David Franke is a decades-long industry friend and a fine writer and editor. David summarizes last night’s debate outing pretty much in line with what I would have written. So I decided to let David bring you the message of relative calm.
Bottom line first: I think the debate was a wash. Hillary was better on debating points. Trump was better on stressing issues that are very important to highly motivated segments of the population—very important in a campaign. We will probably see incremental gains for Trump in the coming weeks, but that probably was in the works anyway. He has been on a roll.
I won’t start to discuss where I agree or disagree with the candidates, since I am so opposed to so much of what they advocate. Besides, the most urgent issues facing America were misstated or were not even discussed, and I see elections as a distraction (bread and circuses) engineered by the people who really decide policy. Better to focus on performance than truth, which you’re not going to get in a debate.
Expectations are very important in an event such as this. Trump did not come across as a mad man, as the media portrays him. Most people realize that Hillary has had much more experience in campaigning and debating, whereas this was Trump’s first one-on-one debate. On the other hand, he has extensive experience as a television performer. All in all, I think Trump won the expectations game.
Hillary won the beauty contest, which has been important in TV debates since Nixon-Kennedy (sweaty Nixon vs. poised and youthful Kennedy). In this instance, Hillary smiled constantly, didn’t rant or wave her hands like she is often wont to do, and didn’t cough or show any signs of physical distress. Trump, on the other hand, looked like Trump the Grump. This is especially true when not talking, listening to her. This turned strongly against Trump when, at the end, he lambasted Hillary for not having the stamina to be President. She had showed no signs of fatigue or lack of stamina during the debate. This made for a bad debate ending for Trump. It was a good issue in the campaigning of the past few weeks, but not for this debate.
Hillary was the policy wonk, as we all expected, but policy wonks don’t usually win campaign debates, though that works I suppose in collegiate debate contests. Trump inexplicably did not hit her hard on the email issue, one of the strongest reasons people do not trust her. Apparently he couldn’t figure out how to work this into the debate outside of one short segment. And I think the Clinton Foundation scandal is even far more important than the email scandal, yet that wasn’t even mentioned. I don’t expect a mainstream media host to bring up something that embarrassing to Clinton, but why didn’t Trump?
Oh well, this was his first one-on-one debate, as I mentioned at the beginning, and overall I’m relieved (as someone who is unequivocally against Clinton) that he brought the debate to a draw, rather than an embarrassing loss. He has made great progress in campaigning under the tutelage of Kellyann Conway, and perhaps he will also show great progress in the next two debates.