls, like those conducted by Morning Consult and Echelon Insights, can be hampered by low response rates driven by quick turnaround.

And he argued that “it can be hard to separate voters’ reaction to the debate itself from their reaction to the media’s reaction to the debate.” 

Most pundits and analysts immediately declared Clinton the undisputed victor and cast the debate as an unmitigated disaster for Trump, potentially contributing to only a temporary or artificial bump in the polls for Clinton once the dust settles.

Republicans point out that Trump performed strongly in the first half-hour of the debate, punctuated by his fierce takedown of Clinton on trade. 

Conventional wisdom suggests it is “better to be better early” in the debate, as there can be a drop-off in viewership.

But CNN media analyst Brian Stelter has said network data indicates there was no drop-off in viewership, meaning that 80 million people stuck around to see Clinton dominate the final hour of the debate.

That’s when Clinton savaged Trump over the “birther” issue and raised what has become the lasting moment from the debate: Trump’s fat-shaming of former Miss Universe Alicia Machado in 1996.

Trump sent that controversy into overdrive in a Tuesday morning interview with Fox News in which he defended his treatment of Machado by saying she had “gained a massive amount of weight.”

Machado has been in front of the cameras and driving headlines ever since.

“The debate was problematic, but not fatal for Trump,” said GOP pollster Frank Luntz. “His post-debate presentation is making his actual debate performance worse, but there is plenty of time to recover.” 

Indeed, recent history indicates winning the first debate is not necessarily predictive.

In 2012, GOP nominee Mitt Romney clobbered President Obama in their first debate, provoking panic among Democrats as Romney shot into the lead in national and battleground polls conducted in early October. 

Obama regained his standing in subsequent debates and coasted to victory on Election Day.

“Clinton won the debate, that’s clear,” said Zogby. “But so far it doesn’t look like she pulverized him or slayed the dragon. This isn’t the stuff landslides are made of.”