The first US presidential debate Monday surely has people all over the world scratching their heads and wondering what they just watched. In this article, I’m going to talk about what I saw and what I think it means for the election. Let’s get right to it: who won the first presidential debate?
“WRONG!” – a phrase donald trump REPEATEDLY used to interject as hillary clinton spoke
World leaders are probably worried about Monday’s debate. Besides the citizens of the USA, they have the most to lose, and maybe even more. Both candidates appeared disorganized and frantic to dismiss the other’s rhetoric. Monday’s exchanges did nothing to assure world confidence in the US’ future presidential leadership. They probably destroyed what little confidence there was. That’s a huge problem.
There were simply too many claims for us to fact-check. It appeared as though each candidate was throwing a number or figure out every other ten seconds. Maybe they were genuine – maybe they were nonsense used as distractions. Luckily, NPR had the resources on staff and did some excellent fact-checking. Prepare for a big read full of hokum and make-believe.
So who won the first presidential debate?
While Hillary presented a calm yet subversively commanding stage presence, and had detailed, logical answers to a lot of questions – Trump’s impromptu responses and confidence may still do something to bend perception in his favor. But who really won? Well, it depends on what a person considers winning. The most prepared and restrained candidate was Hillary Clinton, but she’s a career politician, so that’s expected. She’s done this before.
Trump didn’t get this far by being a refined presidential candidate. He got to where he is by tapping into the American public’s frustrations and presenting himself as the outsider who’s going to make everything better. For his base of support and those who think the system is broken, Donald’s debating style Monday was golden.
No one is likely to agree on who won the first presidential debate. Hillary and Trump’s supporters are unlikely to accept anything I or anyone else says. Politics often involves digging in to one’s own “ideological bunker” and staying there, not considering new ideas that challenge the ones already held. This is both human nature and a massive problem for progress.
It’s hard to tell what people are thinking without polling them – but make no mistake, there will be plenty of polls shortly. They are bound to be dramatically different than polls from just a few days ago. The first presidential debate was enthusiastic and will certainly significantly impact each candidate’s standing in the polls.
Donald Trump: A Diamond in the Rough or Big Joke?
Donald Trump’s popularity is based on the perception that he’s an outsider coming to fix Washington with his business knowledge. He argues that his business knowledge would be beneficial to running the country because many of the president’s executive decisions involve effectively handling money, which is something he claims he is very good at. Although he has a notable real estate empire, his exact net worth is unknown. Therefore, until he releases his tax returns in full, we cannot know how much he is worth, and therefore, exactly how much of an effective businessman he is.
Trump’s unrefined, perhaps even sloppy debate performance might not matter that much to his base of support. After all, he is the outsider coming to make the system work for everyone, not just “career politicians,” or so he says. In fact, Trump’s callous answers and offensive stance may have scored him points with his base of support and those who think similarly. His style certainly has an appeal, or else he wouldn’t be here.
In that regard, then, Trump did okay – but he could have done better. Even within the scope of the image he created for himself, Trump failed to capitalize on some key opportunities. When the topic of Hillary Clinton’s emails came up, Trump failed to mention damning details – such as the fact that in some of the leaked emails, Clinton presents what could be argued is intent. He was quick to dismiss the email topic – much quicker than would be expected, but not before responding to Hillary Clinton’s admission that it was “a mistake,” adding, “that was more than a mistake. That was done purposely.”
When Trump’s tax returns came under scrutiny, he said that he was under an IRS audit and would release them after the audit was complete. Lester Holt noted that it isn’t against the law to release tax returns during an IRS audit, a point that Hillary repeated, and Trump then said he would release his tax returns. However, he said he would release his tax returns before the end of the IRS audit “against the advice of his lawyers” if and when Hillary Clinton released the 33,000 emails she deleted. It was that kind of night.
How will we figure out who won the first presidential debate? Will the winner be able to use their victory as leverage for the remainder of the campaign? Does it even matter who won?
Besides the notable exchanges, it was more of the same from Trump. He was on the offensive and once again trying to control the narrative. Hillary Clinton’s experience as a politician makes her a bad candidate to fix a broken system, so Trump says. However, this time, Hillary was able to fight back. She verbally parried almost every one of Trump’s charges, leaving him dead in the water.
Hillary Clinton was Prepared – So What?
Even though Hillary Clinton was prepared and answered questions with a distinctive element of confidence and ease, it doesn’t matter that much. She is largely perceived as dishonest, so most of what she said will not matter to many. Her words are just that – words.
Trump tried his best to paint Hillary as an insider who is part of the problem in Washington, most notably when he was talking about her having created ISIS while secretary of state (by allowing the US military to leave Iraq too soon), but Hillary Clinton effectively managed to leverage her experience as an asset, not a deficit. This is important because, so far, Trump has overwhelmed every opponent he’s gone up against and defined the talking points. Not with Hillary. She showed she will not be so easily subdued and defined.
Her main talking points revolved around her policies and Trump’s lack thereof (according to her). She poked fun at his “trickle down economic” (cutting taxes for big businesses and rich people) plan and argued it hasn’t worked before and won’t work again. She further appealed to the middle class by presenting Trump and his ideas as something that would serve to disenfranchise them and only benefit the wealthy.
Reaffirming her commitment to NATO (Trump believes the US should charge other nations for the US’ participation in the alliance), she pushed international cooperation, tolerance, and diplomacy. She also (incorrectly) hinted / alleged that the DNC hack was performed by the Russians, and at Donald Trump’s command. As expected, she praised Obama’s presidency, his success against Al-Qaeda, mentioned the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, and talked a lot about racial tensions in the United States.
Hillary’s stellar debate performance is sure to positively influence her polling numbers. Who won the first presidential debate? Will the winner also claim ground at the polls?
While Trump argued that the mostly black residents of America’s inner cities have suffered under Democratic policies, Hillary said more needs to be done to help those in needs. That is, more of the same needs to be done. She spoke of schools, police training, and “inherent racism” in the US justice system. Of course, the studies on this matter are highly politicized and therefore unreliable. A lot of the notorious police-involved shootings over the last few years have involved suspects that were belligerent or otherwise threatening to the public or police.
Shockingly, near the beginning of the debate, Hillary Clinton also claimed that women are not paid the same as men for the same work. This is a false claim that has been ignorantly perpetuated for years. It has been against the law in the United States to pay women and men differently for the same work since 1963. There is no evidence of noncompliance with the statue.
Was Lester Holt Fair?
Donald Trump was confronted on a lot of his longstanding campaign statements at the first presidential debate Monday. I think Lester Holt didn’t go far enough to control the debate. Both candidates repeatedly went over their allotted response times with little action from Lester Holt other than vocal warnings, which were loosely enforced.
Did Lester Holt make a difference in who won the first presidential debate?
Many Trump supporters view Lester’s performance at the debate as unfair. He appeared to confront Clinton less during her impromptu, off-topic speeches while being sure to remind Trump he was over the time limit during his. Also, while Trump’s tax returns were a prevalent debate topic for more than five minutes, Hillary’s email scandal, although brought up by Lester Holt, was not talked about for nearly as long.
Indeed, many Republicans, and even some Independents, will see Lester’s mostly idle presence at the debate as somewhat unfair or perhaps one-sided. His lack of “hard” questions for Hillary will further these concerns and resentments. Near the end of the debate, Trump was sure to voice his concerns about the perceived bias while talking about the war in Iraq, saying, “that (I supported the war in Iraq) is a mainstream media nonsense put out by her (Hillary Clinton) because she frankly — I think the best person her campaign is mainstream media. My question is I was against the war — in a minute I was against the war in Iraq. Justly put it out.”
Who Won the First Presidential Debate? Does it Even Matter?
Trump kept his economic focus Monday on trade, pointing out that deals like NAFTA harm the USA because they provide motivation for companies to leave and manufacture products elsewhere. Manufacturing and jobs are two things Trump is confident he can bring back – and he says he plans to do it by leveling trading tariffs. (According to Trump, US products going to Mexico pay a 16% tariff and products coming into the United States from Mexico pay a 0% tariff. He called these and other “loopholes” trade deficits and said they are one of the biggest problems facing American industry and jobs.) He was also sure to mention that NAFTA was an agreement brought in by the Clinton administration.
Hillary Clinton constantly asked the audience at home and at Hofstra University what kind of country they wanted to live in. At one point, she even said that “vote as though your future depended on it because I think it does.” Her base of support and many undecided voters are weary of Trump, perhaps even scared, believing his perceived aggression to be a major weakness for his candidacy and potential presidency. Clinton played on this perception by positioning herself as reasonable, emotionally stable, and ready to take on the job.
Do the facts matter?
While Clinton provided more exact facts than Trump did, this is not an election that will be decided by who’s right or wrong (both have bent the truth in their favor, for the record). As hard as that is to believe, and as scary as it is to realize, this election will be largely decided simply by who appears to be the better candidate. That means Trump can win without being a career politician, and that means Hillary can lose because she is one. So, based on that, who won the first presidential debate?
Well, Hillary’s quick wit and deflection of Donald Trump’s offenses surely scored her points with her base and moderate undecided voters. She thoroughly proved herself to be capable of competing with a figure who has, so far, managed to defeat opponents just by being overwhelming. She even appeared to rise above his comments and then metaphorically pin him under her responses.
Donald Trump looked stumped on stage – but don’t be so quick to write him off. He can twist the debate in anyway he wants to his large social media following and control the possible repercussions of Monday’s blunders. He also managed to, although not to the level of effect he normally does, control some of the conversation and put Hillary Clinton where she didn’t want to be.
Did Trump’s maneuvers impact who won the first presidential debate?
If Trump can refine himself and regain his footing like he did during the GOP debates, he has a serious chance of winning the election. However, for now, that’s not the case. At times, the first presidential debate was painful to watch. The normally charismatic Trump was often lost for words and left befuddled, having trouble coming up with what to say next. The images of Trump confused are sure to hurt his commanding appearance, at least temporarily.
So who won the first presidential debate? In my opinion, Hillary Clinton won. Then again, she is a career politician. Debate is nothing new for her. The next debates leading up to the November 8th election will define Trump and Hillary’s campaigns to American voters; Trump still has a chance to win the election, even though he narrowly lost the debate.
The next presidential debate will take place on October 9.
In reality, while Hillary Clinton did well at Monday’s debate, her perceived dishonesty and illnesses are a net loss for America. People all over the world have to be asking themselves, “is this the best they can do?”