Hillary Clinton scores debate win -- among Democrats

Going into the Democrats' first presidential debate Tuesday night, Hillary Clinton seems to have banked on one thing: that far fewer Americans would be watching than watched the Republican debates in August and September.

That assumption proved correct. Early Nielsen ratings indicate that 13 million viewers tuned in. That's more than the previous Democratic record of 11 million. But it's not much more than half the 23 and 24 million who watched the Republican debates.

Clinton, in what National Journal's Ron Fournier called "a performance that was as dishonest as it was impressive," clearly spoke persuasively to that heavily Democratic audience. With a timely assist, it should be added, from the one rival with poll numbers high enough to have qualified him for prime time if were a Republican, Bernie Sanders.

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"The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails," Sanders said. "Me too! Me too!" Clinton replied. The highly partisan crowd roared and the two candidates shook hands. The "damn emails" still trouble all Republicans and most Independents, but Democrats don't like dissent and relished Clinton's repeated attacks on Republicans.

Clinton was careful also not to leave much room between her erstwhile opponent and former boss, President Obama. On foreign policy, she noted that "he valued my judgment and I spent a lot of time with him in the Situation Room, going over some very difficult issues." Not much room left for Joe Biden, reportedly watching the debate from the Vice President's residence.

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