Hillary Clinton came more rehearsed for the debate last night and it was very apparent. Clinton, who has done 15 of these sorts of debates, hit many of the billionaire’s biggest triggers. That included his support/non-support of the Iraq War in 2003, name-calling to a pageant contestant from Venezuela and his businesses. But Trump may have won the debate on points, although there was no score.
The morning-after polls clearly showed Trump won the fierce debate, aside from CNNs poll. Trump was actually a bit less aggressive than Hillary, allowing her to strike more blows while he missed some golden opportunities to slide in the dagger.
But therein lays the reason he won the debate. Trump’s strategy was not to put points on the board. It was to erase the mainstream media caricature that he is an irrational lunatic, not fit for the Oval Office. He succeeded in that endeavor.
If Trump could sum up his performance, he would probably say, “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” Trump played it like he belonged on the field and the strategy mostly worked.
Trump as a politician has been via the snide condescension of the mainstream media, this was the chance to see if the cartoon reflected reality. It didn’t. Millions of on-the-fence voters and independents could see that. The national and worldwide audience was estimated at over 100 million viewers.
Trump went toe to toe with Clinton on creating jobs, strong points about trade, jobs, ISIS, and a variety of Hillary Clinton’s failures. He was logical and even temperate. He dodged the trap of being seen as an abuser of women although the moderator, Lester Holt, gave Hillary an opening with his last question on Trump’s hateful remarks about women.
Trump did seem a bit thin-skinned; spending too much time responding each time Clinton threw an accusation at him. He spent way too much time obsessing over various Clinton remarks obviously planned to trigger his infamous temper. Clinton was polished, but not necessarily appealing. Over-preparation tends to delete charm.
Hillary’s mocking, supercilious smiles came off as fake, a little reminiscent of Al Gore’s phony sighs during his first debate in 2000 with George W. Bush. She dropped so much information into a sentence so quickly that she sounded like the annoying schoolgirl who persistently has their hand up shouting “Me! Call on me!” Nobody likes a smarty pants.
Trump still has the momentum. Hillary’s mission to expose Trump as a clown failed miserably. In these last weeks of the campaign, Trump starts with the upper hand. With polls showing massive discontent with the direction of the country and anger at Washington and the status quo, this is emphatically a “change” election. Trump, with his brash style and lack of political experience, represents nothing if not change.
In a nutshell, Trump’s performance was reassuring. He didn’t draw as much blood as he might have, he did draw blood where it counted, in ways that made him look like the candidate of change, and even the safer choice.
He hammered repeatedly that Clinton was a card-carrying member of the political status quo, portraying her as a typical politician who had been “thinking” for “30 years” about solving problems instead of making things happen. He stressed that it was Clinton, as?Secretary of State, failed in the Middle East, particularly the errors that led to ISIS and her abysmal decision to rip apart Libya.
Lester Holt dropped all pretense of impartiality, targeting Trump with questions, fact checks, interruptions and more. But Trump rallied by reminding viewers of the chaos that Clinton has sown; he made the point that she is not necessarily a “safe” choice. Rather, she’s left the world a very dangerous place.
He hammered her with race relations saying, “We need law and order. We need law and order in the inner cities, because the people that are most affected by what’s happening are African-American and Hispanic people. And it’s very unfair to them what our politicians are allowing to happen.”
Trump lost a huge opportunity to gain major advantage with the exchange on cybersecurity. Trump could have quipped that Clinton knows all about it since her private email system was probably hacked. Yes, he could have brought up the Clinton Foundation, Benghazi, and other issues he left lying around.
Trump held his fire. He helped diminish the notion that he shoots from the hip and might be too trigger-happy as president. Just like Carter v Reagan in 1980, Trump won by losing. There was no memorable snippet like, “There you go again,” as Reagan famously said to the policy-driven Carter, but there are two more debates and it looks certain Hillary Clinton saw the soft side of Trump.