Trump and Clinton mainly treated the audience and their questions as an annoying interlude to their dispute, flashing fake smiles before launching into their next tirade. Both candidates came off like divorcing parents interrupted by their concerned kids, thus angering them further. The final questioner even asked Clinton and Trump to say something nice about each other.
It was sad and it was a bit scary.
Did Trump win? It’s hard to say if such a debate, where two ultra-rich New Yorkers yell at each other about tax avoidance can be won — but if it can then Trump did win, in my view. He won by hammering home every point repeatedly, commandeering the town hall’s narrative and forcing Clinton constantly on the defensive at every opportunity. Trump won by sucking up all the oxygen in the debate hall. He won by taking the debate to the absolute maximum of serious, alarming accusations and showing how Clinton would only respond to it by saying mean things he had said.
Trump may be a king of flip flopping, but he still made Clinton look worse. This debate will be seen as a particularly big win for Trump among voters unimpressed by the media’s perceived crusade against their beloved real estate tycoon.
– From The Hill article: Trump Plays the Berserk Card for the Win
With his back completely up against the wall and everything on the line, Trump did exactly what he had to do last night to stay in the game and shift enough people’s attention away from the damaging audio released on Friday. Trump’s primary purpose in this debate couldn’t have been to shift the entire election back in his favor, that would’ve been virtually impossible outside of Hillary literally collapsing on stage. His primary objective was to stem the bleeding, and provide justification to those still open to the idea of “voting against Hillary Clinton” in this election. I think he did that.
Over the weekend I published a thought piece titled, Donald Trump is in Trouble – Part 2, in which I changed my prediction for the U.S. Presidential race for the first time — I now anticipate a win for Hillary Clinton. So did the debate affect my prediction? No. I continue to think Hillary will win, but I think it’ll be a close race and it’s certainly not over. A bad performance last night would’ve probably buried Trump for good, so he has at least kept himself in the game. As such, the next month will likely make the craziest works of political fiction look tame by comparison. The only way for Trump to win is make the Clintons look as bad as he does in the eyes of enough of the public, and there’s plenty of ammunition to work with.
Which brings me to the biggest takeaway from the debate, the extraordinary weakness of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee. Imagine if Bernie Sanders was the nominee instead, and he was the one on stage two days after the Trump audio was released. What would Trump have done? Every single effective attack he used against Hillary couldn’t have been used against Bernie. There was the email scandal, her penchant for war (and advocacy for more), her husband’s history of sexual abuse, and of course, her mega donors on Wall Street, and elsewhere. None of these things could’ve been thrown at Bernie Sanders. He could’ve walked over to Trump and pushed him over with his pinky. The only reason Donald Trump is still alive in this race is due to Hillary Clinton being an unbelievably awful, and justifiably widely despised opponent.
I got plenty of heat for Saturday’s post predicting a Trump loss, as many claimed that most voters won’t be swayed by the audio. I agree with this position, but that wasn’t the point I was making. My point was that enough “flirting with Trump voters” are now more likely to stay home or go third party in disgust with both candidates. I still think that’s the case.
As far as the initial reaction, my analysis appears correct. According to the latest poll by Rasmussen, which tends to poll in Trump’s favor, we learned the following:
Republican nominee Donald Trump has been clobbered in the White House Watch survey following the release of a video showing him discussing women in graphic sexual detail.
Rasmussen Reports’ latest national telephone and online survey of Likely U.S. Voters finds that Democrat Hillary Clinton has now jumped out to a seven-point lead – 45% to 38% – over Trump. On Friday, the two were in a virtual tie – Clinton 43%, Trump 42%.
Many people like to compare this election to Brexit, and I think that’s a fair comparison in many respects. Nevertheless, there is a huge difference between the two. Brexit was more about a specific policy change than it was about personalities, while the U.S. Presidential election is more about electing a person than it is policy. You can convince yourself all you want that this isn’t the case this time, but it is. We all know politicians lie and that we can’t trust anything they say. So in Presidential elections, personalities still matter. Moreover, when it comes to personalities, the UK had Nigel Farrage, while the U.S. has Donald Trump. Any questions?
With the election now an obvious national embarrassment from all perspectives, I am going to increasingly look toward the future, and it’s not a pretty picture. No matter who wins in November, a large percentage of the population is going to despise that person, and even consider him or her to be illegitimate. Couple that with an economic downturn, and we have the recipe for some of the worst years in American history ahead of us. How we respond to the challenge will determine the future for our children.