Everyone is saying Hillary Clinton won the debate — but some focus groups might undermine that claim

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The Case That Bernie Sanders Won the Debate

The overwhelming media and political consensus was that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won Tuesday night's Democratic primary debate.

Clinton was crisp and polished, making almost no mistakes throughout the evening. Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), her chief rival, was at times flustered, especially while addressing gun control early on.

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But a focus group of Democratic voters, conducted by Republican pollster Frank Luntz, could undermine the takeaway that Clinton won.

A majority of that focus group — as well as those conducted by CNN and Fusion — said they were most impressed with Sanders.

See moments from Tuesday's debate:

8 PHOTOS
Democratic Debate Oct 13
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Everyone is saying Hillary Clinton won the debate — but some focus groups might undermine that claim
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 13: (L-R) Democratic presidential candidates U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Hillary Clinton and Martin O'Malley take part in a presidential debate sponsored by CNN and Facebook at Wynn Las Vegas on October 13, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Five Democratic presidential candidates are participating in the party's first presidential debate. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Martin O'Malley, former governor of Maryland, participates in the first Democratic presidential debate at the Wynn Las Vegas resort and casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015. While tonight's first Democratic presidential debate will probably lack the name-calling and sharp jabs of the Republican face-offs, there's still potential for strong disagreements between the party's leading contenders. Photographer: Josh Haner/Pool via Bloomberg
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 13: Democratic presidential candidates (L-R) Hillary Clinton, Martin O'Malley and Lincoln Chafee take the stage for a presidential debate sponsored by CNN and Facebook at Wynn Las Vegas on October 13, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The candidates participated in the party's first presidential debate with Jim Webb and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 13: (L-R) Democratic presidential candidates Jim Webb, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Hillary Clinton, Martin O'Malley and Lincoln Chafee take the stage for a Democratic presidential debate sponsored by CNN and Facebook at Wynn Las Vegas on October 13, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The five candidates are participating in the party's first presidential debate. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 13: Guests including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) (4th R) attend a presidential debate sponsored by CNN and Facebook at Wynn Las Vegas on October 13, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Five Democratic presidential candidates are participating in the party's first presidential debate. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 13: Democratic presidential candidate Lincoln Chafee takes part in a presidential debate sponsored by CNN and Facebook at Wynn Las Vegas on October 13, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Five Democratic presidential candidates are participating in the party's first presidential debate. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton appear on screens in the press room as journalists cover the Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 13, 2015. Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton will finally square off with top rival Bernie Sanders in the party's first debate of the 2016 campaign as she seeks to prove she is the candidate to beat. AFP PHOTO/ FREDERIC J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
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In a brief Fox News segment, Luntz started off by asking the participants who was supporting Clinton at the start of the debate. About half raised their hands. He then asked who was still supporting Clinton — only a few said they were.

Instead, the bulk of the group said Sanders won. And their favorite moment was the same back-and-forth that many pundits said delivered Clinton her biggest win: Sanders declaring that he was sick of hearing about her "damn" email controversy rather than skewering her for it.

SEE ALSO: Sanders refuses to bash Clinton over email scandal ... and the crowd goes wild

"I thought that was very respectable," one Democrat told Luntz.

"It's just such a non-issue. And I'm glad that he addressed it like that and got it out of the way," said another.



"What I liked is that he was stronger on the issue that she was, which scared me," said a third.

Republicans, eager to ding the front-runner, jumped at the opportunity to push the narrative that Clinton actually lost the debate.

The national Republican Party emailed reporters the three focus groups as well as internet-search and social-media analytics to argue that Sanders was the big winner. Republican National Committee spokesman Michael Short pointed out that the media said Clinton won most of her 2008 debates against now-President Barack Obama too.

"Hillary Clinton may be the strongest debater on the stage," Short wrote to reporters, "but it was Bernie Sanders that won the hearts and interest of Democrat voters."

Watch the Luntz focus group below:

Flashback -- Check out images of the Nixon-Kennedy debate:

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Nixon-Kennedy first debate, 1960
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Everyone is saying Hillary Clinton won the debate — but some focus groups might undermine that claim
DORCHESTER - MARCH 24: Dan Rather, anchorman for the CBS Evening News and correspondent who covered the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, addressed the Kennedy Library Forum, 'The Impact of Television on the Civil Rights Movement.' Before the panel he toured the museum. He is viewing a reproduction of the Chicago television studio where the Sept. 26, 1960 Kennedy-Nixon debate took place. It was the first televised presidential debate. (Photo by Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 14: ROSTENKOWSKI--At his home on North Noble Street in Chicago, former House Ways & Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski shows a reporter a sketch of the Kennedy-Nixon debate on Sept. 26, 1960. He said that he was one of the 30 or so people in the Studio One at the Chicago CBS building. (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 14: ROSTENKOWSKI--At his home on North Noble Street in Chicago, former House Ways & Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski shows a reporter a sketch of the Kennedy-Nixon debate on Sept. 26, 1960. He said that he was one of the 30 or so people in the Studio One at the Chicago CBS building, and made reference to the scores of photographers and media that are present during recent debates. (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)
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See Also:

SEE ALSO: Everyone's declaring Hillary Clinton the big winner of the debate

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