Two words. That’s all I needed to hear to feel confident that Bernie Sanders had won Tuesday night’s debate. They came from a friend who has supported Hillary Clinton from day one, a woman who has had nothing but disparaging things to say about Bernie Sanders since he announced his bid. Before the debate, she had told me Clinton was going to “mop the floor with Bernie Sanders.” After the debate, however, her tone was different.

Her two words, which came just moments after the debate? “Shut up.”

I pressed her to explain what she meant, and it took her a few days to get back to me. I was confident I knew what she was going to say: that she believed Sanders had won the debate, but that her loyalty to Clinton hadn’t been tested. I was pleasantly surprised by what came next, though. It turns out she had been soul-searching all this week, and researching Bernie Sanders more in-depth, and scouring the web for information. And now, after stressing that she still likes Clinton and still believes she’ll win the primary, she’s planning on voting for Bernie Sanders.

The mainstream media claimed overwhelmingly that Hillary Clinton won Tuesday’s debate. Some of my friends, including Firebrand Left’s own Alyson Chadwick, whom I’ve known and worked with for many years, felt she’d won as well. But those friends and pundits, who are certainly entitled to that opinion, are certainly in the minority… and it’s a small minority at that. The difference between those friends and pundits? The pundits would have you believe things that simply aren’t true.

Bernie Sanders was declared the overwhelming favorite in nearly every poll and focus group compiled since Tuesday, including live polls taken during the debate and live focus groups as well. Some staunch Hillary supporters in those focus groups admitted they were flipping for Sanders, too. Sanders has raised more money since the debate than any other candidate, despite intentionally not having super PACs funding him. He’s picked up the biggest leads in social media by staggering margins. He led the field by Google searches during the debate by a simply incomparable margin, dwarfing Clinton and the others. And Sanders was by far the most talked-about candidate on social media during the debate as well.

If Hillary had led by any of these margins, the media would be blasting us with stories of her triumphant victory, while insisting Bernie Sanders’ campaign had been reduced to rubble. But that’s not at all what happened. Bernie dominated every metric there is to dominate, so that means he won the debate… right?

Not exactly. You see, Bernie Sanders may have actually won the debate in the eyes of the public, but the media? They’re not having that. They won’t leave this up to the American people. Instead, they’ll declare Clinton the winner and skewer anyone who disagrees with that assertion. Live polls? Bernie Sanders fans are tech-savvy, so they clearly rigged them. Focus group testing? It’s only a small sampling of people… it doesn’t mean anything, even though we’re the ones who put these groups together. Supporting Bernie Sanders makes you a crackpot… it’s obvious Hillary Clinton won the debate, and you should trust us, because we’re experts!

And today, after several days of the media grinding out “Hillary Won the Debate” headlines and disparaging Bernie Sanders left, right, and sideways, guess where the polls lie? Clinton is now considered the winner in some post-debate polls. Several days of the media placing Clinton on a pedestal and surrounding her with a wall of praise that would make Jon Snow blush, and now, the tide of public opinion is starting to turn in her favor. Fancy that.

The vast majority of Bernie Sanders’ supporters are die-hards, and will stick by him through the end, regardless of how the media tries to paint him or his primary rivals. But the undecided democrats, the ones who buy into the notion that Hillary is more electable, but would vote for Sanders otherwise? They’re the ones being duped by the media, and they’re the ones Sanders’ supporters need to win back over.

Bernie Sanders is doing a hell of a lot better in this election than the media or Hillary’s supporters want him to be doing. He’s winning Iowa and New Hampshire by huge margins, and despite their best efforts to argue otherwise, winning those two quintessential early primary battles can go a long way toward shifting the entire momentum of a race. Just ask President Obama, whose victory in Iowa gave him all the momentum he needed to go on and win the 2008 race, even while so many pundits were calling Hillary “The Comeback Kid” after her New Hampshire primary win.

Obama faced an uphill battle as well. Hillary remained the odds-on favorite with most pundits until primary votes had started to silence them, and even then, some media outlets were calling Obama’s early wins “setbacks” and claiming Clinton would rebound. She obviously didn’t.

So remember this, Bernie Sanders supporters: the media will tell you Bernie can’t win. Hillary’s supporters will be vile, insulting, demeaning, and crass. But at the end of the day, that old adage about sticks and stones comes to mind. Bernie Sanders is doing a lot better in this race than Obama was doing in 2007. He can win the primary, and can go on to win the general. What matters today is that Sanders’ supporters need to stand by their man, keep the donations flowing, and most importantly, do your best to be warm, cordial, and inviting to Hillary’s supporters, even the ones who are adamant about her candidacy. That’s how you beat the media. That’s how you shock the world and win big in 2016.

Photo by Phil Roeder