Bernie kicks those 'damn emails' to touch as Hillary puts on a confident show
Hillary Clinton received unexpected backing from her Democratic opponents on Tuesday night over the email scandal that has dogged her campaign.
During the first Democratic presidential debate, Mrs Clinton's main poll rival Bernie Sanders said: "Let me say something that may not be great politics, but I think the secretary is right. The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails."
He continued: "Enough of the emails. Let's talk about the real issues facing America."
The crowd roared its approval over Mr Sanders's attempt to move on from the scandal that has seen him able to chip away at Mrs Clinton's poll lead.
A beaming Mrs Clinton shook his hand and said: "Thank you, Bernie."
Mr Sanders' "damn emails" statement was the top social moment of the two-hour debate on Facebook and Sanders himself was the candidate most discussed on the social media network, according to Andy Stone of Facebook.
It was a very confident performance from Mrs Clinton, who was never troubled by her rivals and cemented her position as the clear leader in the Democrat race.
As commentator Ezra Klein noted: "Obama in '08 would have gone for Clinton's jugular on the emails, and that's one reason he beat her."
Anderson Cooper, the host of the debate, pressed Mrs Clinton on her use of a private email server while she was US secretary of state.
She called the House Select Committee on Benghazi "basically an arm of the Republican National Committee".
To further applause she then added: "Big surprise. I'm still standing."
Mrs Clinton's email troubles have hurt her in opinion polls and given fodder to her Republican opponents who would like to be her rival in the November 2016 general election.
She has said her email server in her New York State home was used for convenience and not to skirt transparency laws.
Mrs Clinton's confident performance was likely to ease anxiety among supporters who have questioned her campaign's handling of the email controversy. One question still to be answered: how her showing will affect vice-president Joe Biden's decision about making a late entry into the Democratic race. Mr Biden has been deliberating about his political future for months and is expected to announce a decision within days. Debate host CNN kept an extra podium on standby in case he decided to show up, but the vice-president instead stayed in Washington, where he was watching the debate at his residence.
The Democratic contest has largely been overshadowed by the Republican primary, where more than a dozen candidates are fighting to overtake billionaire Donald Trump. The real estate mogul made his presence known on Tuesday night, sending a torrent of Twitter commentary on the Democrats' performances.
"Sorry, there is no STAR on the stage tonight!" he wrote.