by Rod D. Martin
September 26, 2016
My quick takes on the debate (and I hope you enjoyed my live tweets at http://www.twitter.com/RodDMartin).
1. Tonight proved what I thought: both Trump AND Hillary are bad debaters. But there’s a difference.
Donald Trump is new at this. He’s not a politician, he’s not a wonk, and he’s not a lawyer. The past month proves he’s teachable and he can learn from his mistakes. Kellyanne will have him watching video almost immediately and he’ll improve.
Hillary IS a politician, a wonk and a lawyer. Yes, she has experience, but as Trump might say, it’s all bad experience: the non-debates this fall against Sanders (watched by no one), the non-debates during her Senate races (watched by no one), the debates she lost to Obama eight years ago. This is the best she can do, even after non-stop prep. It isn’t getting better.
So more likely than not, he will improve. If he does, he’ll kill her.
2. Trump won the first half. He stumbled in the second by allowing Hillary to put him on defense. Folks, this is Rod’s Rule Number One: if you’re on defense, you’re losing.
Trump remains very sensitive about his business, as you’d expect from a man who’s poured his life into something. He can’t not take the bait. Kellyanne has to stop him from doing it. If he can stay on offense in the next two debates, Hillary’s doomed, and that’s exactly what she’s going to tell him.
3. Some of you will say Hillary was beaten. She really wasn’t, but she almost was, which is kind of amazing when you think about it. Some of you will say Trump was beaten. Well, sort of. But Reagan lost the first debate in 1984, and Obama was annihilated in the first debate in 2012. They both won.
4. The moderator was evil. Lester Holt largely avoided real issues, choosing to focus on things like birtherism instead. Did we hear about immigration? Abortion? No. But more to the point, Holt repeatedly “fact checked” (which is to say, debated) Donald Trump, but never once questioned Hillary. He didn’t even go after Hillary for pretending not to have started the whole Birther thing (which she absolutely did). Clinton Foundation? Benghazi? Emails? Anything? Holt asked nothing: he was on Hillary’s team from beginning to end.
UPDATE: “Lester Holt, The Third Debater?”
5. Trump may have seemed like he was spewing word salad at times, but he actually got in some highly-repeatable, highly-replayable soundbites (something Hillary did not do as well). This will serve him well in the aftermath.
This is probably the best, and likely the one that will stick.
6. I said before the debate that all Trump really had to do was avoid seeming crazy or racist. On offense would have been ideal; boring was second best. He mostly managed boring, with a little bit of offense.
Which means, given the totality of the circumstances — including two additional debates in which he’ll get credit for any and all improvement — Trump may not have won the night precisely, but he did the most important things he had to do.
Yes, I could be more enthusiastic. No, I don’t know what the polls will say tomorrow. Yes, he has work to do. But Hillary has more, and unlike Trump, I don’t think she can do it. She proved that tonight pretty conclusively.
UPDATE: As of this writing, the unscientific poll on Time.com (a leftwing site) has Trump winning tonight’s debate 56-44, with 271,368 votes cast. I don’t know if that’s meaningful, but it isn’t not-meaningful.