In their first presidential debate last night, expectations were set unfairly high for Hillary Clinton and unfairly low for Donald Trump. Surprisingly, however, Clinton exceeded and Trump fell short of such expectations. In terms of substance, style and presidential temperament, the contrast between the two candidates was stark, and Clinton walked away with a decisive win.
A month ago, we jumped into the pre-debate expectations game, noting that many Hillary Clinton fans were saying that Clinton would “wipe the floor with Trump.” We advocated for caution in this regard, given that Trump was a media-savvy TV star, he had been through approximately 13 debates with his Republican primary rivals and had won the nomination, he’s capable of delivering zingers that could hurt his opponents, etc. In retrospect, it seems like we were too cautious.
Clinton dominated Trump in nearly every way during last night’s debate. She attacked Trump on his failure to release his tax returns, his dismissal of NATO, his support for more nuclear weapons proliferation around the world, his racism and much more. Trump was short on facts, and stylistically he came off as angry, petulant and boorish, sniffing loudly and even interrupting Clinton some 51 times. Apparently, the statements from each respective camp before the debate that Clinton was preparing thoroughly and Trump wasn’t preparing much at all, were accurate. At one point, Trump noted that Clinton had taken time off the campaign trail to prepare for the debate. Clinton responded:
I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate, and yes I did. And you know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be president, and I think that’s a good thing.
Post-debate reviews last night and today were largely bad for Donald Trump from various quarters, including a Pennsylvania undecided focus group conducted by GOP pollster Frank Luntz, The Atlantic magazine, conservative Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, Politico, conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin, and polls taken by CNN/ORC (Clinton 62%, Trump 27%) and Public Policy Polling (Clinton 51%, Trump 40%). Trump himself complained about debate moderator Lester Holt, and even complained about his microphone. Upon hearing that, Clinton responded, “anybody who complains about the microphone is not having a good night.”
After last night’s eye-opening results, Trump advisor Rudolf Giuliani said that Trump should sit out the next two scheduled debates with Clinton. Perhaps that’s not a bad idea, although then Donald may get tagged with a nickname that would hardly seem helpful to his presidential efforts: Chicken Trump.
Photo by muffinn, used under Creative Commons license. https://is.gd/WMrCrF