FBB Special Report – First Presidential Debate

The Finest Bagels Staff 

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump squared off last night in the first of three Presidential debates. The staff of the Finest Bagels Blog offer their reactions:

Tom Warwick:

Donald Trump had one job last night: keep his cool and look like he knew what he was talking about.  For the first fifteen minutes, It looked as though he would succeed in this most menial of tasks. His opening statement was measured and his tone was calm. He managed to hit Clinton on both NAFTA and TTP, issues that play well with his base and those American’s worried about how globalization will affect the economy. His message was perfect: he was working for the American’s who have been screwed over by globalization, she was on of the politicians that let it screw you. However, Clinton poked fun at Trump’s wealth and past business successes, offering up the bait. Trump went after it and was caught, hook, line, and sinker.  The rest of the night was all about Trump. Clinton was able to put him on the defensive and his ego kept shoving him off topic.  Trump, instead of countering Clinton’s well prepared policy stances or explaining his own, chose to fall back and defend his record as a businessman.  This lead to his insulting the working class Americans that are essential to his coalition (“Maybe he didn’t do a good job and I was unsatisfied with his work…”), implying that he didn’t pay federal income taxes (CLINTON:”…and they showed he didn’t pay any federal income tax” TRUMP: “That makes me smart”), and opening himself up to attacks from Clinton that he didn’t have the temperament to have control of the nuclear button (“So a man who can be provoked by a tweet should not have his fingers anywhere near the nuclear codes, as far as I think anyone with any sense about this should be concerned”).

Ultimately Trump came off looking like the kid in class who didn’t do the reading, but tried to answer the professor’s questions anyway. While I don’t think this is the death nail moment for his campaign, it is certainly going to hurt.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see Clinton go up as much as 5 points in the next round of nationwide polling. In the meantime, Trump has a little under three weeks until the next debate, if he is going to salvage his chances of becoming President, he would be wise to use them the same way Clinton will” studying.

John O. Sullivan:

Somehow, the events of last night, and for that matter, this entire election, have a feeling of inevitability to them. They no longer have any ability to surprise me, and I can’t help but shake the feeling that this election was always fated to happen.Two people, representing two polar opposites: the neophyte Trump with his bombastic excitement versus the political veteran Clinton and her intellectual experience, caught in a deadlock, met Monday night, in prime time, on all the networks, for a highly anticipated direct contest and for one of their first face-to-face meetings in the general election campaign. Clinton had a far greater task going into last night than Trump. While Mr. Trump needed only to keep his cool and put on a display to contrast his hot rhetoric from the campaign trail, Secretary Clinton seemingly needed to do a thousand things; show her experience and intelligence while not looking condescending, she needed to remain cool in the face of Trump while also showing some barbs of her own, and above all show her policy chops while not seeming aloof or unrelatable.

Overall, I would say Clinton met these goals. While Tom is right that the first 15-20 minutes of the debate were owned decisively by Trump with his attacks on trade deals that Clinton is inexorably tied to, Clinton remained firmly in control for most of the remaining time. In many ways it was reminiscent of the “10 word answer” moment from The West Wing. While Trump didn’t let anyone forget he was good at attacking, he was frequently drawn into situations where he simply couldn’t explain how he would change things. By contrast, Clinton continually showed her policy chops in language that was occasionally too dense, but she ended many of her answers with a quick barb directed at Trump, drawing his wrath even as she was still talking. Clinton’s high water mark was, in my opinion, her retort when Trump tried to stick his flailing performance on her debate preparations, to which she 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.”

In early August, after the conventions, Secretary Clinton was leading Mr. Trump by about 8 points, roughly 48-40, according to the Real Clear Politics poll averages. Over the past two months, that lead has gradually slipped away, leaving a roughly 2-3 point gap with Clinton clinging to a slim lead, essentially a statistical tie. After this performance, I predict this trend will not merely stabilize, but reverse course and the gap between Sec. Clinton and Mr. Trump will widen again in favor or Clinton. I think the best Clinton can hope for is to gain 4 points, but I think most likely, she will gain 2 and remain up by a noticeable 4 points, nationally.

Ultimately, Team Clinton was able to show what they wanted to all along, get under Trump’s skin and show his heated tendency, and display some of the personability the members of the Clinton inner-circle always claim she has. This debate was a clear but not decisive win for Secretary Clinton.

Winston Smith:

What is there left to say about the debate. Trump stayed true to form while Clinton baited him like Lucy setting up Charlie for the big kick (and miss) of the football; all she had to do was have him kick and watch the downfall brought upon himself. It’s amazing that a candidate as flawed as Clinton is able to hold the upper hand in a Presidential debate as long as she was able to. There was minimal, in my humble opinion, spearing of the email scandal or the Clinton Foundation, areas ripe for picking that would energize his base and show Clinton’s lack of trustworthiness (a major issue with Clinton).  

At the end of it all though, we want to know how it all came out, who is the best worst candidate? CNN/ORC polling shows that when asked; “Regardless of which candidate you happen to support, who do you think did the best job in the debate – Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump?,” Clinton took a huge lead at 62% while Trump limped to get 27%.

I mean that’s not even close.

When you compare someone competent to the kid who didn’t do the reading and then answers all the teacher’s questions it’s not hard to see why she beat Trump handily.

When asked to see who would be best at handling the following issues Clinton still beat Trump, even in typically conservatively held issues:

Economy: Clinton 51% Trump 47%

Terrorism: Clinton  54% Trump 43%

Foreign Policy: Clinton 62% Trump 35%

I don’t think anyone should be surprised, Clinton has had lifetimes of experience in televised debate compared to a reality TV host. Could anyone have realistically expected a different outcome? When brought to any policy contentions sadly you can’t interrupt your way to victory.

This does not mean that Clinton had the performance of her lifetime. Does any Liberal feel energized by Clinton’s performance? This whynotIguessso-liberal wasn’t. But hey, if everyone was like me things would obviously be much better. Clinton really didn’t have to do anything spectacular to be the victor of the debate but it would be great if she tried to get Liberals fired up about something. But she still beats the guy with the slightly larger podium, which seems to be her saving grace.

This writer couldn’t be bothered to make it through all two hours, leaving after the first hour of a man who couldn’t finish a sentence not letting a woman finish hers. Am I being too pessimistic? Who knows, where’s my drink?

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