NORTH LAS VEGAS — Bernie Sanders’ campaign said it raised nearly $2 million from the first Democratic debate of the 2016 race, and social media metrics showed he was the most-searched candidate on Google and most-discussed on Facebook and Twitter.
Meanwhile, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s backers celebrated the day after what some said was the best two hours of her campaign.
“We were over the moon,” said former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Clinton backer who’d traveled to Las Vegas to watch the first such confrontation between the 2016 Democratic nomination contenders. On morning cable news programs, Granholm could barely contain her glee. “It was such a great night,” she said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
Clinton, who spent Thursday campaigning in suburban Las Vegas, warned her backers that the contest was far from over.
“There’s a lot of work to be done between now and securing the nomination which I’m going to be focused on to earn every single vote,” she said, taking questions after an event at a union hall.
Both Sanders and Clinton were looking Wednesday to build on their strong Democratic presidential debate performances as the rest of the field struggled to gain traction. Clinton, too, was trying to fundraise off her debate performance, emailing campaign backers with requests for donations from her husband, former President Bill Clinton, with the subject line “She won.”
The debate commanded by Clinton and Sanders appeared to narrow any opening for a presidential bid by Vice President Joe Biden, Democratic strategists said. Biden watched the Tuesday matchup from Washington.
“I was proud,” he said Wednesday during a White House meeting on infrastructure. “I thought every one of those folks last night — my own prejudice — I thought they all did well.”
A day after aggressively defending her long public service record and contrasting it with that of Sanders, Clinton remained in Nevada, talking to local media in the early voting state.
She picked up the endorsement of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades during an event at a training facility in suburban Las Vegas before attending a rally.
“Last night was a good night, today is just as good getting the endorsement of this union,” she said.
Sanders attended a taping of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” which has become a popular stop for presidential hopefuls. Later Wednesday, he was greeted with thunderous applause and shouts of “Bernie, Bernie” at a $25-a-ticket fundraiser at a Hollywood nightclub.
“Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane warmed up the crowd, riffing that Sanders had ended his fear of saying that “capitalism and democratic socialism should coexist.”
Sanders’ campaign is mapping out a strategy to convert its fundraising and enthusiasm into a winning organization that can compete in the early states and a slate of “Super Tuesday” states on March 1.
In another sign of its maturing operation, the campaign has hired Democratic pollster Ben Tulchin, whose past clients have included former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who ran for president in 2004, former California Gov. Gray Davis and Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state.
“This campaign is in it for the long haul. This is not a flash-in-the-pan campaign,” said Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver. “We’re going to have the resources to go all the way to the convention.”
The CNN debate, co-sponsored by Facebook, stretched for more than two hours and had more than 15 million viewers.
The audience was smaller than the record-setting 24 million who watched the first 2016 Republican debate on Fox News. Yet in a news release, CNN said the debate broke the previous Democratic debate record of 10.7 million viewers when Obama and Clinton squared off on ABC in 2008.
With millions of voters tuned in, the other three candidates on stage searched for a way to break out.
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley told CNN on Wednesday his debate performance showed that “more than two candidates” are seeking the nomination.
Former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee faced questions about his viability. In an interview with CNN, he pushed back against the notion that his campaign would be short-lived, saying: “I’m in it for as long as I can continue to raise these issues. They’re important.”
Even Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, who inserted himself into the debate coverage with live commentary on Twitter, said Wednesday that he felt Clinton had performed well.
Trump’s campaign appeared to have settled on a new target — Sanders — releasing an online ad Wednesday that portrays the Vermont senator as too weak to lead. (source: AP)
Jill Colvin, Josh Lederman and Ken Thomas contributed to this report.