It was probably the most compelling moment of the first Democratic presidential debate. Given the opportunity to twist a knife into Hillary Rodham Clinton over her use of a private e-mail server when she was secretary of state, Bernie Sanders went a different direction.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders responded to a question about Hillary Clinton's e-mails. (CNN)

"Let me say something that may not be great politics," he said. "But I think the secretary is right. And that is that the Americans are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails."

Sanders thought it was compelling, too. The video above was clipped by his campaign; before the debate even ended, his team had sent out a fundraising e-mail asking people to make a donation "before Bernie steps off the stage." (The classic sales strategy: "Supplies are limited, call now!")

But it's worth asking: Are Americans actually sick and tired of hearing about Clinton's e-mails?

There's no question that the issue has reached a saturation point. In late August, Gallup asked people to offer up what they'd heard about the candidates. The response for Clinton:

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That doesn't prove that Americans actually care about the issue, of course.

To assess that, we turn to other polling. The Post, in partnership with ABC News, has repeatedly asked whether the e-mail server issue is a legitimate one for the campaign. In May, a plurality of respondents said it was. By September, a plurality said it wasn't. But in both months, opinion was pretty evenly split.


At least overall. When you look at how members of each political party respond, the picture is very different.


Democrats think this is not a legitimate issue. Republicans think it is. And independents are split.

That's one poll. CBS and the New York Times asked a different version of the question last month: Are you satisfied with the responses Clinton has given on the issue? Those who said they were not satisfied, one would logically assume, are interested in hearing more about the e-mails.

The question was asked in March and September, and the number who who said they were not satisfied with what they'd heard grew substantially.


If you look only at Democrats, though, a strong majority was satisfied with what they'd heard, by a 42-point margin.

CNN and ORC asked a third version of the question: Did Clinton do anything wrong by using a personal server? The number who think she did has increased …


... but, again, it largely falls along party lines. One difference here is that independents strongly agree with the Republican point of view.


In other words, Sanders is almost certainly correct that Democrats are sick and tired of hearing about Clinton's damn e-mails. It was good politics. When you're in front of an audience of Democratic voters, it makes sense to make arguments with which Democrats agree, particularly if you can then raise money from them. (Which is not to say that Sanders said what he did with an ulterior motive! Smart campaigns seize on moments like the one Sanders served up.)

The idea that Americans on the whole think the e-mail issue doesn't bear additional examination, though, is incorrect. Clinton is tired of the topic, as Sanders certainly is. But those who consider Clinton the likely Democratic nominee and hope to ensure that she doesn't win the presidency, the issue is very much alive and will be a big part of the conversation for the next 12 months.