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Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton on the debate stage on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015, in Las Vegas. Brian Cahn/Zuma Press/TNS

Millennials ‘feel the Bern’

This week the Democratic debate took place, and Bernie Sanders proved yet again that he is the candidate for Millennials. While most news stations are reporting Hillary Clinton as the winner of the debate, there is a clear case for Sanders as the winner.

While Clinton gave an excellent performance, the winner of the debate should not be determined on which candidate is a better public speaker. Clinton has much more practice in debate settings. She is a career politician. It was expected that she would put on a perfect performance. What is really impressive is how much less experience Sanders has, but how well he performed anyway.

While verbal performance might be what popular news media are focusing on to choose a winner, that should not be the standard for judging this debate. The standard should be for how well the candidate’s words at the debate stick to his or her voting record. Sanders consistently was the more honest candidate, even when complicated topics like gun control were brought up.

Clinton came out of the gate with a very strong stance in favor of harsher gun control laws. Her performance was spot on. Sanders floundered a little, not being as eloquent or strongly worded as Clinton, but standing by his voting record. This is what is most important. Sanders is not ashamed or apologizing for his voting record, unlike Clinton.

The first question directed toward Clinton was in regards to her tendency to flip-flop on issues, which she carefully circumvented. The more honest response in every question was Sanders’. It is by these standards that the candidates should be judged, and that they are being judged upon by social media.

Part of the reason that Sanders has such a following is his blunt and honest way of saying things. An example of this during the debate was when Clinton’s “emailgate” was brought up. Clinton has faced much censure over her personal email account, and when once again being accosted for it, Sanders stood to her defense, saying, “The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.”

Sanders could have easily basked in the attack on Clinton, but he came off looking like the down-to-earth candidate for defending one of the most vapid arguments against Clinton. He is just a likeable dude at this point, when even defending his opposition. His actions have stood out as one of the most prominent and talked about positive moments of the debate, making another case for why Sanders really is ahead of Clinton.

While news media are primarily reporting Clinton as the winner, a lot of social media polls are saying differently. This is more than likely due to Sanders’ strong presence with Millennials. His presence is felt on sites with younger followers, like Facebook, Twitter and Reddit. His grassroots campaign has been largely funded by the followers of these sites. His popularity with the younger generation surged on Twitter during the 150-minute debate. He garnered 35,163 new followers in the short span. In comparison, Clinton only raised 13,252 in the same amount of time. In Millennials’ eyes, Sanders is their candidate and the winner of the debate.

MSNBC.com’s poll reported Sanders as the winner with 68 percent, Time.com reporting 54 percent approval for Sanders, and even CNN’s own Facebook poll had him winning by a landside of 81 percent – with Clinton coming in with a paltry 13 percent. While CNN itself is reporting that Clinton is the winner, online users are disagreeing.

These online polls do not reflect the entire nation or even a majority of debate watchers. What they do capture is how young voters are feeling about the debate.

Sanders has appealed to a voter population which has proven to be difficult to capture. The last politician to successfully do this was President Barack Obama. If the younger generation is saying that Sanders won, this bodes very well for him in the primaries if he can keep the attention of young voters.

Having won the debate in the eyes of Millennials is a big step for Sanders. The battle isn’t over yet, Clinton.