So for the first time in a race tightening in the polls and in key states, Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump met for the first time in what is scheduled to be three head to head debates between the two at Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York. The debate was moderated by NBC news anchor Lester Holt, who was inevitably going to take criticism from both sides no matter what he did.As it proved I thought he was a pretty good moderator overall.
The debate fell into three main sections. The first was on jobs and taxes. Trump has the lines well tested. Jobs are being stolen from us.Bill Clinton and Barack Obama signed terrible trade deals, especially NAFTA. The two traded on hiding things, why had Trump not released his tax returns? Why would Clinton not release the 33,000 emails that were deleted? If she does that I’ll release my tax returns taunted Trump. What are you hiding retorted Clinton. It was a classic blow for blow debate. Trump had the better of this early going with Clinton nervously talking far too much and Trump effectively jabbing with brief interjections that left her waffling. Clinton could also not deny her plan was far tax rises, Trump’s narrative that this would just drive jobs further away while his plan would create was much clearer than what Clinton had to offer.
The second part moved to police and community cohesion, especially focusing on relations between the African american communities and the police in the light of recent shootings. Clinton was on much more comfortable territory here. Trump made an error suggesting a police offer who shot a black man had ‘choked’ This allowed Clinton to portray what many will see as the more unpleasant side of Trump. Trump attempted to respond by saying these communities had been let down by the likes of Clinton but took on Clinton’s earlier trait of talking too much, running over time again and again, allowing the much calmer approach of Clinton to come out on top fairly comfortably in the second section where she had a much better handle on her brief an the details.
The final section was on national security. Clinton goaded about how Trump was an admirer of Putin and how it was unacceptable that Trump had suggested Russia hack Americans. He said he did not know who had done the hacking, it could be the Russians, the Chinese or a 400 pound loner from his bedroom. Where Trump did score in this section was to point out Clinton and Obama had withdrawn from Iraq too quickly, allowing Isis to be created. Had that not occurred she would not need a plan to wipe them out. There was an exchange between Trump and the moderator on whether Trump had backed the Iraq War, he insisted he had not. This was the one section where Holt was out of order, continuing to goad Trump in a way that went too far.
The surprise was that Trump on the whole stood his ground on National Security where you would have thought Clinton would have a huge advantage. With Trump winning the first part, Clinton the second and more or less even on the third, I scored it more or less even. If there was an edge it was just about with Clinton, primarily because Trump was regularly running over his time sounding like he had not fully prepared to get all his points in, which was irritating at times and allowed Clinton to stand back, look more patient and then respond. He also tried to interrupt her too much, this strategy was OK when he was winning the first section, but looked increasingly bad manners when he was not.
The big picture is will it move the polls? Nate Silver of 538.com has suggested he thinks it might. Some other commentators have also suggested they think it might, some think she won by a much bigger margin. I have my doubts and the voting intention questions asked by the Gravis poll on the aftermath points to it not changing very much at all. The two credible aftermath polls, Public Policy Polling and Gravis both called it narrowly for Clinton as well, by 11% and 5% respectively, a win for Hilary Clinton, but no knockout, and certainly Trump is still very much in the game after a debate of a much higher quality than many were expecting.You can watch the debate in full and make your own mind up here
MOON OF LIBERTY VERDICT (Out of 10) – Hilary Clinton 7.1 Donald Trump 7
AMERICA’S VERDICT – PPP Poll – Clinton 51% Trump 40% – Gravis Poll – Clinton 48% Trump 43%