Morning Consult poll: Clinton gains four points after debate

It’ll take more than one poll before conclusions can safely be drawn, but for what it’s worth, a four-point net gain would exceed the post-debate net gains made by every candidate dating back to 1992 apart from Obama in 2008. Then again, that’s probably just a function of the high number of undecideds this year. Only in 1992, when Hillary’s better half had to contend with an incumbent president and a serious third-party candidate in Perot, were the candidates struggling to get past 40 percent. You might expect more bounciness after the debates this year purely because so many voters are torn between two people they deeply dislike.

The conventional wisdom since Monday night among political nerds is that if Clinton doesn’t get a bounce from what seemed like a clear win, she’s in dire straits. It would mean there’s little left that she can do to stop the trend towards Trump over the last few weeks as voters began to pay closer attention, which would be hugely demoralizing for Democrats. It would also mean that the next two debates would become plum opportunities for a game-changing performance by the Republican. If the race is even right now only because he still hasn’t convinced swing voters that he’s “presidential,” it’s within his power to change that at the next debate. If, on the other hand, Hillary does get a bounce from Monday’s debate, it proves that she hasn’t hit her ceiling and really can move votes back her way with solid performances. That is to say, whether Clinton gets a bounce or not will be a sign of whether this election really is still in play or if Rush was right yesterday in thinking that voters are now looking at this as a “change versus failed status quo” choice and will inevitably drift towards Trump no matter what Clinton does.

The earliest indication, from Morning Consult, is that the election’s in play.

According to the survey of likely voters conducted immediately after the debate at Hofstra University, 49 percent of respondents said Clinton won the first bout with her GOP foe. About one-fourth (26 percent) thought the New York businessman edged the former secretary of State, and about the same percentage (25 percent) were undecided…

Just 9 percent of voters said the debate changed their minds about who they will be voting for, while about eight out of 10 said it wouldn’t matter. Before the debate, Trump led Clinton by 1 point in the four-way race with Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein. But Clinton now leads Trump by 3 points (41 percent to 38 percent), and in a head-to-head scenario, she leads by 4 points (45 percent to 41 percent).

For two candidates who are historically unpopular, the debates represent some of their best, last chances to shape voters’ perceptions ahead of Election Day, and Trump did not fare comparatively well in that regard. Roughly four out of 10 voters (39 percent) said they viewed Clinton more favorably after the debate, compared with 30 percent for Trump.

I’m not sure why they say “just 9 percent” of voters changed their minds. Nine percent is quite a variable when the candidates are hovering at around 40 percent apiece. One important dissenting note, though: The LA Times daily tracking poll has Trump gaining slightly on Clinton since the morning of the day of the debate. On Monday he led by 3.9 points; today he leads by 4.1. There’s no evidence of a Clinton bounce there — yet. Remember, though, that tracking polls average the candidates’ numbers over a period of days, so it may be that poor polling for Hillary several days ago, before the debate, is offsetting and “disguising” a bounce now. In fact, according to one Twitter pal, that may be what’s happening. Clinton did improve overnight after the debate, albeit more modestly than she did in the Morning Consult survey:

We’ll know by this weekend if she got a bounce in the LA Times poll, once the period measured by the tracker consists entirely of days after the debate. Until then, though, it’s high anxiety for Democrats: If other polls show Clinton failing to gain, it’s panic time.