Quick Thoughts About the Debate

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(Robyn Beck / AFP / Getty Images)

It’s been a few hours since tonight’s debate ended. There was a lot of anticipation heading into tonight’s town hall format, thanks to the events of the past 48 hours. Did it live up to the hype? It certainly had the making of a tectonic movement in the political landscape. However, I suspect it will take a couple of days to marinate before actual ramifications are realized. Until then here are some quick thoughts:

  • A couple of hours before the start of the debate, Trump staged a photo op/press conference with four women who have accused Bill and/or Hillary Clinton of wronging them: Juanita Broaddrick (who claims Bill Clinton raped her in 1978 and Hillary then intimidated her), Kathy Shelton (who was raped at 12, and whose rapist was represented in court by Hillary Clinton), Kathleen Willey (who accused Bill Clinton of groping her in 1993), and Paula Jones (who accused then-Gov. Clinton of exposing himself to her in 1991). This was all streamed on Facebook Live by Trump’s campaign. It was clearly meant to rattle Hillary Clinton, but it didn’t really work as Hillary remained poised and unflappable throughout the evening.
  • No handshake between the candidates when they were introduced.
  • Anderson Cooper of CNN and Martha Raddatz of ABC were the moderators. They did a decent job keeping the candidates on point. But early on, it was testy as the candidates traded barbs. Trump did complained about both moderators and at one point said sarcastically, “This is fair. Three on one.”
  • Despite Trump’s claim of favoritism toward Hillary, that the moderators would interrupt him and not her when it came to going over their 2-minute limit to respond to a question, both candidates received basically the same time to talk. Trump’s total talk time was 40 minutes and 10 seconds, while Hillary’s was 39 minutes and 5 seconds.
  • Anderson Cooper’s second question was directed at Trump about the leaked recording of Trump talking lewdly to Billy Bush of Access Hollywood. Trump once again called the conversation, “locker room talk,” and immediately deflected to ISIS. He essentially said the recording was bad but ISIS is worse.
  • Trump didn’t answer several of the questions, prompting Martha Raddatz having to once repeated a question and giving Trump an extra chance to respond to that particular query.
  • In an unexpected turn, Trump diverged from his own running mate over Russian/Syrian policies, saying “I haven’t spoken to him and I disagree.”
  • Trump at one point threatened to put Hillary in jail. He said, “If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation,” referring to her emails. Later telling Hillary that if he ran the country’s laws, “You’d be in jail.”
  • Hillary did not have a signature move, a la the “shimmy,” this time. However, when Trump threatened to imprison her she stood up from her stool and stared him down, effectively standing up to a bully.
  • Hillary still showed weakness when it came to answering questions about her emails. Worse still was her awkward invocation of the Steven Spielberg movie about Abraham Lincoln while trying to explain a Wikileaks release of an except from one of her Goldman Sachs speeches.
  • Hillary did not have another “Alicia Machado” card to drop on Trump at the end, but she did get in a dig about Trump using Chinese steel to construct his buildings as an attack on his trade and jobs stances.
  • The final question of the night asked each candidate to say something nice about the other person. It was a lighthearted end to the debate, but the candidates were clearly straining to answer. Hillary went first and said she admired Trump for raising “able and devoted” children. Kind of weak, really. Trump, for his part, said he admired Hillary for never quitting, that “she’s a fighter.”
  • After the first debate, Trump was upset that his surrogates were not telling the media that he had won–even though he lost. This time around his surrogates got the memo and immediately began touting Trump’s “victory.”
  • CNN instapolls had Hillary winning 57% to Trump’s 34% among debate watchers, although CNN’s polls traditionally skew more Democrats than Republicans.

Ten more days until the third and final debate. And 29 days until election day. Then it will be thankfully over.