Today it’s said that more than 84 million tuned in—the biggest audience since the Carter/Reagan debate—and that doesn’t even count the number who watched the debate on their computers and streaming devices. Yet it’s unlikely that many minds were changed by last night’s debate. Voters who were looking forward to a knock-out punch by either candidate were disappointed; each candidate delivered “more of the same.”
In the first of three scheduled presidential debates, Trump tried to pin the blame on Clinton for chronic problems facing the US, while Clinton put Trump on the defensive with a poised and well-prepared performance. Clinton denounced Trump as racially insensitive, accused him of “stiffing” small businesses that did work for him, and said he was resisting calls to release his tax returns because he had something to hide. Trump derided Clinton as a “typical politician” and said she had failed to affect positive change in her 30 years in public life.
Election day results will probably prove that the debates are irrelevant. Voters will likely vote their prejudgments as the main opinion polls show both candidates in a virtual tie. Post-debate results are reminiscent of both candidates’ post-convention numbers.
Public Policy Polling’s post-debate survey found that 51% of voters nationally said Clinton won, while 40% favored Trump. In a CNN/ORC snap poll, 62% said Clinton won, while 27% said Trump had a better night. Republican pollster Frank Luntz had a focus group of undecided voters watch the debate for CBS News, and the group named Clinton the victor 16 to 5. “This is a good night for Hillary Clinton, it is not a good night for Donald Trump,” Luntz said, “but there is still time and there are still undecided voters.”
“Markets started to call the debate for Hillary within the first 15 minutes or so, with the Mexican peso surging in what is probably its busiest Asian session in years,” said Sean Callow, a senior currency analyst at Westpac in Sydney, Australia. For the markets, the experienced Clinton, a former secretary of state and senator, is seen as the candidate of stability and the status quo, while Trump, an opinionated narcissist billionaire, represents uncertainty.
Even if the first polls last night found that most viewers believed that Hillary Clinton won the debate against Donald Trump—who cares? Each candidate delivered pretty much as expected. Low bar, high bar—it matters not. For his part, Trump’s justifications for his claims pretty much boil down to “because I told you so.” Clinton’s boil down to “wonk, wonk, wonkety-wonk, blah-blah-blah.”
What a choice.
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