This blog does not really want to add to the storm of commentary on the Republican candidates troubles in last night’s debate (#1). I choose below to offer the WASHINGTON POST’S daily spin on events, because the young conservatives who do most of the commentary for that paper are probably more revealing than the predictable head shaking and “we told you so’s” from the NEW YORK TIMES. Today I want to see what newspapers in other parts of the country are saying.
It would be easy to gloat, but instead I want to offer 4 pluses for Trump out of an evening that even his friends are focusing on the blizzard of minuses:
- Mr. Trump referred to his opponent respectfully as Secretary Clinton; she called him “Donald.” She needs to fix that
- Mr. Trump scored some early points that few commentators caught, by referring repeatedly to jobs lost in Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, which will resonate with people there. The fact that he didn’t have a specific plan to bring jobs back to those states, and the fact that he is very unlikely to win in the second and third of the above states may not matter. In his way he struck the right tone for fed-up working people.
- I am worried about what might be called the “Rocky Effect” hearkening back to the Sylvester Stallone movie about the boxer who was down for the count at the beginning and then staged a come-back… Trump is far from stupid, just mightily disorganized. He bordered on the unstable in Debate One. But then Nixon and Obama in 1960 and 2012 did not have good first debates.
- Like so much with the Republican candidate, a unique personality for sure, in this surreal, fiercely polarized year, it may not matter even as much as head-shaking Republicans might think. Their candidate has repeatedly shown that he can be showered by bullets–many from his own weapon– and keep coming in a way that bolsters his supporters.
My final point is that in a Real World, rather that SURreal– and I am not sure which we are living in right now in this country, Clinton should be winning polls in double digits. I do not think either of the candidates is as “off-putting” to voters as the media have spun them to be. There is something refreshing about Donald Trump. Really. But last night reinforced this reality: “refreshing” does point to somebody who is not remotely qualified to be President.
And a P.S. For those of us who enjoy the occasional “wicked,” perhaps the most tasty comment came from the National Review rpt. NATIONAL REVIEW staff writer David French: “Why didn’t he have a better answer ready for the birther nonsense? Has he still not done any homework on foreign policy? I felt like I was watching the political Titanic hit the iceberg, back up, and hit it again. Just for fun.”
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|Why even Republicans think Clinton won the first debate|
|Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump meet for their first debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
With Breanne Deppisch and Elise Viebeck
THE BIG IDEA: The consensus that Donald Trump badly lost the first debate gelled overnight. Liberals predictably panned the GOP nominee’s performance on Long Island, but some of the harshest reviews are coming from conservative thought leaders who had been starting to come around.
— Instant reaction:
Republican pollster Frank Luntz conducted a focus group of undecided voters in Pennsylvania. Sixteen said Hillary Clinton won. Five picked Trump, per CBS News.
In a Florida focus group organized by CNN, 18 of 20 undecided voters picked Clinton as the winner.
Not one of 29 undecided voters in an Ohio focus group organized by Park Street Strategies thought Trump prevailed, while 11 picked Clinton and the rest said neither. By a two-to-one margin, the group thought Clinton had the better tone and, by a three-to-one margin, they thought she came across as more knowledgeable candidate on the issues.
A CNN/ORC flash poll found that 62 percent said the Democrat won, compared to 27 percent who picked Trump. That’s on par with 2012, when Mitt Romney was seen as the winner of the first debate.
In a separate instant-poll from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, 51 percent said Clinton won and 40 percent picked Trump.
Eight in 10 insiders in the key battleground states thought Clinton performed better, including 57 percent of Republicans, according to the Politico Caucus survey.
— Trump’s surrogates in the spin room were downbeat, and the candidate himself has already begun making excuses: “They gave me a defective mic,” he complained to reporters during a gaggle. “Did you notice that? My mic was defective within the room. I wonder, was that on purpose?” There was no clear problem with his microphone during the debate, Jose DelReal notes.
Trump was supposed to stop by the Nassau County Republican Committee’s watch party on his way home. He skipped it. Clinton, meanwhile, celebrated with hundreds of supporters in Westbury.
And Rudy Giuliani, a top Trump surrogate, even suggested that Trump should skip the next two debates unless he gets concessions. “If I were Donald Trump I wouldn’t participate in another debate unless I was promised that the journalist would act like a journalist and not an incorrect, ignorant fact checker,” he said.
If you missed it, here’s the debate in three minutes:
— It was a debate about Trump. Like the whole 2016 cycle, the GOP nominee sucked up all the oxygen. Facebook says eight in 10 posts about the debate focused on him. Twitter said 62 percent of debate-related tweets were about him.
— But Trump’s lack of preparation showed. There were too many missed opportunities to count.
“I’m not positive Hillary actually won the debate. But I’m sure Trump lost it. He choked,” writes Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol.
“Even if you are a Trump supporter, you have to think that he left a lot on the table,” writes GOP supper lobbyist Ed Rogers, a veteran of the Reagan and Bush 41 White Houses. “He didn’t see the openings and he didn’t swing at the softballs that came his way. He never used the word ‘change,’ he didn’t bore in on Hillary’s email scandal and he never got around to the Clinton Foundation and Hillary’s suspect integrity. Trump was inarticulate and rarely hit the bull’s eye.”
“He was exciting but embarrassingly undisciplined,” writes New York Post conservative columnist John Podhoretz. “He began with his strongest argument — that the political class represented by her has failed us and it’s time to look to a successful dealmaker for leadership — and kept to it pretty well for the first 20 minutes. Then due to the vanity and laziness that led him to think he could wing the most important 95 minutes of his life, he lost the thread of his argument, he lost control of his temper and he lost the perspective necessary to correct these mistakes as he went. By the end … Trump was reduced to a sputtering mess blathering about Rosie O’Donnell and about how he hasn’t yet said the mean things about Hillary that he is thinking.”
“After the first 20 minutes, it may have been the most lopsided debate I’ve ever seen — and not because Clinton was particularly effective. But you don’t need to be good when your opponent is bad,” writes National Review’s David French, who considered running for president as an independent. “Why didn’t he have a better answer ready for the birther nonsense? Has he still not done any homework on foreign policy? I felt like I was watching the political Titanic hit the iceberg, back up, and hit it again. Just for fun.”
The Fix’s Chris Cillizza notes in his piece on the night’s winners and losers that Trump never even mentioned the phrase basket of deplorables. “Trump was simply not prepared well enough for this debate,” says Cillizza. “His [birther answer] was like watching a car accident in slow motion.”
As Dana Milbank writes, “Trump ostentatiously avoided preparation — playing the proverbial high school slacker drinking beer behind the bleachers while the teacher’s pet was in the library. But Monday night was the revenge of the nerd.”
From the chief strategist of Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign:
From the chief strategist of John Kasich’s 2016 campaign:
Trump’s web site was not even ready for the deluge of traffic. It crashed.
— Trump got worse with each passing exchange. “In the early stages, Clinton and Trump seemed evenly matched, but the longer it went on, the more she was able to score against him,” writes Dan Balz, The Post’s chief correspondent.
Trump took the stage subdued, trying to show he’s serious, but he became peeved as he allowed Clinton’s attacks to get under his skin. “Within minutes of the opening bell, Clinton’s attacks forced domesticated Donald to go feral – he bellowed, interrupted her repeatedly, grunted, and toward the bedraggled end, became muted and pouty,” writes Politico’s Glenn Thrush.
“’I did not! I did not! I do not say that,’ he shouted as Clinton accused him of calling climate change a hoax, which he has said on numerous occasions,”Jenna Johnson recounts. “‘Facts!’ he yelled as Clinton began to question the accuracy of his assertions. ‘Wrong! Wrong!’ he said as Clinton stated that he initially supported the Iraq War, which he had. ‘Where did you find it? Oh really?’ Trump said as Clinton referred to a beauty pageant contestant who has accused Trump of calling her ‘Miss Housekeeping’ because she is Latina.”
“Trump needed to conceal his temper … and appear ready to be president. He didn’t,” writes conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin. “There were too many instances in which the real Donald showed through. Clinton wasn’t emotive, but she was cool and efficient in drawing blood.”
“If her goal was to get under Trump’s skin — you know, sniff out his weakness, and bait him into losing his temper — it worked,” adds conservative columnistMatt Lewis. “She got under that thin skin by talking about his inherited wealth and questionable status as a billionaire.”
— Trump played to his base. He did nothing to win over fresh converts or reassure recalcitrant Republicans. Sean Hannity’s audience is not who he needs to win over.
“Unpersuaded college educated white women didn’t come away from this debate — at least not in large numbers — feeling reassured by Trump,” conservative Jonah Goldberg writes in National Review. “Clinton was narrowcasting at the voters she needs. Trump was broadcasting to the voters he already has. … If you’re truly pro-Hillary or pro-Trump it doesn’t matter what you thought tonight. Your vote is baked in. But if you’re on the fence or thinking about not voting at all, your impression matters — a lot. And in this regard, I think Clinton was the winner.”
“Hillary was well-informed and unflappable; Trump got across his major themes but was probably too Trump to widen support,” National Review executive editor Rich Lowry concludes. “I thought Trump might save a weak substantive performance with some big moments, but he didn’t have any that cut his way.”
“It is hard to imagine that there was a single moment in the debate that would have convinced a wavering college-educated woman in the Philadelphia or Cincinnati suburbs to vote for Trump,” writes Roll Call columnist Walter Shapiro. “In fact, Trump seemed to be debating with the single-minded goal of turning his gender gap into a canyon. … In 1973, a trash-talking, over-age self-described ‘chauvinist pig’ named Bobby Riggs took on Billie Jean King in a tennis match in the Houston Astrodome that was billed as The Battle of the Sexes. King won in straight sets. History repeated itselfMonday. … Clinton defeated Trump in straight sets.”
— Clinton’s performance, in contrast, will excite her base and put a pause to some of the recent bedwetting about a tightening race.
“Clinton’s calm dissection of her foe reassured jittery supporters,” writes liberal Post columnist E.J. Dionne. “Clinton shifted the contest her way during her party’s convention. She did it again during Monday night’s debate.”
“Clinton was not great at times; her language was occasionally stilted; she missed some obvious moments to go in for the kill; but she was solid and reassuring and composed,” New York Magazine’s Andrew Sullivan concludes. “I was afraid that Trump’s charisma and stage presence and salesmanship might outshine Hillary Clinton’s usually tepid and wonkish instincts. I feared that the facts wouldn’t matter; that a debate would not take place. And it is to Clinton’s great credit that she prepared, and he didn’t, and that she let him hang himself.”
“The contrast between an obviously and eminently qualified public servant and a ranting bully was as stark as any presidential debate in American history,” adds Jonathan Chait, his colleague at the magazine.
Trump’s failure to offer an improved explanation for his years challenging Barack Obama’s legitimacy could also help galvanize African American voters. “He has a long record of engaging in racist behavior, and the birther lie was a very hurtful one,” Clinton said during the debate, twisting the knife. “Barack Obama is a man of great dignity, and I could tell how much it bothered him and annoyed him that this was being touted and used against him.”
— Trump also gave ad-makers tons of fodder for fresh attack ads. Clinton, on the other hand, made no gaffes that could be used in a negative ad