De­bat­ing how Clin­ton and Trump fared

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE -

Nei­ther can­di­date of­fered any­thing new on pol­icy or per­son­al­ity; we got pretty much what we ex­pected.

Demo­cratic nom­i­nee Hil­lary Clin­ton and Repub­li­can nom­i­nee Don­ald Trump squared Sept. 26 at Hof­s­tra Univer­sity in the first pres­i­den­tial de­bate of 2016. The 90-minute event was mod­er­ated by NBC news an­chor Lester Holt. The sec­ond pres­i­den­tial de­bate will be Sun­day, Oct. 9, and the fi­nal de­bate is slated for Wed­nes­day, Oct. 19.

If you watched Mon­day night’s de­bate sim­ply be­cause of the “I-don’t-wantto-look-but-I-can’t-take-myeyes-off-of-it-fac­tor,” you were prob­a­bly dis­ap­pointed.

Hil­lary Clin­ton didn’t faint or have a cough­ing spell— in­deed, it was Don­ald Trump who seemed to have a case of the snif­fles — and Trump didn’t burst a blood ves­sel or make any ma­jor gaffes.

Nei­ther can­di­date of­fered any­thing new on pol­icy or per­son­al­ity; we got pretty much what we ex­pected. If you al­ready were en­trenched in one camp or an­other, Mon­day night won’t make a dif­fer­ence.

But if you’re still un­de­cided, yours is the eval­u­a­tion that mat­ters.

That’s where Clin­ton wins. And you can make the case that it wasn’t as much what she did as what Trump didn’t do. Notably, when asked by Lester Holt how the U.S. should fight cy­ber­at­tacks, Trump failed to use that op­por­tu­nity to ding Clin­ton on her use of pri­vate email servers when she was sec­re­tary of state.

Even the most loyal Trump sup­port­ers can’t ar­gue that Trump did a thing to per­suade sub­ur­ban, col­lege-ed­u­cated women to vote for him.

Trump had a strong first 30 min­utes, talk­ing about trade and the deficit. If Trump has a wheelhouse, that’s it.

But then he be­gan to un­ravel. Kids, there’s a les­son for you in this: Do your home­work.

Be­cause you might be able to blus­ter your way through the first few min­utes of an oral re­port, but if you can’t fin­ish strong, or if your teacher pep­pers you with ques­tions, you’re go­ing to flail— and be graded ac­cord­ingly.

Repub­li­can poll­ster Frank Luntz con­ducted a fo­cus group Mon­day night with un­de­cided Penn­syl­va­nia vot­ers. On Mon­day night, 16 peo­ple in Luntz’s fo­cus group con­cluded that Clin­ton won the de­bate; six peo­ple called it for Trump. “Tax ques­tion weak­ened him, birther ques­tion de­stroyed him,” Luntz tweeted.

While it’s un­cer­tain whether Clin­ton moved the nee­dle with the mil­len­ni­als she’ll need Nov. 8, this seems clearer: Trump did not help his cause with sub­ur­ban women when, af­ter the de­bate, he praised him­self for not rais­ing the sub­ject of Bill Clin­ton’s in­fi­delity. (He said he res­trained him­self be­cause Chelsea Clin­ton— a friend of his daugh­ter Ivanka — was in the au­di­ence.)

Sim­i­larly, he didn’t help him­self with mi­nor­ity vot­ers by in­sist­ing dur­ing the de­bate that the way to heal the racial di­vide was through “law and or­der.” He also lauded the prac­tice of stopand-frisk in New York City.

Clin­ton ef­fec­tively skew­ered Trump on the ques­tion of his tax re­turns. She floated sev­eral the­o­ries for his fail­ure to re­lease them — among them the pos­si­bil­ity that he has paid zero in fed­eral in­come taxes over the years.

He said not paying taxes “makes me smart.”

She per­sisted: “If he’s paid zero, that means zero for troops, zero for vets, zero for schools or health.”

Luntz noted that even the Trump-lean­ing Penn­syl­va­ni­ans in his fo­cus group want to see Trump’s tax re­turns.

Ev­ery pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee since Richard Nixon— save for Ger­ald Ford, who re­leased only sum­mary data — has re­leased his tax re­turns. Trump should, too.

On Mon­day night, Trump in­sisted that he had a “win­ning tem­per­a­ment.”

He didn’t ex­hibit it Tues­day. He told the hosts of “Fox & Friends” that Holt went harder on him than on Clin­ton.

There were top­ics Holt didn’t get to (Beng­hazi, im­mi­gra­tion and the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion im­me­di­ately come to mind), but re­mem­ber, we have two more pres­i­den­tial de­bates to go.

Heaven help us.

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